The Choices We Make

June 4, 2015 at 8:54 am | Posted in Awards and Recognition, Meetings, Professional Development | 1 Comment

Sally Gore was one of our NAHSL recipients of a $500.00 award to attend MLA in Austin, TX.

Below is her blog post:

The Choices We Make

Per my usual habit, I reviewed the program for MLA’s recent annual meeting before attending, circling the talks, presentations, posters, and social events I wanted to attend. I carried my program around with me, along with my calendar where I’d imported the events, plus the MLA app (unfortunately, it didn’t prove very useful for me). I didn’t want to miss anything.

There were MANY products about data and the role(s) of the librarian in working with it; data management, data visualization, data analysis resources, data analysis for librarians, data sharing, funding mandates around data. There were also lots of classes and presentations and posters on systematic reviews; how to do them and the role of the librarian on review teams. There were sessions on building collaborations, professional writing, 3D printing, embedded librarianship, eLearning, eTextbooks, eEverything. The list goes on and on. There was much to choose from.

As I was attending MLA for the first time as an evaluator for the UMass Center for Clinical Translational Science (as opposed to a librarian at UMass Medical School), I focused on sessions related to teams and collaborative efforts in research and translational science, the use of alternative metrics for measuring research impact, and anything that touched on reaching beyond our traditional borders when looking at the future of our profession. I found plenty in my quest.

I also almost always enjoy the plenary sessions and special lectures MLA offers up. This year was no exception. Perhaps my quest to find the talks and work around non-traditional roles was most met – certainly most inspired – by Mae Jemison’s “John P. McGovern Award Lecture” given on the first full morning of the main meeting. A quick Google search will provide you with a bounty of references to Jemison and her lauded career; physician, astronaut, engineer, faculty member, board member, award winner, and perhaps what wowed most in the audience, her role as a character on “Star Trek”. She was a terrific choice and I’m personally grateful to the programming committee for landing her. (pun intended)

What I liked most about Mae Jemison’s message, indeed what I like most about astronauts in general, is their perspective on work, relationships, politics, world affairs … about life. Perhaps when you’ve had the great fortune to look upon Earth from space, to see it as the starship that it is (Jemison’s description), you gain a perspective unattainable so long as you remain tethered to our planet.

From her vantage point, life is about the choices we make. My favorite quote – or perhaps paraphrase – from her talk is, “The choices we make to participate in life make a difference.” More, the big choice that we need to make is one of inclusion – of realizing and appreciating that science, art, culture, creativity, ingenuity, and space (as in outer space) are all connected; they are all manifestations of the same thing. In other words, everything is connected and thus we need LOTS of different people involved when it comes to tackling and solving the problems of today. For me, this was just the message that librarians can grab hold of as we continue searching and redefining ourselves to be a part of a world that is very different from the one we worked in not so long ago. Everyone has a role to play.

As she was introduced, we learned that Jemison was a dancer, an actress, a photographer, and a collector of African art. She has degrees in Afro-American Studies, chemical engineering, and medicine. Like so many of the smart and talented individuals who get accepted into the space program, she’s a bit of a renaissance woman; and in a world that seems to place so much value on the personalized and the specialized, she’s a reminder that success can also be defined as having lots of interests. It’s not about being a good multi-tasker so much as being multi-curious, multi-attentive, and multi-absorbed. Maybe this is why these people are drawn to space and its endless possibilities. We can learn a lot from them, after all, information is a world of endless possibilities, too. That’s the world we work in and the choices we make regarding how we participate in it can and do make a difference.

Thanks to the NAHSL Professional Development Committee for helping provide some of the funds I needed in order to attend MLA this year.

Sally Gore

May 26, 2015


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  1. Sally, I enjoyed this reflection on your experiences at MLA and your thoughtful look at Mae Jemison’s keynote. I appreciate how you tie it to our profession and the need to be curious, collaborative and looking for ways to engage. Interesting note of how specialized things have become and a reminder that it’s okay to cast a wide net – I think most librarians are like that by nature and necessity. Thanks!

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