The Eternal Journey toward Searching Expertise

May 23, 2016 at 9:47 am | Posted in Awards and Recognition, Professional Development | Leave a comment

Over the next few weeks you will have the opportunity to read blog posts from our members who received NAHSL funding to attend the 2016 MLA conference in Toronto.  Our first blog post is written by Jason Smith, a new NAHSL member and a first time attendee to MLA.  Congratulations, Jason!

The Eternal Journey toward Searching Expertise

The continuing education course “Becoming an Expert Searcher” was the centerpiece of my first trip to the annual meeting. The class was led by Terry Jankowski, Assistant Director for User Experience at the University of Washington. The session’s primary focus was PubMed searching but a couple of other ideas covered lit imaginary light bulbs over my head about things I could instantly apply when I got back to the office. The suggested use of a reference interview checklist made me consider whether my organization’s online reference request form might be amended to better focus on patron questions in order to reduce the need for follow-up correspondence. The course’s definition of expert searching positioned librarians and clinicians as subject matter experts in the fields of searching and healthcare provision, respectively; this concept is helpful to me as a new medical librarian because interacting with providers who are extremely knowledgeable about their specialties can be overwhelming at times and thinking of myself as an (emerging) expert levels the playing field.

Since assuming my current position in October of last year, I have spent a good portion of my time immersed in PubMed and I sometimes get hung up on the feeling that I’ve missed the mark with my search. By comparing, contrasting, and combining MeSH and keyword searching, the PubMed portion of the course reinforced the notion that there’s no such thing as a perfect search and demonstrated that searchers can take very different routes to the same search results. In all, I was completely satisfied with the content and structure of the class as well as Terry’s subject mastery. She was open and responsive to questions and comments throughout the session and stuck around to talk with attendees afterward.

My experience at MLA Mosaic ’16 was energizing. I appreciated meeting librarians and vendor reps, talking to poster presenters, and sitting in on lighting rounds and panel presentations. I enjoyed special events at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, the Royal Fairmount Hotel’s posh ballrooms, and in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. I had a blast at MLA ’16 and I can totally envision my future self as one of those folks who says “I’ve been to every meeting since 2016!”

Jason Smith, MLIS, Medical Librarian

VA Boston Healthcare System



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