“I’ve found my people!”

July 8, 2016 at 11:16 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Our last MLA blog post is written by Kate Nyhan, a new NAHSL member and a first time MLA attendee.  Congratulations, Kate!

“I’ve found my people!”

“I’ve found my people!” That’s what I told everyone who asked how my first MLA was going. Participating in the conference was a great experience for an early-career medical librarian like me, and I can’t thank NAHSL enough for helping me attend. I met librarians from my city and the other side of the world, and everyone was generous with information, introductions, and advice. I’m so glad to be part of this profession!

That feeling of having found my people was especially valuable because medical librarianship is my second career. I come from a world, teaching, which values sharing and collaboration, but I was impressed to see just how welcoming my experienced library colleagues could be. To everyone who stood still long enough for me to engage you in conversation – especially Jennifer Lyon, Matt Wilcox, and Ginny Pannabecker – thank you for the thoughtful advice.

I found so many of the conference presentations useful, inspiring, or both. I’ve arranged some of my favorites here.

Talk: Student awareness of the big picture: teaching and promoting skills for identifying funding opportunities

Presenters: Judy Smith and Kate Saylor, Taubman Health Sciences Library

Key points: Judy and Kate discussed their excellent funding consultation service for public health students planning internships, including a survey, a workshop, a guide, and tailored “on the road” office hours. What a great way to raise the library’s profile with students and faculty advisers, help students achieve their goals, and stay up to date about students’ career plans (and the information literacy competencies they will need).

Quote from my notes: “When I bring home this I’ll be golden!” — and indeed the career office staff of the Yale School of Public Health are excited about working together to build a similar program.

Talk: National Library of Medicine Update

Presenters: Stacey Arnesen and company

Key points: The whole presentation was great. If you watch only one recording, make it this one. Intellectually one of the highlights was the use of vocabulary density in the indexing process, but what blew me away as a practical resource was Disaster Lit, combined with the Emerging Infectious Disease Information pages. Look here for grey literature on public health emergencies – not just the disaster after it has already happened, but also imminent public health threats. The info on their page can be syndicated on yours, with updates and your own curated local additions. Since coming back from MLA I’ve used this often for public health grey lit; it’s worth opening a new tab for sure.

Quote from my notes: “How come the NLM is so far ahead of the Library of Congress?” To be clear, no one speaking for the former criticized the latter during this presentation. But one organization has been giving us cutting-edge bioinformatics tools since the days of acoustic couplers, and the other was stuck in a revolving door of interim chief information officers between 2012 and 2015. I know which one I want to work with. As I said, I’ve found my people!

Talk: If you share it, will they come? Barriers to reuse of shared biomedical research data

Presenters: Lisa Federer

Key points: Noting that there’s an abundance of research data (of different types and varying quality, and stored in different places), Lisa investigated whether researchers can reuse shared data – and equally important, whether they even want to. She found the benefits you might expect: large Ns (and thus increased statistical power), “radical reuse,” productivity, and efficiency. The researchers she studied also reported challenges, including the computational learning curve, proliferating standards (or perhaps, lack of consensus on standards), and low-quality data. Lisa’s presentations were all excellent, using humor and images to convey valuable information, and I’ll make a point of emulating her effective communication style. But even better than her style was this content; real opinions from practicing researchers. I’m always happy to talk data sharing policies and big picture goals for open science, but it’s important to leaven the policy discussion with a reality check now and then.

Quote from my notes: “I MUST show that slide in my next research data management workshop!”

Talk: Embedding librarian expertise across a public health curriculum

Presenter: Abe Wheeler

Key points: The best talk of the conference on embedded library instruction, if you ask me — and not only because of Abe’s public health focus. This is a playbook that you can follow to develop an instruction program integrated into the curriculum. Starting with the competencies that public health workers need to develop, and working in tandem with faculty, Abe identified places in the curriculum where library expertise could play a role. They built outward from core courses to achieve formal, longitudinal embedding of information literacy instruction. So how can we all achieve this glorious integration between the library and the curriculum?

    • Take heart: “You are helping students get where the faculty want them to be anyway!”
    • Identify gaps so that you can fix them. Talk to faculty and administrators to develop a strategic picture.
    • Articulate relevant aspects of information literacy in rubrics, for easier grading by faculty and better understanding of goals by students.
    • Tailor materials to specific courses and specific modules. You’ll invest time at the front end, but it pays off.
    • Start small, then build up and out.
    • I’m writing the last blog post from the NAHSL members who were lucky enough to receive support to participate in MLA. If you’ve read this far, you can see that I learned a great deal, met some great people, and had a great time. I encourage everyone to attend MLA, and if you can do it with support from NAHSL next year, even better! But in the meantime, if you were there and especially if you were not, I’d love to talk to you — by email, on the phone, or in person at this year’s NAHSL meeting in New Haven. The generous support from this organization allowed me to attend MLA, and I’m grateful for it. I’m excited to get to know more NAHSL members, and to give other librarians the chance that you all gave me this year. Thank you!
    • Quote from my notes: “A new metric from faculty: ‘The crap factor of what they have to read is way down.'” If that’s not a pithy description of the goal of evidence-based medicine and information literacy, I don’t know what is.

Lisa Federer slide for NAHSL blog

Submitted by:

Kate Nyhan, MLS

Research and Education Librarian-Public Health

Cushing/Whitney Medical Library, Yale University



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