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It’s NOT Just About the Technology

[Guest post by Sally Gore]

Thanks to the NN/LM NER for supporting me financially to attend the Medical Library Association’s Annual Meeting in Austin, TX last week. It was a terrific meeting, filled with great speakers, papers, presentations, posters, opportunities to network, and a good bit of fun dancing and taking in the live music that Austin is known for. Being a music lover and band member, I loved that part of the trip. It was an awfully nice bonus.

I attended many sessions that left me with much to think about, ideas for projects, and new resources to seek out. One of these was the final plenary session, featuring Eszter Hargittai, the April McClain-Delaney and John Delaney Research Professor in the Communication Studies Department and faculty associate of the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University in Chicago, IL. Hargittai’s talk focused on the skills people have – and more importantly, need – when it comes to using the Internet.

As she stated from the outset, “It’s NOT just about the technology, it’s about the SKILLS to use the technology.” This sentiment resonated with me as I often notice how our tendency to solve our problems – from health care to communication and everything in between – involves throwing some piece of technology at it, believing that it alone will do the trick. Electronic health records are praised as being the great fix to our health care problems, but the technology behind EHRs is only as good as the skills those using them possess, be they providers or patients.

Hargittai listed five skills that she believes users of technology need to have in order to efficiently and effectively utilize the Internet:

  1. Awareness and understanding
  2. Efficient information seeking
  3. Credibility assessment
  4. Participation
  5. Knowledge of privacy and security

Librarians have talked about the value of information literacy for a long time, taking it on as a charge for our profession. Sadly, however, we remain in a society where the overwhelming majority of Internet users are woefully lacking in these skills. Where are we failing? What are we missing? How can we do a better job of teaching these skills to patrons? These are some of the questions I came away with, as I listened to the talk.

It’s a myth (Hargittai offered up a number of myths around Internet use and understanding) that young people today, those that have grown up with the Internet, intuitively know how to use it. We are not born with these skills, as evident by no shortage of news stories about privacy blunders, jobs lost due to social network posts, people believing celebrities more than scientists when it comes to vaccinations, and so much more. We have a responsibility, as librarians and information professionals, to teach these skills and Hargittai’s lecture, filled with results of her research, left no doubt that there’s much work teaching to be done. I imagine others did, too.

Post contributed by:

Sally Gore, MS, MS LIS
Research Evaluation Analyst
UMass Center for Clinical and Translational Science
UMass Medical School

Improve Your Presentations

In a recent blog post, evaluator Stephanie Evergreen suggested that people no longer ask for power point slides at the end of a presentation (Stop Asking if the Slides are Available).  Her point is that the slides should support the speaker and be fairly useless on their own.  If the audience needs a reminder of what was said, the speaker should provide handouts, with main points and resources listed, as well as links to engaging dashboards and infographics.

In her blog post, Stephanie Evergreen has 10 points for improving your presentations.  You don’t like it when people read their slides? Her first point is to remove text from slides so the focus of the audience goes back to what the speaker is saying. A complementary point she makes is that the graphics on the slide be emotional to help the audience remember what the speaker is saying.

What makes Evergreen’s 10 points unique in the world of presentation advice is that many of them are about charts and graphs.  For example, her point, “Choose the right chart so that your results tell the best story,”  ties what some might see as dry charts into the story that your presentation is telling. Another one, “Keep it easy to interpret your graphs with close data labels and a descriptive subtitle,” is a suggestion that re-occurs in her blog and book, Presenting Data Effectively: Communicating Your Findings for Maximum Impact.  For a detailed checklist of how to make a better graph, take a look at her Data Visualization Checklist.

MLA 2015: NLM Theater Presentations

The NLM exhibit booth at the Annual Meeting of the Medical Library Association featured theater presentations to bring users up-to-date on several NLM products and services.

The presentation recordings are listed below and are also accessible from the NLM Distance Education Program Resources page.

To listen to the voice recordings and view the captions you may need the latest version of Flash® Player (download for free from the Adobe Web site). Note: To maximize the presentation, use the Full Screen button.

Video Presentations with Voice Recording and Captioning Video Length

  • BibFrame & MeSH RDF (17 minutes)
  • Saturday Morning Revisited: K-12 Environmental Health Animations & Games(26 minutes)
  • Community Engagement with National Library of Medicine Resources (27 minutes)
  • Hosting NLM Traveling Exhibitions: Nuts & Bolts (12 minutes)
  • MedlinePlus: Responsive Design 30 minutes
  • Librarians on the Front Line as Disaster Information Specialists (15 minutes)
  • LinkOut! A User’s View Into Capacity Building & Technical assistance (22 minutes)
  • PubMed Update (26 minute)
  • PubMed Commons & Journal Clubs (17 minutes)
  • Public Access, NIHMS, & PMC (25 minutes)
  • My NCBI Update: SciENcv & My Bibliography (26 minutes)
  • PubMed Health (15 minutes)
  • HSRProj: Easier Searching, Better Research (14 minutes)

Recordings are linked in the NLM Technical Bulletin.

Difficult Conversations at MLA

[Contributed by Holly Grosetta Nardini, Yale]

The session on Difficult Conversations at MLA’15, sponsored by the Leadership and Management Section, was excellent. They invited a local professor from UT, Dr. Melanie Maxwell, a communications expert. In a very engaging talk, she reminded us of some of the core principles of talking to others. In fact, this type of presentation is useful beyond the workplace; I think of how to apply it at home – speaking to my “tween” children.

Her core piece of advice was that everyone needs validation (even if you don’t think they deserve it). Our job is to try to interpret the motivation behind their behavior. The real skill is to learn to defuse an elevated situation and not confuse our own opinion with facts.
She made a distinction between a combat and curious mentality, offering warnings that there are often *three* sides to every situation, that we must guard above all against displaying contempt, and that we have to fight our own flight response by probing and fully considering the situation. Of course she emphasized good listening skills, but her focus was on listening to show that you care and to help plan a strategic response. Every situation is complex and you have to know your own priorities.

She encouraged us to respond, rather than simply react, which is easier. Responding requires deliberateness, taking responsibility, describing your own feelings, and being sure that you are opening your mind and not freezing. This approach requires practice so you can think about your triggers and figure out your own priorities and prepare.

One interesting tip is that she discourages the traditional use of the “sandwich” – putting the criticism between two compliments. She encourages putting the agenda right up front since unnecessary pleasantries can make people nervous. She also suggested asking “why” over and over again, almost like a toddler, to get the maximum amount of information about a problem.
MLA’15 has an online component with recorded sessions and slides. I highly recommend a review of Dr. Maxwell’s talk which is full of great tips for talking with the people in your life.

Contributed by:

Holly K. Grossetta Nardini
Research and Education Librarian
Cushing/Whitney Medical Library
Yale University

This is the first in a series of blog posts from NN/LM NER Network Members who received awards to fund their registration to attend the Medical Library Association National Confererence in Austin, Texas.

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