Anchored in Engagement

October 30, 2015 at 9:23 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Our second, in a series of blog posts by our winners of the NAHSL professional development grant, is by Julie Goldman, Library Fellow at Lamar Soutter Library. Thank you, Julie for sharing your insightful experience at our 2015 NAHSL Conference!

Anchored in Engagement

Julie Goldman, Library Fellow

Lamar Soutter Library

University of Massachusetts Medical School

Amy Dickinson knew exactly how to capture her audience with one look: her Bunny Watson outfit.


Even though the entire room was on the edge of their seat with excitement to hear the “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” panelist speak, everyone was immediately engaged in Amy’s speech.

Much of the NAHSL 2015, “Anchored in Excellence” conference had to do with knowing your users and how to engage them. While the plenary speakers addressed child literacy and storytelling, attendees shared how they work with health specialists. So how can we “librarians” engage users at every level?

Through Amy’s presentation she talked about her background, her love of books and that we are all searching for something. She believes we must get out from behind the desk and foster the “serendipitous discoveries” that may be lost in this technology driven world.

Amy also believes late fees on children’s books are an “enemy of literacy” and “suppress library visits.” While she does not know how to fix this issue, she knows of other ways to encourage children to read and engage them in learning. She does story time at her local public library as a way to give back to the children and foster a love of books.

Her involvement in “A Book on Every Bed” program strengthens a child’s view of books when they wake up to a book on Christmas morning and enjoy a story before moving on to other presents.

Yet, sometimes story time does not have to be just for children. Dr. (and librarian) Dipesh Navsaria used the children’s book The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds to engage his adult audience throughout his plenary address.

Make your Mark


The Dot gives the message that a little inspiration and encouragement can help us challenge the preconceived notions we might hold about ourselves. Dipesh uses this story to address child literacy, the medical education system, and the challenges librarians face.

Dipesh believes child literacy is critical to a child’s early development. His program “Reach Out and Read” promotes early literacy by having the doctor bring a book into the doctor’s office visit. The book is sent home with the family, with the hopes that the parents will encourage their child to read.

A recent study found that 55% of Year 4 medical students suffer from stress. Dipesh points to his own medical education experience as problematic and an unfair system. Therefore, overworked students and residents can benefit from ways of helping prevent and manage stress.

In the end, librarians can benefit from being confident in their work, trying new things and helping people with different information needs. Dipesh states that “people trust librarians” and that librarians are good at breaking down silos and being involved in many different areas.

So, we as librarians must find the ways we can engage all our users and inspire them to be great, original and active. And many of us are doing just that through innovative programming, events, teaching methods and tools.

To combat medical student stress, Yale University Medical Library hosts “visitor hours” when students can visit with therapy dogs in the library. As stated by librarian Melanie Norton, “who doesn’t like unconditional love?” This successful program brings students into the library and gives them someone to interact with who will just hang out with them. Dogs really do not care how many exams you have tomorrow!


Another project at Yale University, involves saving librarian’s time on the ever more popular systematic review. The “Yale Mesh Analyzer” is a new tool for search refinement that retrieves all potentially relevant articles by analyzing the MeSH terms in each article. This open, free tool for librarians will help them complete more comprehensive searches, help more users in their work, and continue to be recognized in these important studies!

Many librarians are incorporating active learning into their pedagogy strategies, and have seen positive results.

Heather Johnson at Dartmouth College uses the Jigsaw Method to facilitate peer-to-peer instruction and learning. Small groups of students individually master a topic and then share what they learned with a new group, ultimately leading to everyone being a master on all topics.

Shanti Freundlich uses a similar method at Simmons College with undergraduate nursing students to assess research articles. By starting with learning outcomes, Shanti can design a class that will get students thinking on their own, and collaborating with other students to understand how to find the article they need, and understand the difference between quantitative and qualitative studies.

Active learning engages students more, gets them more involved with the material through hands on training, and hopefully promotes positive reactions to other resources!

A survey conducted at UMass Medical School looked at the use of social media at medical and health science libraries. Martha Meacham, who designed the study and is analyzing the results, is interested in understanding the use, definitions and policies for marketing at these libraries. She hopes that making marketing more applicable, efficient and effective will allow libraries to better connect with and engage their users!

I believe librarians are in an advantageous place right now. We know the “electronic brains,” computers or other technologies will not replace us, and we know we do not end up like “poor, poor, Mary” in “It’s a Wonderful Life” if we choose this profession. If we recognize and use new ways of doing things to our advantage and reinvent our image through innovative programming and services, librarians will continue to engage and foster new generations of learners at all levels.

Mary Bailey


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