Adventures of a Rural Librarian in the Windy City

June 13, 2014 at 9:09 am | Posted in Professional Development | 1 Comment

December 2013. I was already to go to Chicago, armed with an accepted poster (An Analysis of Clinical Questions Asked at Professor Rounds: a Ten-Year Review of Topics) and a preliminary program for the annual MLA meeting. That’s when fiscal reality quickly burst my travel bubble and budget. Registration fees and lodging costs and airline prices, oh my! I was sunk until encouraged to apply for and then being granted a NAHSL Professional Development Award. BIG sigh of relief!

The generous Professional Development Award allowed me to be a bit more resourceful and creative with my slightly extended stay in the Windy City. In fact, I chose to register for a CE class, Health on the Range: Rural Health Issues and Resources taught by Gail Kouame. It turned out to be an excellent choice!

Although it was a smaller class in size, I was pleasantly surprised at the geographic diversity of libraries that were represented. Gail opened the class by asking all attendees to identify themselves and their connection to a rural area. Surprisingly, I met librarians who worked primarily in rural areas from northern California to Ocala, Florida and from New Mexico to South Carolina and everywhere in between!

Before jumping into resources focused on rural health, Gail began by setting the stage with a few definitions of the concept of “rural”. Those definitions, along with many rural health facts and statistics, came from two “good starting points” on her class handout. Those “good starting points” include the following websites: MedlinePlus Rural Health Concerns page and NLM’s Health Services Research page on Rural Health. Since both of these websites were completely new to me, I thought I would use my blog posting today to share some of their unique features and information.

First of all, if you don’t use MedlinePlus regularly, please check out its “trusted health information” made available as a service of the National Library of Medicine. Everything about MedlinePlus just sparkles … from its graphics to its concise outline format. The Rural Health Concerns topic is rich in links to issues (prevention/screening, financial, organizations, women, seniors) all pertaining to a rural population. Most of the website information comes from the Rural Assistance Center (RAC), a rural health and human services ‘information portal.’ The RAC itself assists rural communities and other rural stakeholders in accessing the full range of available programs, funding, and research that can enable them to provide quality health and human services to rural residents.

NLM’s Health Services Research page on Rural Health is an equally informative website for rural health issues and more. Actually, the Rural Health topic is one of 15 key topics covered by the National Information Center on Health Services Research and Health Care Technology (NICHSR). It provides links to current government, academic, and organizational research on a variety of rural health issues.

From exploring rural health issues and resources in my CE class to fielding questions about my research poster, MLA ’14 was a wonderful experience. Thank you NAHSL for giving me that opportunity!

Nancy Bianchi, MSLIS
Health Sciences Librarian, Library Associate Professor, University of Vermont


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  1. Nancy, thanks for point out the Rural Health page on MedlinePlus. As a community outreach librarian, I use MedlinePlus all of the time, but I had never looked at this page. Great, targeted information. Would be useful when applying for grants.

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