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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.

Low Cost Mapping Tools on NLM’s Community Health Maps Blog

Have you ever wanted to be able to use mapping for your outreach needs, but thought that making maps would be too expensive, time-consuming, or just too difficult?   The National Library of Medicine has a blog called Community Health Maps: Information on Low Cost Mapping Tools for Community-based Organizations, with the goal of facilitating the use of geographic information system (GIS) mapping by providing information about low cost mapping tools, software reviews, best practices, and the experiences of those who have successfully implemented a mapping workflow as part of their work.  The blog is moderated by Kurt Menke, a certified GIS professional.

Here are some examples of the kinds of things you can find on the Community Health Maps blog:

  • A short guide for using iForm for field data collection. iForm is an app that can be used on iPads, iPhones and Android devices, and has a free version.  Using this app, you could go to different locations, gather data (for example, demographic information about attendance at your program), and view it in tabular or map format.
  • A description of a project using youth in the Philippines to collect data on the needs of their communities.  Technology + Youth = Change showed how a dozen donated phones helped 30 young adults survey and map information on access to water, electricity, jobs, and more.
  • A review of a pilot project done by the Seattle Indian Health Board’s Urban Indian Health Institute on noise pollution and health in the urban environment. One of the goals of the pilot project was to determine whether this kind of data collection and analysis would be feasible with other urban Indian health organizations, so they selected participants who had limited experience with data collection and GIS. The feedback suggested that the GIS software tools were very user-friendly and effective.

Community Engagement with NLM Resources

If you are going to MLA in Texas, we hope you will come to the NLM Theater (in the exhibit hall) for the presentation on Community Engagement with National Library of Medicine Resources.  Michelle is co-presenting with Brenda Linares from UNC Chapel Hill.

We would love to have librarians attend who have led health information outreach projects.  We’ll have time for discussion and interaction during the presentation.  Hope you can join us!

Times:  Sunday, May 17th from 1-1:20 PM and on Tuesday, May 19th  from 12 – 12:20 PM

Hope to see you there!

Michelle Eberle, Health Literacy Coordinator
NN/LM NER

Guerrilla Assessment Methods

Recently, the Association of Research Libraries email discussion list had an enthusiastic discussion about guerrilla assessment techniques. These are low-cost, unconventional data collection methods that gather timely responses from library users. I thought I would share some of the favored methods from this discussion.

Graffiti walls seemed to be the most popular guerrilla method discussed in this group. Users were invited to write responses to one question on white boards or flip charts; or they were asked to write comments on sticky notes and post them to bulletin boards. Questions might be related, for example, to library space use or new furniture choices, or users might write suggestions for new resources. Pictured below is a colorful example of a graffiti wall from Clemson University’s Cooper Library posted by Peggy Tyler. Flip charts also were featured in this space use assessment conducted at University of Pittsburgh University Library System (see the FlipChart Analysis and the Flipchart Survey—Our Response presentations).

Short questionnaires to collect on-the-spot responses from users were also mentioned frequently. Some libraries placed laptops in conspicuous parts of the library to capture responses. Others took advantage of tablets, such as this project conducted at Georgia State University. Sometimes the low-tech approach worked best, featuring paper-and-pencil questionnaires or note cards for written comments.

Photographs also were used creatively to capture helpful assessment information. University of Pittsburgh University Library System staff used photographs to examine use of study space. With so many library users carrying mobile phones with cameras, there is a lot of potential for inviting users to incorporate photographs into their responses to assessment questions. In the ARL-assess discussion, Holt Zaugg at Brigham Young’s Harold B. Lee Library described a study in which student volunteers took pictures of places on campus that they thought fit a certain characteristic (e.g. too noisy, busy place to study).  The staff did follow-up interviews with the student volunteers for added insight about their photographs.

Guerrilla methods may look easy, but they do require careful planning and thought. You’ll need well-crafted, focused questions. You also will need an effective promotional strategy to attract user participation. And you’ll want a well-executed schedule for collecting and inputting data so that key information is not lost. Yet these guerrilla methods are worth the challenge, because they engage both participants and staff in the assessment process.  These methods are a refreshing alternative to conventional methods.

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