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Teaching Public Health with Graphic Medicine

Fri, 2018-11-16 13:45

Public Health is a broad set of actions that promote wellness, but a lot of people don’t understand what public health does for us.  

Can graphic medicine (comics and graphic novels with health, wellness and disease themes) help us better understand public health?  Spoiler Alert: the answer is yes!

Here are a few examples of how graphic medicine tackles the complexities of public health:

  1. Teaching pandemic preparedness.
    • The Public Health Department of Seattle and King County (WA) created No Ordinary Flu to educate about the deadly 1918 flu outbreak and teach readers ways they can stay healthy and prepare for future pandemics. No Ordinary Flu is available for free download in 23 languages.
    • The CDC created Junior Disease Detectives-Operation: Outbreak to educate students about why disease outbreaks occur, how immune response works, and the role of the CDC.  Junior Disease Detectives helps kids understand the immune response by using metaphors, like defending a castle, that are easy for them to understand.  The comic also shows how the CDC investigates and responds to disease outbreaks.
    • Whit Taylor is a cartoonist with a background in public health.  She wrote and drew America Isn’t Ready for a Pandemic.  Here’s How it Could Happen to help people understand pandemic planning and the social and political conditions that could allow an outbreak to happen here.
  2. Educating on the science behind public health principles. 
    • Maki Naro, an artist who describes his work as “fan art for Science”, created the comic Vaccines Work to teach the history of vaccines, how they protect communities, and to debunk some of the most common anti-vaccine myths.
  3. Telling the history of public health to understand the present.
    • Taylor also created the Tuskegee Experiment comic to educate the public on the extremely unethical experiment undertaken by the United States Public Health Service from 1932-1973 in Alabama. In this comic, she also shows how this incident in history still influences the interactions between the medical and public health communities and many black communities leading to poorer health outcomes. 

To learn more about Graphic Medicine visit the NLM’s website for the traveling exhibit Graphic Medicine: Ill-Conceived, Well-Drawn.  Or request a Graphic Medicine Book Club Kit for your library, school or community group to try.

Categories: RML Blogs

Living in Freedom Together (LIFT)

Mon, 2018-11-12 12:03


The following post is written by Nicole Bell, the founder and CEO of the non-profit organization LIFT (Living in Freedom Together). 

Nicole Bell and Dr. Marianne Sarkis from Clark University were recently awarded a Community Engagement grant from the New England region. The name of their  project is “Trauma-Informed Training for Health Providers, Educators, and Community-Based Agencies to Identify, Treat and Support Victims of Commercial SExual Exploitation and Sex-Trafficking.”

As a survivor of prostitution I cannot tell you the number of times I presented in medical settings only to feel as if I were invisible to those providing care for me. I felt like they blamed me for the violence I was experiencing in prostitution or felt like they were too uncomfortable to have a conversation about my victimization and unsure of what to say to me or where to send me for support.

As the founder and CEO of Living In Freedom Together (LIFT) Inc, a survivor led nonprofit organization dedicated to providing resources, advocacy and support to empower individuals to exit the commercial sex industry I am now fortunate enough to have the opportunity to provide education and training to medical providers and students on identifying and responding to individuals who are being commercially sexually exploited.

Myself and Marianne Sarkis had the idea for the project with the National Network of Library Medicine after conducting many of these educational sessions and being broached with questions regarding intervention techniques for working with victims and survivors of commercial sexual exploitation. Most medical providers agreed they had been seeing survivors but were unsure how to start the conversation and more importantly where to refer to if they did.

We decided to create a tool, with the support of the NNLM, that medical providers could use to not only identify victims, but with tips and strategies for engaging with and supporting victims of CSE. We have done a thorough literature review of what tools currently exist and are tailoring a tool that doesn’t just work to identify victims of sex trafficking but victims of commercial sexual exploitation as a whole.

We have been a part of many educational forums over the last few months and are building partnerships in the medical community that will help us to launch and evaluate our tool.

We are very excited to get a practical guide, utilizing evidence-based approaches into the hands of our medical community so that individuals in prostitution no longer need feel invisible, shamed, or unsupported by their medical providers.



Categories: RML Blogs

Protected: Librarians Supporting Nurses: Danbury Hospital in Connecticut

Wed, 2018-11-07 09:57

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Categories: RML Blogs

You’re Invited: NNLM NER Funding Meeting 12.6.18

Wed, 2018-10-31 12:18

Money growing treeAre you curious about receiving NNLM NER funding? What is the process? What do we look for?
Want ideas, or bounce your ideas off others?

Have you received funding before and want to share what you know and your projects with others?

You are invited to the NNLM NER Funding Meeting.

Thursday, December 6, 2018 – 9:30am-3:30pm at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (Faculty Conference Room), Worcester, MA

Join us for a day to learn about and from previously funded projects, learn about evaluation, and share project ideas and questions with others.

A full schedule is in the works, but some general times are below. We will be sending out more details about the content and logistics to registered individuals as we get closer to the event.

  • 9:30-10am– Arrival, networking, light snacks
  • 10am-12pm – Awardee project sharing
  • 12pm-1pm– Lunch & Networking
  • 1pm-3pm– Hands on Workshop


Please fill out the registration form if you would like to attend. Please have everyone, even from the same organization, fill out the registration if attending. We want to ensure an accurate head count. This event is free and open to anyone interested, but we have a limited capacity so register now.

Lunch is included and travel reimbursement is available.


Please contact Martha Meacham ( – 508.856.1267) with any questions or for more information.

Categories: RML Blogs

North American Health Science Librarianship (NASHL) Lighting Talk – Thank You

Tue, 2018-10-30 16:01

Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity both attend and to give a lightning talk at the North American Health Science Libraries, Inc. (NASHL) annual conference in Manchester, NH. The theme was Remaining Strong in an Ever-Changing Landscape. It was a way to network and celebrate NAHSL’s 60 years of membership. For those who are not familiar, NAHSL is a regional Chapter of the Medical Library Association (MLA). At the annual conference, there were three days of programming which include favorites such as: keynote speakers, continuing education, dinner at a museum, posters, paper talks, lightning talks, and a 60’s themed banquet. I highly recommend this conference as a way to meet up and exchange ideas with fellow colleagues.

I was able to participate not just as an attendee, but also as a speaker. It was a new experience for me, but I sincerely enjoy the project that is the topic.  The talk was about NNLM’s Online Concurrent Wikipedia edit-a-thon that occurred in the spring and the lessons learned. I found out I enjoy the lightning talk format – 5 minutes with about 10 slides and time for questions from the audience.  The trick is preparation. Thank goodness for my NNLM Wikipedia working group members and coworkers. Their input and creative ideas were invaluable.  I also have to give a shout out to my UMass-Worcester coworkers who gave invaluable insights in timing, presentation flow and slide visibility and not to mention support.  The good news is the presentation went well after I got over my initial nervousness.  I stayed within the time limit, was able to answer the questions and hopefully encouraged people to participate in the next edit-a-thon.  Thank you all for your help! Without your support, the lighting presentation would not be the success that it was.

Just as a reminder – the next NNLM online nationwide Wikipedia edit-a-thon is on November 7th, 2018 from 10:00AM – 8:00PM EST #cite NLM. We need your help to make Wikipedia an evidence based resource. Training and support are provided so even if you are new to edit-a-thon’s you can become a Wikipedia editor. For more information please see the NNLM webpage at or the NNLM Wikipedia dashboard .

Categories: RML Blogs

Science Boot Camp for Librarians – Scholarship Recipient Post 11

Tue, 2018-10-30 11:27

This is the eleventh blog post in a series authored by twelve individuals who received scholarships to attend the 2018 Science Boot Camp held at Brandeis University on June 13-15, 2018. This article was written by Jaclyn Wilson, an Access Services Associate at MIT, and MLIS Student at Simmons College.
As a paraprofessional in Access Services that is working towards her degree in Library and Information Science, I’m always looking for opportunities to learn more about working as a librarian. Since I’ve always had a great love of the sciences and originally studied environmental engineering in undergrad, since starting on this career path I’ve wanted to eventually become a science librarian. So, when I heard about the New England Science Boot Camp for Librarians, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for me.

I was lucky enough to receive one of the scholarships available, which not only covered my attendance at the boot camp, but also provided me with a great mentor, Sarah Oelker. Between a session specifically for the mentors and mentees to meet, meals, and other programming during the conference, I had tons of great opportunities to learn from Sarah about their own experiences in being a science librarian, as well as their experiences on the planning team for the boot camp. I really enjoyed getting to know them, and I left Brandeis knowing that I could always reach out to Sarah if I have any questions beyond the boot camp.

I took advantage of every possible activity I could do- the first day there were some optional morning activities, where I got a chance to tour Brandeis’ Archives and attend a soldering workshop. The Archives tour was amazing, with a gallery display as the entrance (with glass walls to allow people to look in even when the Archives is closed), and a reading room just beyond the display where we got to explore a number of interesting materials from the Archives’ collection (including a skull! I learned that before Brandeis took over the campus, it was a medical school called Middlesex University). The soldering workshop was a fun experience as well, where we got to work with other attendees to solder electronic components to create things like a sensor that lights up when sounds are emitted, or a Simon game (the latter is what I worked on, though I’m not sure I did it properly- while the lights function, I can’t seem to get the game to actually work!)

The core of the program was three sessions about different science topics- Ecology, Genetics Counseling, and Materials Science and Engineering. Each session featured an overview of the topic, and then one or two speakers discussing their research in the topic. The Ecology session took us from the macro to the micro, and I learned it’s difficult for ecologists to isolate their individual research since there’s just so much interdependence between species and ecological processes. The researcher who spoke has worked on a lot of different topics, but the one we got to hear about was deer ticks, and whether or not deer-hunting is effective at reducing instances of Lyme Disease (the jury is still out on that- even though there was a correlation between tick population and deer population decline, it followed a one-year cycle, rather than the two-year cycle that would be expected). There was also a related activity on Friday, where a few of us went on an ecology hike- of course we actively tried to avoid said ticks while trekking into the woods to learn more about deer population control and the different historical uses of the land we were on.

The Genetics Counseling session revealed that genetics counseling is a lot less sci-fi than I would have thought- the topic was not so much about counseling patients about steps they could take to potentially avoid or fix genetic differences that may cause them or their children harm, but more about helping patients understand and adapt to the implications of genetic contributions to disease. We had two speakers for the research half of the session, who talked about a genetic counselor’s role on a research team, and more specifically research in gene discovery in epilepsies- overall I took away that a genetic counselor is really helping patients have all the information they need to make the right decision for themselves. The Materials Science & Engineering session had a great show and tell during the overview- we got to see all sorts of materials that were being worked on by the speaker and his colleagues, including a ball made of an engineered metal that was more lightweight but as strong as one made of a naturally occurring metal. The researcher who spoke next showed how even biological materials could be studied to help create synthetic materials, which could have impressive applications (perhaps even including something like Iron Man one day!).

In addition to the main sessions, we also had an evening talk after dinner on Wednesday night, talking about retractions in scholarly publishing. I hadn’t known anything about Retraction Watch prior to this session, and hadn’t yet considered why it would be important to keep track of who is issuing retractions of their work and why. The talk not only taught me about the various reasons for retractions, but also potential issues that may affect users looking for information, like outright deletion of retracted articles or the opposite extreme of leaving articles in databases without a note that they’ve been retracted.

On Friday morning, we had the last session of the boot camp- the Capstone about evaluating open access journals and data sets. I learned about important questions to ask when considering these resources, such as whether or not peer review is involved, whether or not the content of an article fits the theme of a journal, and of course whether or not there’s any bias involved in the creation of data or journals. We got to examine a number of journals and data sets to practice thinking about these questions, and discuss with the other attendees our reasoning for our assessment of the journal or data set. This helped me learn about some of the challenges involved in assessing these resources- trying to find information on the data set my group explored was difficult due to missing information in the spreadsheet and dead links, and one of the journals we looked at appeared to have real professors associated with it but didn’t have easy ways to get in touch with the editors (and on further inspection into its listed mailing location on Google maps, it turns out they put down a cabana café!).

All of the sessions were wonderful, but my very favorite part of boot camp would have to be meeting all of the people there. I tried to eat my meals and spend our break times with at least one or two people I hadn’t yet met to learn about their experience as a librarian or what they were studying, and what they took away from the sessions we had experienced. This year’s boot camp had people from all over the Northeast (and even a few from other areas of North America), and people from all sorts of information professions, not just libraries. Since it was the boot camp’s 10th anniversary we even got a special chance to hear more about the boot camp’s founding and how it had changed over the years at an anniversary dinner. It was great to see that so many people had been with the boot camp since its founding, and to hear how others had been inspired to get involved in the planning after attending their first boot camp.
The entire experience was one that I won’t soon forget- I’m so grateful to have been able to attend the boot camp this year, especially as a scholarship recipient, and look forward to attending many future boot camps!

~Jaclyn Wilson, Access Services Associate at MIT, MLIS Student at Simmons College

I hope you enjoy the latest installment of the Science Boot Camp for librarians. To read the first post please click here. For more about this year’s Science Boot Camp resources or other upcoming events, please visit the NNLM NER website, or contact anyone in the NNLM NER office.

Categories: RML Blogs

Get Your Flu Shot and Have a Healthier Winter

Thu, 2018-10-18 10:00


 if only some get vaccinated, the virus spreads. if most get vaccinated, spreading is contained.

Illustration from the CDC showing Herd Immunity, also known as Community Immunity

It’s that time of year again, the wind turns cold, the leaves change color and everyone is talking about the flu.  This year get the facts and get vaccinated to protect yourself, your family and your community.

Anyone can get the flu and have serious complications, but people over 65, people with chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease, pregnant women and children under five are at higher risk for hospitalization or death from the flu.

Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu shot every season. Children younger than 6 months and people who are allergic to some vaccine ingredients can’t be vaccinated. So getting your flu shot also protects them by containing the spread of the flu virus.

Why every year?  Because the flu strains that the vaccine protects against may change from year to year.  Even if it doesn’t change, the immune protection can decline over time, so getting your flu shot every year gives the best defense.

There are a lot of misconceptions and myths about the flu and the vaccine.  Below are some of the most common, but to learn more about flu and flu vaccine myths, visit the CDC’s Flu and Flu Vaccine Q&A page.

  1. You can get the flu from the vaccine.
    • FALSE: You can’t get the flu from the vaccine. Flu vaccines are made with “inactivated” (killed) viruses that can’t cause infection or by using a single gene from a flu virus instead of the whole virus.
  2. It’s better to get the flu than the vaccine. The flu isn’t that big of a deal.
    • FALSE: It is NOT better to get the flu instead of the vaccine. Flu can cause serious health complications, hospitalization or death even in generally healthy children and adults.
  3. You can get the flu if you’ve been vaccinated.
    • TRUE, but being vaccinated can still protect you from the more severe consequences.
    • And some people who think they got the flu after being vaccinated may have had a rhinovirus (common cold), or may have been exposed to the virus shortly before getting the shot. So it’s still important to get your shot.

Learn more about the flu shot by visiting MedlinePlus.  MedlinPlus also has flu and flu vaccine health information in multiple languages to share with family and friends.

And finally, flu season is a good reminder that kids aren’t the only ones who need vaccines.  Visit the CDC’s Recommended Immunization Schedule for Adults to learn about vaccines that adults should be getting beyond their annual flu shot.

Categories: RML Blogs

Science Boot Camp for Librarians – Scholarship Recipient Post 10

Tue, 2018-10-16 11:30

This is the tenth blog post in a series authored by twelve individuals who received scholarships to attend the 2018 Science Boot Camp held at Brandeis University on June 13-15, 2018. For more about this year’s Science Boot Camp resources or other upcoming events, please visit the NNLM NER website, or contact anyone in the NNLM NER office.


New England Science Boot Camp 2018 – Alyssa Valcourt, MLIS

The Science Duck of Science Boot Camp, giving good advice about dragons.

NE Science Boot Camp for Librarians Scholarship Winner Blog Post

This year’s Science Boot Camp, hosted at Brandeis University), was another lesson of the highs and lows in all aspects of life for me. I was fortunate to receive a scholarship to attend the 2018 Boot Camp, which I was thrilled about (Boston! Science! Librarians! Yay!). However, I was unfortunate to have a raging cold the entire time. With the inner strength seemingly inherent to librarians (and a whole lot of Dayquil), I was able to enjoy my time at Science Boot Camp, learn so many interesting things, and meet some fantastic science librarians from all over.

Now that I’m back in the comfort of my library, I’d like to share 10 highlights and lessons I’ve learned from the three days at boot camp:

  1. Retraction Watch. My absolute favorite lecture of the conference was from Dr. Ivan Oransky of Retraction Watch. I loved that he took the initiative to contact a conference of librarians and ask to speak about his website- it is such an important tool in scholarly communication. I was delighted to learn that they are developing a Retraction Watch database (still in beta). The sheer amount of retractions makes it hard for them to report on all of them, but having them in a searchable database can help researchers double check their references or help show trends in retractions.
  2. Lozenges. Having a stash of cough drops in your purse can be the most important decision you make during the long lectures (and it can make you friends!).
  3. Twitter. Twitter is the place to be for librarians. Lots of conversations and information is shared on twitter, including other librarian’s takes on the conferences you attend. The official conference hashtag (#sciboot18) allowed me to contribute information related to the speakers’ subjects and let me follow the reactions of my fellow librarians in real time. I’ve made it a goal to be more involved on twitter in the coming year. So many important discussions are happening around librarianship and science in general on the platform- as a science librarian in a relatively isolated place, Twitter is a great way to stay connected.
  4. Community. Librarians answer questions, even seemingly rhetorical ones. It’s what we do. We also fight for free, openly accessible information, the privacy of our patrons, and the pursuit of knowledge. I feel so content when I’m with a large group of librarians- the general inquisitiveness and ability to stand up and demand answers reaffirms my love for the profession in an indescribable way. I know I’m not alone when I say that the most valuable parts of Boot Camp are the people involved, networking, and making new librarian friends.
  5. Citizen Science. Ecology is a broad field with vast applications, looking at individual species to entire biospheres. The future of Ecology, according to the speakers, Dr. Miranda Davis (University of Connecticut) and Dr. Brian Olsen (Brandeis University), will focus on environmental changes, holistic approaches, and big data. One of the contributors to big data is citizen science- crowdsourcing data from everyday wildlife enthusiasts through various websites and apps. One of these is iNaturalist, an app that allows any member to upload sightings of flora and fauna while out and about, provides data for researches, and even allows members to get species identifications from experts.
  6. Possums. Tick-borne diseases are becoming an increasing problem in ever-increasing areas of North America. Possums, widely impugned as being pests, eat ticks that carry those diseases. Therefore, possums are our friends.
  7. Evaluation. Researchers are often turned off of Open Access because they are worried about journal quality. Luckily, librarians have them covered: Carolyn Mills, librarian at University of Connecticut created this handy Evaluating Journal Quality LibGuide with a Creative Commons Attribution so we can share.
  8. ‘Magical’ Science. The Materials Science lectures, from Christopher Schuh (MIT) and Seth Fraden (Brandeis University), were displays of incredible innovation. Schuh, Director of the Materials Science and Engineering department at MIT, brought materials created by researchers in his department that show how magical this branch of science is – they have made big items shrink to a tiny size and have changed heavy metals to be feather-light – while Fraden’s lab at Brandeis has created animated particles from those that were once static. With these kinds of technologies, we’re just one great discovery away from “Wingardium Leviosa!”.  
  9. Mentors. Part of winning an early-career librarian scholarship to Boot Camp was the opportunity to have a mentor to connect with before, during, and after the experience. My mentor was Sue O’Dell from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. It was great to meet another science librarian in Maine and get to hear some great advice about professional development and science librarianship in general. I’ve said it before, the connections I made at Boot Camp were the most valuable part of the entire experience, hands down.
  10. Celebrations. This year was the 10th anniversary of the New England Science Boot Camp for Librarians. The entire camp was filled with small nods to the auspicious occasion, but Thursday night was an official celebration of the history of Boot Camp and, most importantly, the people who made it what it is today. Boot Camp was started with a mission to have an affordable way for science librarians to get together and learn about science in a fun and laid-back atmosphere. The night was filled with games, a photobooth, conversation, a killer science-themed playlist, and the sort of fun that only a group of librarians can supply. Here’s to the next ten years!  

I would like to thank the scholarship committee for making it possible for me to attend Boot Camp this year. I loved the whole experience (aside from my cold) and I can’t wait to return next year!

Anne Marie Engelsen
Science Reference Librarian
Fogler Library | University of Maine


I hope you enjoy the latest installment of the Science Boot Camp for librarians. To read the first post please click here

Categories: RML Blogs

Science Boot Camp for Librarians – Scholarship Recipient Post 9

Wed, 2018-10-10 17:59

This is the ninth blog post in a series authored by twelve individuals who received scholarships to attend the 2018 Science Boot Camp held at Brandeis University on June 13-15, 2018. In this installment, describes science boot camp as a networking event. Please watch for more posts about resources from this event and views from scholarship recipients in the upcoming weeks.


New England Science Boot Camp 2018 – Alyssa Valcourt, MLIS

This past June, I had the opportunity to attend the 10th Annual New England Science Boot Camp held at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. During my MLIS program, it was not until my last semester that I realized that I wanted to go into science librarianship. About a year ago when I started as a Science Librarian, the New England Science Boot Camp was one of the first resources for science librarians I discovered and had been waiting to go since then!

When the time came to attend, I was excited about the topics covered. The topics included Ecology, Genetic Counselling, and Materials Science. These topics are all areas that I cover at my university and I hoped that I would be able to grasp some information through them that I could take back. I certainly have been able to do so!

Each topic had a wonderful overview of the field, followed by some research that they have done in that field. Through this, I was able to not only learn a little bit about a specific field, I was also able to then learn about HOW they are using this field to better the world we live in. The presentations and then the discussions that happened afterward, allowed me to learn from different faculty how library resources help them in their field or research, and brainstorm ways to make resources more accessible to them when needed.

Not only did Boot Camp provide great speakers about topics, it provided great discussion among other science librarians each day. There was a wonderful mix of science librarians with various experience and skills, each of us with a unique story to how we became science librarians. These discussions allowed me to reflect on what I am doing in my position and learn from others how I can improve my practices to better my users. They also allowed me to see other librarians feel stuck in the same areas I feel stuck, and that is okay! I was able to learn valuable information through the experience of others and hopefully, I was able to share some too!

The New England Science Boot Camp was a great way to learn about very specific topics, meet and network with other librarians, and learn more about science librarianship. I left Boot Camp feeling optimistic and excited for what the next school year and Boot Camp brings!

Alyssa Valcourt, MLIS
Science & Math Librarian
Rose Library 2308
Libraries & Educational Technologies
James Madison University


I hope you enjoy the latest installment of the Science Boot Camp for librarians. To read the first post please click here. For more about this year’s Science Boot Camp resources or other upcoming events, please visit the NNLM NER website, or contact anyone in the NNLM NER office.

Categories: RML Blogs

From Genealogy to Genetics: Maine Library Association Annual Meeting

Wed, 2018-10-10 16:11

Row of test tubesEarlier this month,  Catherine Martin and I drove up to Newry, MA to present at the Maine Library Association Annual Meeting. Our session, From Genealogy to Genetics: Library Programming to Explore Your Roots, was scheduled for Monday, Oct 1st. The Annual Meeting opened with a panel discussion on journalism, fake news and libraries. Afterwards, Catherine attended For Flannel’s Sake and learned fun ways to use flannel boards in library programming. I opted for Community Conversations @ Your Library and learned about Conversation Cafe. Throughout the day, we learned about library technology trends, customer service techniques, and the special challenges faced by small libraries.

During our session, we presented ideas for easy family history programming. We encouraged librarians to go beyond current programs in genealogy. Catherine demonstrated how to construct a pedigree chart, noting family illnesses and causes of death.  She reviewed the elements of disease: health risk; ethnicity; kinship; and lifestyle. Catherine explained that family medical history can help identify people with higher-than-usual chance of common disorders such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, certain cancers and diabetes.  Catherine demonstrated the use of Genetics Home Reference, a consumer-friendly website about genetics and human health. This resource is an excellent tool for librarians managing genetics questions at the reference desk.

Genetics and Health Literacy Programming

In preparation for our session, I queried listservs in Maine and Massachusetts to learn what public libraries are offering for genealogy programming. Many libraries offer programs for patrons doing genealogy and local history research. This summer, I attended a four-week series lead by genealogist Hillary Schau at Springfield City Library. The series included: Introduction to Genealogical Research; Census and Vital Records; Immigration, Naturalization and Migration; and Unique Records (military records, land records, wills and probate, DNA). Chicopee Public Library offers a Genealogy Open Lab every Tuesday and Thursday for patrons to receive assistance from experienced volunteers in using the library’s valuable resources (Ancestry, Fold3, Heritage Quest, FamilySearch microfilm, and local history books). I attended a genealogy-related program on using historic maps, taught by retired civil engineer Sara Campbell. Genealogy is a hot topic in public libraries!

Our session proposed genetics and health literacy programming as an offshoot of community interest in genealogy. As health information professionals, NER is available to support libraries interested in offering genetics and health literacy programming. We offer free continuing education for librarians and funding for health-related programming.

To learn more about pedigree charts, check out this resource from the Iowa Institute of Genetics.


Categories: RML Blogs

Being Mortal

Mon, 2018-10-01 14:01

“I think I’m very uncomfortable with imperfection and in being fallible and how you live with your own imperfection,” says Atul Gawande. A little ironic, as he shared these words as part of his talk for the 99th Ingersoll Lecture on Immortality and Convocation at Harvard Divinity School held on September 6, at Sander’s Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

I felt pretty fortunate to land 2 free tickets to this event. Having just finished Dr. Atul Gawande’s latest book, “Being Mortal,” I was curious about what he had to say. Dr. Atul Gawande is a professor in the health policy and management department at the Harvard University School of Public Health. He is also a general and endocrine surgeon at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston. Jamie Dimon, Warren Buffet and Jeff Bezos announced in January of 2018 they hired Gawande as the CEO of new nonprofit company whose goal is to lower health-care costs for the 1.2 million employees of the J.P. Morgan, Berkshire Hathaway and Amazon companies.

I was pleased that the evening was more of a conversation than a lecture, we got to see a bit of his personal side (we learned about Dr. Gawande’s massive record collection that showcases his eclectic taste in rock music). During the 80 minutes of discussion between by Dr. Gawande and Harvard Divinity School Dean David Hempton, Gawande discussed some of the same ideas he has written about in his most recent book.

There is a misperception by many in the healthcare industry that what patients want when faced with serious illness is to avoid pain and to extend their lives at all costs. When treating patients facing illness, doctors typically provide diagnoses, potential treatment options, and probability of survival, then leave the patient to make their decision about the care they want to receive. The important knowledge Gawande has discovered is, “Just simply asking people: What are your priorities for your quality of life, as well as your minimum quality of life, and what are you not willing to sacrifice?” Patients “have priorities in their lives aside from living longer. The goal isn’t just immortality; it isn’t just survival at all costs.” Gawande sites examples of people who are willing to sacrifice their health, money and even their lives for what is important to them. Being at peace, with family and their higher power and not being a burden to others are often what patients talk about when asked what is important to them as they face illness. It is not the norm for patients and doctors to talk about these priorities because these conversations are often uncomfortable and many physicians lack the training about how to discuss quality of life with a chronic illness or end of life issues.

Another reason why doctors do not ask patients about their priorities is because our society has changed how it views aging. At the beginning of the 1900s life expectancy was just 47 years. Old age was considered good fortune, it was not viewed as something that increased your risk of dying as it is today. Gawande realized as he wrote “Being Mortal” that the book is about much more than just facing death. The everyday presence of mortality is the real theme.

Did you know that the National Library of Medicine’s consumer health resource MedlinePlus has a lot of information about Advance Directives to help you as you consider life with a chronic illness? Click on the link to look at this information:

I used the following sources to write this article:

Categories: RML Blogs

Science Boot Camp for Librarians – Scholarship Recipient Post 8

Mon, 2018-10-01 13:41

This is the eighth blog post in a series authored by twelve individuals who received scholarships to attend the 2018 Science Boot Camp held at Brandeis University on June 13-15, 2018. In this installment, describes science boot camp as a networking event. Please watch for more posts about resources from this event and views from scholarship recipients in the upcoming weeks.
New England Science Boot Camp for Librarians 2018 Blog Post

Abigail Cahill, Science Librarian, Williams College

The drive from Williamstown to Waltham is stunning: leaving the mountains feels like emerging from one world into another, larger one, and sets the stage perfectly for a completely new and immersive experience. The New England Science Boot Camp, which was held at Brandeis University June 13-15, was that and more. This year’s themes were ecology, genetic engineering, and materials science, and featured researchers from Brandeis as well as the region.

Brandeis is a singularly beautiful campus, and we got to see and enjoy a lot of it as we walked from the dorm to meals at the Faculty Club to the lectures. Walking with some new friends and colleagues, we enjoyed a magical view of the Boston skyline at night from the top of a hill. The dorm was quite comfortable (although I hadn’t expected to relive my years of living in a hiked-up dorm bed – but it made me feel all the more prepared to go to class), and the sound-proofing was downright impressive: the noise from the fairly busy street outside my window never reached me through the glass. (My thanks to the materials scientists who made that happen!)

I’ve only attended two boot camps thus far, including this one, but it’s clear why New England’s is the model and the standard others hope to achieve. The organization of lectures, preceding scientists’ presentations of their research with more overarching dioramas of different disciplines, allows those of us who lack subject expertise to gain a basic grasp of the history of a field, the vocabulary used in it, and the methodologies and values that guide its researchers, as well as current and future directions in research. This foundation was critical for not only our appreciation of the often more technical and in-the-weeds research presentations that followed, but for our ability to return to our jobs better prepared to help researchers at all levels in those fields: I haven’t had time (yet) in my career to study ecology, genetic engineering, and/or materials science, but all of these touch in some way on what my patrons are doing. Understanding the language of different disciplines, and recognizing commonalities and differences across research techniques, helps us communicate more effectively and more with our patrons. I’m excited to share my new knowledge of people, programs, and resources with my liaison departments and colleagues.

I was particularly fortunate to benefit from two official mentors at NESBC: my official mentor could only come for one day, so for the rest of boot camp I got to learn from a librarian mentor whose mentee had been unable to make it. From my mentors, I learned about completely different areas of librarianship, different from mine and from each of theirs: school librarianship, medical librarianship, copyright and metadata, and about how my field (academic and science librarianship) has changed in recent times. However, nobody was at a shortage for mentors at boot camp: any and all questions were met warmly and with an immediate offer of at least several answers which complemented each other. Mealtimes and leisure time were valuable opportunities to meet new people and learn about their interests, their careers, and of course their pets.

Like the quality of the planning and lectures, the scholarship program at the New England Science Boot Camp helps to set this boot camp apart. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been a beneficiary of this program, and of the combined wisdom and kindness of so many professionals in my field. I am already eager to hear when and where boot camp will be next year; it has another enthusiastic attendee!

I hope you enjoy the latest installment of the Science Boot Camp for librarians. To read the first post please click here.  For more about this year’s Science Boot Camp resources or other upcoming events, please visit the NNLM NER website, or contact anyone in the NNLM NER office.

Categories: RML Blogs

ALA Midwinter Travel Awards Available

Mon, 2018-10-01 10:40

ALA Midwinter Logo

As part of a partnership with the All of Us Research Program, the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, New England Region (NNLM NER) is pleased to offer up to 20 Professional Development Awards for library staff to attend ALA Midwinter. Library Awardees can apply for up to $3,000 for registration and travel costs.

  • Eligibility – Any library in CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT may apply.
  • Awards will be made on a cost-reimbursement basis to the individual attendee’s library. (i.e. a library must pay for an employee to attend and NNLM NER will reimburse that library after the conference).
  • Libraries may choose to use the $3,000 to send more than one person, but NNLM NER will not reimburse expenses beyond $3,000 to a single organization.
  • Libraries must be a member of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine. You may search to see if an organization is a member in the Membership directory. If not, membership is free and easy to sign up for. Only one award will be given per library.
  • If an individual is not a member of ALA, this award cannot pay for membership. Please budget for the non-member Early Bird rate.
  • In addition to the full conference, each individual using award money must register for and attend the preconference “Implicit Bias, Health Disparities and Health Literacy” – See details below*
  • Any individual that receives any funds to attend ALA midwinter will be required to fill out a short evaluation: Awardee institutions may be asked if they would contribute to blog postings about the conference.
  • Applications are due October 17, 2018 – Decisions will be made in time to register for the Early Bird Rate.

*More about the NNLM Pacific Northwest Region’s ALA Midwinter Preconference:

Implicit Bias, Health Disparities and Health Literacy: Intersections in Health Equity – Friday, January 25, 2019, 9:00 AM-Noon – The purpose of this preconference is to raise awareness of implicit bias’s connection to health equity and to deepen understanding of health literacy as a tool to address health equity within vulnerable communities. The format will include presentations, facilitated table conversations, and self-reflection. Participants will explore how libraries can deepen their work in health literacy to ensure a lasting impact for improving the health of their community. Organizers will provide a packet of useful resources to support health literacy in the library including tools to identify their local communities’ health needs. This preconference is sponsored by the National Network of Libraries of Medicine Pacific Northwest Region, the Public Library Association, and the ALA Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services. Ticket pricing: ALA Member: $40/50/$60 – Other Member: $40/$50/$60 – Non-Member: $40/$50/$60

Please feel free to share this with any library you think might be interested.

Please contact Martha Meacham ( – 508-856-1267)

Categories: RML Blogs

NNLM Wikipedia FALL Edit-a-thon Call for volunteers!

Mon, 2018-09-24 11:12
NNLM Wikipedia FALL Edit-a-thon

Call for volunteers!

Are you interested in improving the consumer health information available on Wikipedia? Do you want to utilize your librarian research skills towards making Wikipedia a better, evidence-based resource? Have you always wanted to participate in an edit-a-thon? Join the National Network of Libraries of Medicine on November 7, 2018 as we add citations to existing Wikipedia articles on womens health using trusted National Library of Medicine resources like Genetics Home Reference, MedlinePlus, and PubMed.

We’re working hard to make our Fall edit-a-thon even more of a success than the April one. To chieve this goal we are inviting more librarians to join our Wikipedia Help Team.

Volunteers are needed for each 1-hour shift between 10AM to 8PM Eastern on November 7, 2018. If you would like to provide virtual support to the participants, join us to learn how to be prepared by creating a Wikipedia account, editing articles on medical topics, and getting ready for the day, plan to attend the following training sessions


  • October 17, 2PM to 2:30PM ET
    • Editing Wikipedia Articles
    • Hosted by Alicia Lillich (MCR) and Aimee Gogan (SEA)


Please note: you must create a Wikipedia user account prior to the event to be able to participate. Participants are encouraged to register in order to receive a copy of the training recordings.

NNLM staff from across the nation will be available Wednesday, November 7th from 10 am to 8 pm ET to support you as you add your citations. Check out and follow along with the fun on Twitter–check for hashtag #citeNLM2018(link is external)!

Categories: RML Blogs

Health Literacy is not a new topic for Americans

Tue, 2018-09-18 09:16
Smoke traveling across America from California

August 10, 2018 CNN satellite photo of California wildfire

Health Literacy is not a new topic for Americans.  As a nation we have been adjusting to the latest developments on how to keep ourselves healthy for decades.  Whether that be following the national Food Pyramid to the updated “healthy plate” or changing our perspective of how we prevent illness as we age.  We follow an upbeat track to health – well we intend to do that.  Sometimes we just aren’t ready or prepared.  When attending the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conference in Atlanta this past week I’ve discovered campaigns that try to innovate ways to communicate the “get and stay healthy” message.

Several sessions caught my attention and I’d like to share them.  First, I attended a Pre-Conference on Health Literacy as a Driver of Healthier Communities.  This session provided links to the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy @  We reviewed the Needs Assessment with an ‘honest’ approach to who will participate versus who we really want to participate when we are looking into changing community health behaviors.  One large component of this assessment is that we are all trying to organize the same action plan and with the right resources/tools we can get the job done.  Examples used were the National Assessment of Adult Literacy which has state and county estimates and can be found at:; and Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit at  These resources can help with program planning.

Another message I’d like to share with you from this conference was from the “Challenging Traditional Methods of Public Health Messaging” session.  One speaker reminded us to look to the behavioral change not by generalized demographics but to look within each group segmentally.  For example, teens should not be grouped by age but by the things that are meaningful to them. In this case, it was music.  The teens were branded as popular, country, alternative, hip-hop and a moderate/traditional group.  Within the traditional group they were less likely to use tobacco or be part of unhealthy behaviors.  This group was about 30% of all teens.  The second group falls into popular and are more apt to follow others, perhaps for attention and they were more likely to smoke and drink in high school.  The other teen groups, alternative (Goth was mentioned), country or hip-hop had positive behavior changes in reducing or removing negative health habits (smoking, drinking) from their lifestyle when advertisements were paired with their group’s popular musicians tell their audiences that they don’t smoke or drink.  Studies showed that this messaging works!

The last two messages that had an environmental direction in health was regarding a Citizen Science study called Smoke Sense.  This is a downloadable app from the Environmental Protection Agency ( that provides information about air quality, wildland fires, and smoke from those fires across the U.S.  This mobile application provides a way for users to learn how smoke affects their health, allows them to anonymously log health symptoms and smoke observations, and promotes preventive healthy behaviors around wildland fire smoke exposure.

The final segment is all about ticks, yes, those nasty little virus hoarding parasites that apparently are almost as dangerous as the world’s most deadly creature, the mosquito.  Unbeknownst to me, ticks are prolific all year around.  Dr. Mather, aka the Tick Doctor, had a great presentation regarding tick identification, removal of these little pests and how you could be a “tickspotter”  as a Citizen Science project for your school or public library.  One neat fact I learned is that not all ticks are inactive in the fall and winter.   Another reason to learn more about my environment.  Happy sleuthing!


Categories: RML Blogs

National Preparedness Month: Resources You Can Use

Fri, 2018-09-14 14:03

September is National Preparedness Month and there’s still time to make and practice your plan, learn life saving skills, check your coverage and save for an emergency.

National Preparedness Month 2018 Logo. Disasters Happen Prepare Now Learn How. FEMA,

Week 1’s theme was Make and Practice Your Plan

No one knows when an emergency will happen, but making and practicing your plan now will help you during and after.

Here are some planning resources to get you started:


Week 2’s theme was Learn Life Saving Skills

Knowing basic first aid and other life skills means that you can help your family and community during an emergency.


Week 3’s theme is Check Your Coverage


Week 4’s theme is Save for an Emergency


And always make sure you’re following trusted sources for resources and updates on social media to avoid scams and hoaxes.  On twitter, follow @nnlmner, @fema, @femaregion1 (New England), @nws, local news outlets, and local and state government accounts.

Categories: RML Blogs

Words Matter

Fri, 2018-08-31 15:01

Who do you think would receive the better medical care… an “abuser” or a person who suffers from “substance use disorder”? Nearly 21 million people in the US have a substance use disorder, however, just ten percent of that number actually get treatment. What keeps people from getting the help they need? The number one reason why people don’t seek the help they need is because of stigma or fear of judgement. One of the first ways to combat the stigma of substance use disorder is to look at the words we use to talk about addiction. “Often when we call people things like ‘addict’ or ‘junkies’ not only are they incredibly judgmental words, but they also kind of pigeonhole someone’s entire being to that one single characteristic’, states Michael Botticelli, the then director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, as he testified during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on July 26, 2016. Research from Dr. John Kelly, from the Harvard-MGH Recovery Research Institute has evidence that the words we use to discuss patients, affects the clinical care they receive. In a study, Dr. Kelly gave trained clinicians identical scenarios about substance use disorder. The only thing he changed was in one scenario he called the person a “substance abuser’ and in the other scenario, ‘a person with substance use disorder’. The result, even from trained clinicians, was that the substance abuser was given a much more punitive response.

The new substance use disorder vocabulary professionals are suggesting we use to discuss addiction is reflective of an updated understanding that addiction is a brain disease, not a moral failing or character flaw. A word like “abuse”  implies violation and intent. Those with addiction do make choices, but they have a disease and they need treatment. Our words not only affect the treatment of the individual, our words can also influence policies we create. If you reflect on the history of how we treat people with addiction, it has been with punitive criminal justice responses instead of a strong health response. Therefore, one of the simplest ways to address the stigma of the past is to use language that does not perpetuate negative stereotypes and negative judgement. Using appropriate language can have a direct impact on how people perceive themselves and the care that they receive.

The following information reflects other suggestions for more appropriate language to use when discussing substance use disorder, provided by Dr. Richard Saitz of the Boston University School of Public Health. Because words do matter.

Information for this article was obtained from the following article:

NNLM NER has a new series of webinars about topics related to Substance Use Disorder.

  • September 5th – How to Save a Life: Naloxone 101
  • October 18th – Using Recovery Coaches in the Treatment of Substance Use Disorder
  • November 28th – Understanding Grief After an Overdose

You can read more about these webinars and register at this link



Categories: RML Blogs

Biomedical and Health Research Data Management Training for Librarians

Mon, 2018-08-27 17:38

Health sciences librarians are invited to apply for the online course, Biomedical and Health Research Data Management Training for Librarians, offered by the NNLM Training Office (NTO). The course is a free, 7-week online class with engaging lessons, practical activities and a final project. The course runs October 15 – December 14, 2018.

The goal of this course is to provide an introduction to data issues and policies in support of developing and implementing or enhancing research data management training and services at your institution. This material is essential for decision-making and implementation of these programs, particularly instructional and reference services. Course topics include an overview of data management, choosing appropriate metadata descriptors or taxonomies for a dataset, addressing privacy and security issues with data, and creating data management plans.

Applications are due September 20, 2018.

Additional details and the online application are available here.

For questions, please contact the NTO:

Categories: RML Blogs

2018 Comics and Medicine Conference Highlights

Mon, 2018-08-27 14:36


Comics and Medicine Conference 2018 poster.

Held this year in White River Junction, VT at the Center for Cartoon Studies (CCS) and Dartmouth College (Hanover, NH), the 9th Annual Comics in Medicine Conference brought together a mix of creators, medical professionals, librarians and others to discuss how graphic novels are being used by a wide array of professionals and artists to connect and educate patients, families, and the public on health topics.

Many sessions were relevant to what I do at NNLM-NER, but here are my top three conference highlights:

  • Can comics help us share health data with community members? We Are Wyandotte (Kansas City, KS) believes that everyone should have access to data about their communities. And they created a comic without words to communicate information about health disparities to people with different reading levels and across languages.  Visit their site to get your own copy of Redlining Parts 1 & 2 and see how they did it.


  • Can telling the story of a traumatic event be therapeutic? The Center for Cartoon Studies partnered with the White River Junction VA to illustrate veterans’ stories.  At the conference, they previewed a second anthology focused on the experiences of female vets and discussed the process of creating the book. To learn more about this project, visit the Cartoonist Veteran page on the CCS site.


  • Can comics connect across language and cultural barriers? El viaje más caro/The Most Expensive Journey is an illustrated series of personal stories from migrant dairy framers in Vermont that was designed to start conversations around isolation and mental health. You can read the full comics in English or Spanish here.


To try graphic medicine with your book club, community organization or staff, request a graphic medicine book club kit.  Kits contain six copies of the book, a discussion guide and topic-relevant health information from trusted sources such as MedlinePlus, the CDC, NIH and more.  Kits are free, so request one today.


If you want to learn more about graphic medicine and you’re in Worcester, MA between September 10 and October 20, 2018, stop by the Lamar Soutter Library (University of Massachusetts-Medical School, 55 Lake Ave North, Worcester, MA 01655) to view the National Library of Medicine exhibit, Graphic Medicine: Ill Conceived and Well-Drawn. See the library’s announcement for more details.

Categories: RML Blogs

What Did You Do This Summer? Summer Camp

Mon, 2018-08-20 19:01

One of the questions always asked on the first day back from summer break is: “What did you do this summer?” For many kids summer camp may be involved, either as a camper or as a camp counselor. Summer camp experiences can have a multitude of positive influences, such as building character, teaching independence and exploring new frontiers and gaining different skills. This summer, I had the pleasure of being a guest speaker at several summer camps. Of course for kids at camp, hands on engaging activities and experiments have to be involved (and of course the messier the better.)

In one program high school aged kids were gaining technology skills using mapping software called ARC GIS (,as a guest speaker, I was able to review data literacy and had the campers evaluate what characterizes a good data set. Using pre-selected data sets, the campers used a checklist to critically evaluate the data set. One of the data sets involved cell phone coverage in various countries, and one camper who was traveling out the country to visit relatives in Africa found it fascinating that their cell phone would still work.

In another camp, at the Everett Haitian Community Center, I was asked to create a program on kids health. In this camp visit we discussed what foods to eat for healthy teeth and explored the ToxNet databases. The campers learned about the pH scale that measures the strength of acids and bases. We mixed household chemicals to blow up a balloon, made elephant toothpaste and cleaned pennies with a weak acid. They learned about how the environment can impact human health and what they can do to stay healthy.  It was a great experience. I hope the kids had as much fun as I did.

Listed below are some of my favorite resources that were highlighted in the camps:  

  • NNLM RD3 website for information about data literacy and a data thesaurus
  • At NLM there are various TOXNET databases related to toxicology, hazardous chemicals, environmental health, and toxic releases one of my favorites is is Tox Map 
  • There are online games such as TOXinvaders (National Library of Medicine) an environmental health and toxicology game for iPhone and iPad available free from the Apple Store.
  • Tox Mystery is an interactive learning site helping children age 7 to 10 find clues about toxic substances that can lurk in the home
  • There is Tox Town where you can  explore places and situations where you might be exposed to hazardous chemicals and contaminants and learn how to minimize your risk.
  • The Households Products Database contains health and safety information on household products from arts and crafts supplies to cleaners,personal and even pet care products.

The great news is even if summer camp is over it is never too late to stop exploring and gain new skills.  As the school year gears up and if you are curious about what chemicals are in the products you use everyday, such as your toothpaste or shampoo, look at the ToxNet databases you might be in for a surprise. Or maybe your stuck in a line, download and play ToxInvaders on your i-Phone. It is great entertainment for you and the kids and it may help them brush up on their science for the upcoming school year.

Categories: RML Blogs