Words Into Action

May 17, 2013 at 4:44 pm | Posted in Professional Development | Leave a comment

Sally_GoreA week of recovery later, I’m able to reflect on what a fantastic time that MLA “One Health” in Boston was for me. I got to welcome everyone to New England, on behalf of NAHSL, of course; I got to speak on a panel about how librarians can work with clinicians and researchers to eliminate health disparities; I got to present a poster on our work publishing an eJournal through our digital repository; and I got to spend many, many hours absorbing new ideas and thoughts that emerged from a whole slew of interesting talks, presentations, discussions, lunches, dinners, afterhours socializing, and more. There are few things as energizing and inspiring (once you recover) than a really great professional conference. Thanks to NAHSL for helping me cover some of the finances involved with attending. Thanks to NAHSL for sponsoring so many of my colleagues to do the same. I’m proud to belong to an organization that puts its money where its mouth is when it comes to providing resources that allow librarians to grow professionally.

I was an official blogger for MLA during the conference, so you can read my thoughts on some of the events there, but for the NAHSL blog, I’d like to share what I got out of one of the Section programming sessions that I attended. “Librarians as Researchers: Practicing What We Preach in Scholarly Publications,” co-sponsored by the MLA Education and Public Health/Health Administration Sections, featured a great line-up of speakers who shared with the audience their own original research in the areas of altmetrics (a VERY hot topic at this year’s meeting), instruction, publishing, and research partnerships. While each talk was terrific and gave me much to think about, it’s the last one that I want to spend just a few extra sentences on.

“Librarian Readiness for Research Partnerships,” by Emily Mazure, VirginiaCommonwealthUniversity, and Kristine Alpi, North CarolinaStateUniversity, caught my fascination from the get-go. Mazure and Alpi used a very popular theory in health behavior change, the Transtheoretical Model of Change (developed by James Proschaska in the late 1970s), to determine the level of readiness that health sciences librarians experience when it comes to engaging in research and research partnerships. Their findings were not that surprising, nor really very encouraging. We are a profession that talks an awful lot about the need for evidence and the importance of doing research to prove our value(s), yet sadly we too often lack the motivation, desire, skills, resources, or environment that allows such to happen. The fact is, in a time when we face shortages of people and money at every turn, the very thing that could help us win such things back, i.e. research findings to support our value, is one of the first things to get pushed aside. When you’re treading water to get the daily deeds done, taking the time and putting forth the effort to design, carry out, and then write up a research project really becomes a mountain that’s too big to climb.

However, from several sessions, several speakers, and Joanne Marshall’s “Janet Doe Lecture,” we were all reminded again that doing research needs to be an integral part of our professional work. Much remains to be addressed in terms of the barriers to achieving this goal, but the goal remains, all the same.

With this in mind, I return to Mazure and Alpi’s presentation. What fascinated me most about it was their choice of methodology. During the Q&A, I asked why they chose a model rooted in health behavior change as the one to measure readiness in their work. It seemed like a really novel idea. It turns out that Kristine Alpi has a background in health education. For me, with my background in exercise physiology, it made complete sense when she said this. It also set off for me a non-stop thinking-hamster-wheel that hasn’t stopped going around in my mind since I heard the talk. What other ways can models for change in health behaviors be applicable and/or effective for ushering changes in our professional life? Can some of the techniques we know from helping people make healthier choices help us to make the “healthy choice” of doing research to better our careers and profession?

Personally, I think these are really interesting questions. I was so excited by them, in fact, that I returned from MLA and began poking around in the literature, looking to see if anyone else has looked at this before. I brought the subject up with a researcher here at UMMS that does work in the area. I talked about it with my Library Director. I began a new notebook (me and my notebooks!) and I stayed late in my cubicle last night, searching and reading. To me, THIS is one of the best after-effects I received from MLA this year – a renewed sense of enthusiasm, curiosity, and fondness for the work that I do, in its biggest sense. It’s true that it took a couple of days to regain my energy after a week of conferencing (both MLA and ACRL-New England), but it’s returned with a vigor!

Thanks again to everyone from NAHSL, as well as the many other librarians from the Boston area, who helped with Local Arrangements, volunteering, presenting, and all of the many tasks that made MLA “One Health” such a success. I’m proud to chair this region and delighted that we showed everyone our true spirit!

Submitted by Sally Gore
Lamar Soutter Library
UMass Medical School

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