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Midwest Chapter: Connections

Liz Mady
MLIS Student
Kent State University
Columbus, OH

If I had to pick one word that comes to mind when reflecting on the Midwest Chapter MLA conference, that word would be “connections”. Connections are what were formed when librarians, information professionals, and graduate students all gathered together in East Peoria, IL. Connections are what these information givers seek to build with their patrons. Whether it is the theme of the presentations or the spontaneous conversations that formed in the only warm spot of the hallway, connections were sought after and created at the conference. In attending the presentations, mentor/mentee meet and greet and social functions, I feel fortunate in being a part of the connections formed.

Forming connections with patrons and colleagues was the theme of many of the presentations I attended. At the Mentor/Mentee Meet and Greet, emphasis was placed on creating connections with possible mentors and colleagues. I felt welcomed by my mentor, Janna Lawrence, and the overall attitude of the room was one of welcome and a willingness to connect with others. This attitude remained throughout the conference, whether it was in-between presentations or during vendor sessions. This willingness on the part of information professionals to connect with others is essential to our field, regardless if these connections are formed with colleagues, patrons, or community.

Social media was a hot topic of the conference, and Michelle Kraft and Sarah Houghton both discussed its use in their presentations. Social media is a way for a library, whether academic, health, or public to connect with its users. A takeaway from these sessions is that even if a post or article is funny or interesting to you, your followers may not agree; if something doesn’t produce enough “likes” or comments, try something different until you find what really connects your library to your users. Keeping the user in mind is a tenet for information professionals, and social media is no exception.

Patient portals are being used by hospitals to connect patients with their medical information and their doctors. As someone interested in consumer health, I found this idea extremely interesting and among the graduate students, this topic of patient portals was especially thought-provoking.

Using social connections has been used by emergency forces to disseminate information and to search information as was revealed in the Technology Forum. Connecting with patrons and the community using social media for emergency situations is creative, and creativity is crucial to success. Information professionals have had to change traditional means of communication and embrace changes. Creative thinking is required in today’s information field, and the ability to embrace change is crucial to connect with our users. Take, for example, Michelle Kraft’s challenge to think heretical librarian thoughts and challenge the sacred cow/ traditional library thoughts.

For me, the most important connections that I made were with fellow outreach award winners. Being able to stand at the GMR booth and chat about our backgrounds and interests revealed that we have entered a vast field of health librarianship. The opportunity to make new connections at the Midwest Chapter MLA conference is invaluable and I appreciate the opportunity provided to me through the GMR Student Outreach Award.

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