“By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea”

October 30, 2014 at 8:00 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I always call NAHSL my “Goldilocks” meeting.  Just the right size.  Big enough to offer quality speakers and programming but small enough to network with old friends and meet new colleagues (and unlike the home of the three bears, no porridge, only great food!)

This year, by the beautiful sea in Rockport, Maine, Haider Warraich talked about “Humanism in Medicine.”  He discussed what can be a hard subject to hear, that is, death.  How we die, where we die and how modern medicine has changed this.  But in talking about how we die, he also talked about how we live and how physicians need to do a better job of caring for us holistically.  Medicine is one the cusp of some major changes – changes in how evidence is applied to care and how medicine is funded and care is reimbursed.  Warraich feels that tying funding into how medicine must be practiced in the future will lead to more “humanistic” outcomes, something that will be beneficial to both patients and physicians.  One interesting fact that Warraich mentioned has stuck with me – that is his remark that in the 8,000 or so generations that have passed in human history, only four of these have benefited from “modern life expansion” through effective medications and procedures.  It is in this small period of time in which we are fortunate to live that all that is good and all that is bad about current health care practice have developed.

On Tuesday, Stephen Abram, library consultant and author of “Stephen’s Lighthouse Blog,” spoke about how librarians can remain pertinent, not just in this new world of health care but in the 21st Century in general.  Abram emphasized that a number of “scalable strategies” are what librarians need to succeed in the future.  We need to think of ourselves differently – as professionals that do not just “collect” data but “create” means to make the information we have available to our patrons.  For example, as we create new online tools and apps, it can be important not just to list them using labels like “PubMed” and “CINAHL” but to clearly let the user know how these tools could be pertinent to their information needs.  Abram gave a number of memorable quotes to help in accentuating this and other points such as “patrons want a meal, not a list of ingredients,” “don’t serve up stats [to administrators], serve up measurements” and my favorite, “getting rid of librarians because of Google is like getting rid of the accountant because of PC desktop calculators.”  In other words, it’s not just the tools but the people that help to use and interpret the tools that bring value to an institution.

There were, of course, other interesting and engaging keynotes addresses.  There was a fascinating set of lightning round presentations by colleagues followed by topic tables over lunch.  And of course, there were great social events and time for networking.  Go to the 2014 conference site on the NAHSL home page for a video of the conference planning committee giving a wonderful rendition of the 1914 Carroll/Atteridge tune “By the Beautiful Sea” along with the CPC sea nymphs “swimming” in the ball room.  You’ll have to see it to believe it!  See you in Providence at NAHSL 2015.

And lastly, thanks to the NAHSL Professional Development Committee and the Executive Board for making professional development a priority for all of us health information professionals in the New England area.

By Len Levin
Lamar Soutter Library, UMass Medical School

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  1. I was also struck by Abram’s emphasis on “scalable strategies,” yet I felt like he did the same as most everyone else who ever brings up the topic, i.e. he said nothing more than “we have to address this.” To me, this is an incredibly frustrating chant that I continue to hear and read from professional leadership, administration, and notable speakers. It’s frustrating because no one seems to be actually offering up any ideas and/or suggestions and/or solutions to the problem. The fact is that it’s really easy to talk about sustainability and scalability when you’re talking about yourself, individually, as a consultant (as Abrams is), but when you move this discussion to the level of a library, you’re faced with the reality that we simply do not have the staff and the budgets to provide individualized, specialized, consultant-type services to everyone – or even to anything more than the smallest percentage of our patron base. IT’S JUST NOT POSSIBLE!

    I love the model of embedded librarianship and speaking as a successful embedded librarian, really enjoy the move to this direction. That said, the model in its current form is not sustainable and not scalable, and I’d like to hear some ideas from the futurist brigade about how we can ever make it so.


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