MLA 2011 Annual Meeting in Minneapolis: A NAHSL Member’s Account

June 13, 2011 at 11:04 am | Posted in Meetings, Professional Development | Leave a comment

[Submitted by Mariana Lapidus, MSLIS, Reference and Instruction Librarian; Associate Professor, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences]

Thanks to the Professional Development Award received from NAHSL this year, I was able to attend the MLA 2011 Annual Meeting in Minneapolis and present a poster there. I arrived in Minneapolis on Saturday, May 14; the modern and vibrant city really impressed me. 

The Meeting took place at the Minneapolis Convention Center; walking there from the hotel allowed me to become familiar with amazingly convenient skyway system- wow, is this city different from Boston!

The Welcome Reception at the Hall of Exhibits brought together library colleagues from all over the world. The number of vendors attending the Meeting was quite impressive this year. In her Presidential Address, Ruth Holst, 2010/2011 MLA President, specifically recognized many vendors such as EBSCO, Elsevier, BMJ Publishing, etc. for providing great support to MLA. These are the companies whose representatives often visit us at the MCPHS Libraries, and we are happy indeed to have established very positive working relationships with them.

  The Presidential Address on Sunday morning was one of the milestones of the Meeting. I think it set up the tone of this event, clearly explaining this years’ theme as rethinking medical librarianship due to the changing face of scholarly communication, impact of the Internet and technology on libraries, etc. We librarians are known for our good sense of humor, so even during the Address it was not all that serious as we enjoyed a short, lively and humorous video on Peanut Allergy, which was created in honor of NLM’s 175th Anniversary celebration and to promote MedlinePlus. A very important point in the Presidents’ speech was that we all need to learn how to promote our (librarians’) value; we had an opportunity to hear about many wonderful research and community projects that librarians across the country are undertaking to reach this goal. These energetic information professionals are actively participating in interdisciplinary clinical and disaster response teams, expanding and rethinking traditional roles of librarians. It was also interesting for me to find out that there are now two new SIGs formed at MLA: Informationist and Translational Science Collaboration. The Informationist SIG has a web site at for those interested to find out more about the group; the Translational Science was in fact one of the hottest topics of this year Meeting, covered in many discussions and sessions.

It was the same day that I attended the John P.McGovern Award lecture presented by a wonderful speaker, Clay Shirky, on the topic of social and economic impacts of the Internet and technology on our society. The speaker touched upon such important topic as knowledge aggregation, and I admit to have never heard about some new developments in this field, for example about Ushahidi, an  open source software platform that enables to freely aggregate and share data displaying it on a map. The main point made by C. Shirky, in my opinion, very much relates to libraries and librarians: to aggregate knowledge and information, we have to guarantee two essential things- communication tools and culture (ability); only voluntary participation combined with communication tools can lead to the goal of coordinated voluntary participation and information sharing. Amazing examples of data sharing in math community and among other science communities prove the fact that the age of traditional ways of submitting manuscripts to peer-review journals is almost over. Opening up data to scientific community can lead to surprising results, as well as research collaboration and aggregation, which can be now witnessed in academia. Scientists are disseminating their research results freely to an appropriate community; this guarantees much faster information aggregation than traditional publishing. This, of course, brings in new challenges, for librarians especially; it is essential to have certain cultural norms in the society that help people understand the value of sharing.

At MCPHS Libraries, all our reference staff is actively involved into various forms of library instruction, so attending the Instructional Best Practices program organized by the Medical Library Education Section was really enlightening for me. Besides, this was one of programs cosponsored by the Complementary and Alternative Medicine SIG (CAM SIG), of which I am a long standing member. Reports on different ways of assessment of bibliographic instruction effectiveness from the Countway Library colleagues and others provided me with some important ideas on how to evaluate and measure the impact of the instruction on health sciences students. One interesting lesson learned from this session is that even negative study results are worth being shared with others. Among the tools used to evaluate students’ learning, Kirkpatrick’s four-level model seems to be quite popular and effectively used in a number of libraries, so I am now wondering if this methodology could be applied at MCPHS.

On Monday, May 16, at 7a.m. I attended the CAM SIG business meeting. Though such an early morning is not my favorite time of the day, I could hardly wait to meet my CAM soulmates, most of whom I have not seen for a couple of years. It was great to have several new active members joining us at the meeting, the main purpose of which was identifying topics for MLA 2012 Meeting program. Based on the next year’s theme, Changing the Game, we came up with many great suggestions:

–        Translational Science and CAM

–        Evidence-Based research and CAM

–        Educating Future Healthcare Professionals on CAM

–        Communication and Demographics Issues: Patients and CAM Professionals

Time will show which of these topics will be transformed into section programs or poster sessions, but I hope that partnering with other MLA SIGs and sections will allow us to offer several interesting events for the next year MLA Meeting.

Following the SIG meeting, the Janet Doe Session was presented by Scott Plutchak, who in his speech described an exciting new future for librarians and librarianship. One phrase from his speech really appealed to me as the motto of the new age of information sharing, collaboration and open access to information, and I hope I cite it correctly: “The great age of libraries is coming to an end; the great age of librarians just begins.” It is not the library buildings that are important, but librarians’ essential skills and talents to connect people to a high-quality intellectual content.

The Corporate Information Services put together a very good session titled Being There: An Embedded Librarian. It was quite amazing to hear about working experiences of librarians integrated into clinical teams with residents and MDs, participating in rounds, and doing dynamic searches related to real patients’ health. There are so many social, ethical and cultural issues that have to be taken into consideration by these informationists!

Every day a number of interesting technology showcase was scheduled at the Exibit Hall. I would have loved to attend them all, but since this was impossible, I had to make some tough choices. DynaMed presentation from EBSCO was informative, as usual, and when I came back to Boston, I got the exciting news that finally we were able to get the subscription to this database! I also attended the showcase on EBSCO Rehabilitation Reference Center; what a great resource for PTs and OTs.

It was not easy to choose from a huge number of interesting section programs, but the one called Rethinking Libraries in Hard Times sounded right, and it turned out to be really useful for me as a reference librarian. Some major topics covered in presentations were: creative approach to answering reference questions without preserving a reference desk; librarians’ involvement into clinical research and community outreach; using mobile devices, Skype, and smartphones to communicate with library patrons.

A great way of sharing information on innovations, teaching techniques and creative library programs is, of course, attending a poster session. I attended them all during this meeting and on Tuesday, May 17, also presented a poster designed in collaboration with my MCPHS library and dental hygiene faculty, titled Teaching an Online Informatics Course to Dental Hygiene Students: Challenges and Achievements. I was really impressed by a wide range of topics covered by posters this year; just to name a few: decreasing health disparities; providing quality medical information to consumers; using iPads, mobile devices, Facebook, etc. in medical libraries and medical education; measuring library instruction effectiveness.

Another program cosponsored by CAM SIG, which I attended on Tuesday, May 17, was titled Serving the Information Needs of a Multilingual/Multicultural Clientele. Though I had to miss the lecture on Changing Pharmacy Education presented at the same time (I wish I could be in two places at once!), there were no regrets: the problems of increasing access to quality health information for refugees and development of health education materials in different foreign languages are very important for librarians.

One of the most unforgettable experiences on Tuesday was, without any doubt, a lecture given by a prominent M.D. , scientist and writer, Marianne Legato, during a luncheon for medical librarians sponsored by Elsevier Sciences. The topic of the lecture was gender-specific science and medicine, and we were really amazed by the picture of how sex can affect human biology, presented by doctor Legato.

I returned to Boston on Wednesday, May 18, bringing back lots of nice memories and big thanks to NAHSL for such a wonderful opportunity to network with many talented librarians and gain new  creative ides!


Leave a Comment »

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at
Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: