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APHA 2013

By Stephanie Friree, MLIS, Outreach Coordinator, NN/LM NER

Having never been to the American Public Health Association annual meeting, I expected to be overwhelmed, similar to an ALA Annual conference. That was the only way that the conference failed to meet my expectations. While very large, it was manageable.

Prior to my arrival, I had looked at the schedule online and marked some sessions as must-see. The Film Festival had some fascinating short films. I regret I didn’t have more time to spend watching all of them.  Families with Autism: Let Them Stand Tall, was one that I was able to catch and it really opened my eyes to the experiences that families with autistic children go through. It highlighted four families from Hawaii.

The highlight for me was a presentation by Karen Dahlen, MLS, “Digital Access to the World’s Literature: A Blueprint to Integrate Evidence with Practice”. Since part of my day is spent working with Karen on a project creating digital libraries for Public Health Departments, I was eager to see what she had to say and she did not disappoint. When you work on small segments of a project, it is nice to see the big picture as it gets presented to the public.

While exhibiting at the NLM booth, I met a lot of Public Health professionals and students. It was great exposure to that audience and nice to be able to focus on a different area than what I normally do in my work. It’s always wonderful to hear from current users of our resources and I heard one moving story from a public health professional that had used our resources for personal reasons. He expressed great thanks at the ability to get authoritative information without institutional affiliation and the ability to find information on clinical trials. There were interesting questions about a wide range of resources, but PubMed was the most common resource for inquiries and I highlighted most frequently. Another key benefit of exhibiting was the chance to connect with some colleagues from other regions and NLM. It’s nice when we have the opportunity to talk in person.

If you will be attending this conference in the future, my best suggestion is to plan ahead! Look at the schedule and plan your days. It can be overwhelming trying to find a session to attend if you haven’t already narrowed down your choices to two or three (but the Film Festival was always an available option). There was a half hour of open time between sessions which allowed for plenty of time to get around the convention center. The number of sessions available and the broad range of topics, made this conference appropriate for anyone with an interest in Public Health. Next year the conference will be held in New Orleans, which is just one more reason to go if you have the opportunity!

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