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Midwest Chapter: Sharing time and knowledge

By Merete Christianson
Bismarck, ND

I’m so thankful to have received the Student Outreach Award from the NN/LM GMR. Attending the Midwest MLA Conference was a terrific experience that allowed me to learn a lot and meet a number of great library professionals who were very generous sharing their time and knowledge.

First on the to-do list at the conference was the CE Class “PubMed and the Evidence-Based Universe”, taught by Holly Ann Burt and Cleo Pappas. The world of evidence-based medicine is so vast and complex that it can be rather daunting at times trying to navigate it. But the course went a long way to helping clear the muddy waters. I’ve felt much more confident using PubMed since taking this course and I am eager to practice and learn more.

The first day of the conference culminated in the welcome reception and vendor exhibits, during which I worked a bit at the NN/LM GMR table and was able to meet the other student outreach award recipients. My graduate program was all online, so it was really refreshing to speak with other students face-to-face and share stories about library school! I met and talked with a number of other librarians during the welcome reception and enjoyed hearing the various paths each took to get where they are today; it was also interesting to learn of the different ways in which other library professionals serve their patrons and different environments in which they work.

I continued to learn about the innovative and unique work health librarians do during the paper and poster sessions the following days. Coming from a smaller library that serves a hospital and college of nursing, I found the librarians, posters, and papers that discussed librarianship at larger research and academic medical libraries to be particularly interesting. The paper presented by librarians from Indiana University regarding the integration of GIS and a clinical decision support system was thought-provoking because the students we serve at the college of nursing often work on community health projects that require them to incorporate knowledge of public health services into patient care planning. The roles of the informationists in this project—managing the GIS data and making it accessible—are something I will keep in mind during the planning of future community health projects for our students.

Another paper that I enjoyed focused on Six Sigma techniques that can be applied in library settings for quality improvement. My knowledge of Six Sigma had previously only come from the TV show 30 Rock, where “Handshakefulness” was described as a pillar of the philosophy, so it was great to learn the real story behind Six Sigma and helpful Six Sigma ideas, such as cost-benefit analysis, Ishikawa diagrams, and PICK charts that could be used to improve library services. Applying the Ishikawa diagram to instruction is something I think will be particularly helpful in the future when planning and evaluating information literacy instruction.

Rounding out the highlights of the paper and poster sessions was a poster about the integration of EBM into the curriculum of medical students at Northeast Ohio Medical University. The poster described the roles of librarians who teach EBM to students over the course of their program, rather than just in a few one-shot sessions. I also enjoyed two different perspectives of the open access movement—one being a poster from the University of Minnesota about using faculty forums to inform researchers about issues in scholarly communication and open access; and the other a paper presented about the role librarians at Governors State University have played in evaluating journals and conferences to make sure they are legitimate rather than predatory.

The presentations by Michelle Kraft and Sarah Houghton were particularly motivating in regards to technology in the library. Some of the points that really stood out to me were the ideas that evolving technology should be seen as an opportunity rather than yet another nail in libraries’ coffin; librarians should always consider whether what we do is done for the ease of patrons or librarians; we shouldn’t be afraid to kill any “sacred cows” that are hindering patrons’ ease of use; and that boldness (rather than timidity) is necessary to make a library successful. The Health Information Summit really helped translate these words of wisdom into concrete ideas for health sciences librarians, from trying embedded librarianship to “partnering shamelessly” to offering asynchronous instruction options. It was really thought-provoking to hear how librarians were delivering services and doing library outreach throughout the Midwest region.

My experience at the Midwest MLA Conference was great. I’ve learned a lot of theory and studied different methods of putting theory into practice while completing my graduate program and have done a lot of hands-on learning while working in a health sciences library. But I really valued the practical ideas offered at the conference, and it was a privilege to hear the personal stories of working in the field shared by the medical librarians. It certainly inspired me to continue building the skills and knowledge base that would help me succeed in health sciences librarianship and to explore new ways of conducting library outreach.

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