MLA 2016: A Chance to Fill in the Gaps

June 3, 2016 at 9:36 am | Posted in Meetings, Professional Development | Leave a comment
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Gary Atwood is another winner of NAHSL’s Professional Development Award to attend MLA 2016 in Toronto.  Gary presented a poster, How to Prevent Your Flip from Flopping:  Five Key Mistakes to Avoid When Switching to the Flipped Classroom Model.  Below is his blog post sharing his experiences.  Congratulations, Gary!

MLA 2016: A Chance to Fill in the Gaps

 Whenever I attend a library conference, my primary aim is to fill some gap in knowledge. Since I’ve only been a health sciences librarian for a few years, there are still a lot of them left to fill. My goal for MLA 2016 in Toronto was to learn how to better integrate both myself as a liaison and the overall library into medical education. I was fortunate enough to see several examples of how others are doing this; of these, three stood out:

In “Pop-Ups!: Extending Consultation Services Beyond the Primary Library,” Julia Kochi described how they created a “pop-up” consultative service on a branch campus that did not have a library. As the name suggests, these were irregularly scheduled times when researchers, faculty, and students could drop by for assistance from a librarian. After a lot of trial and error, they discovered that the need for their services was so great on this branch campus that they established regular hours. My take away: Go where your patrons are.

The second example was “Embedding Librarian Expertise Across a Public Health Curriculum” by Abraham Wheeler. In it, he described how he worked closely with faculty to identify opportunities in the curriculum where the library could provide support. What he discovered was that they wanted help with higher level skills like critical assessment of research instead of more traditional topics like PubMed searching. Although he had to learn new skills, he is now more tightly integrated into their curriculum and is reaching more students. My take away: Redouble efforts to reach out to the faculty and be willing to teach something new.

The last example is “Real Time Education on Location: Developing a Modular Clinical Pediatrics Evidence Based Curriculum” by Nicole Capdarest-Arest. This presentation provided a brief overview of a new program that takes place in a weekly noon pediatric residents meeting. The curriculum is divided into four modules and focuses on skills such as creating a clinical question. Although the implementation hasn’t always gone smoothly, the overall response from the residents has been positive. My take away: Go where your patrons are and design content that is flexible.

On one hand, the important things that I learned at MLA 2016 do not seem all that original. Go and teach where the faculty and students are. Work closely with faculty to identify their needs. Design programs that address what they feel is important. Hearing about these great new programs, however, reminded me that information literacy in the curricula continues to be important, even at the upper levels. I still have a lot of reflecting to do about all of the information I gathered, but am extremely grateful to NAHSL for providing me with the support to attend MLA 2016. The conference can be overwhelming, but it can also be a tremendous source of inspiration as well.

Atwood-MLA-Poster Session_1

Atwood-Totonto Skyline

Gary S. Atwood, MA, MSLIS

Health Sciences Librarian

Dana Medical Library

University of Vermont


Systematically Speaking

May 31, 2016 at 9:42 am | Posted in Meetings, Professional Development | Leave a comment
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Beth Dyer, Reference & Instruction Librarian at University of New England in Portland, ME writes our second blog post sharing her experiences at MLA. Beth won a financial award from NAHSL to attend MLA this year in Toronto.  This was Beth’s first MLA conference. Congratulations, Beth!

Systematically Speaking

Attending MLA for the first time was a whirlwind of ideas, people, and products. Choosing which sessions to attend among simultaneous offerings was hard. On Sunday I chose an afternoon session called “Systematic Review Services” which gave me some good ideas and inspiration.

I’ve had systematic reviews in mind lately because I just finished working on one – which was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society just days before the conference! It took a year and a half of teamwork, and almost a year to be published following initial acceptance. I gained firsthand experience in the challenges and time commitment of SRs, and anticipate more requests for help, especially having shown the value of librarian involvement through successful publication.

Systematic reviews and meta-analyses are hot and it seems like everyone wants to do one. Kate Krause (Texas Medical Center Library) presented “Systematic Reviews: the Evolution of a New Library Service.” She pointed to researcher misconceptions and librarian misconceptions, both of which involve the time required to get these done, among other issues. Solutions they’ve implemented include an Online Request Form for researchers to initiate requests and for librarians to gather good information, and a Memorandum of Understanding that the researchers and librarians both sign, which lays out a timeline, duties, and expectations. They offer two layers of services for faculty – basic and full – along with limited services for students. Full faculty service requires five face to face meetings and co-authorship. She mentioned a study that shows the more face to face time spent with researchers, the more likely they are to complete and publish the SR.  To educate researchers on conducting SRs, they developed an information packet and a LibGuide, and offer supporting classes such as literature searching and EndNote.  Two tools that are new to me were suggested: Covidence and DistillerSR. They recommend using the IOM Standards for Systematic Reviews; stating although most SRs only adhere to a small percentage of the standards, they help researchers appreciate what constitutes a high-quality SR.

Lynn Kysh’s (Norris Medical Library) presentation “Blinded Ambition: Misperceptions and Misconceptions about Systematic Reviews from Teachers to Learners” reiterated the misconceptions around systematic reviews and drove home the need to educate our communities on process and quality. She described her role on an SR team as part co-investigator and part educator, striving to direct the team towards high standards and realistic expectations for best results. She described a few instances of asking that her name be removed from co-authorship because the end product did not satisfy her quality criteria.

We teach our users to look for the best evidence, which includes systematic reviews and meta-analyses. With more and more researchers producing these types of articles in more and more sources, we need to remind users to critically appraise them, and to help researchers diligently create them.  Many of us have read systematic reviews with deficient search strategies. The morning after I returned from the conference, a student came to see me about his group research project which he described as a meta-analysis. He wanted to make sure they had not missed anything after having done a keyword phrase search in PubMed. There was no clear question and no stated inclusion or exclusion criteria. We had twenty minutes. In a follow-up email, I suggested some search strategies and links to resources.

Inspired by these MLA presentations and my recent experiences, a new goal is to create some educational materials around systematic reviews on the library website. I don’t know if my library will ever set up a service, or have the capacity to do so, but at the least we can help educate our users on keeping the “systematic” in systematic reviews. Otherwise we may see increasing amounts of faulty evidence, which then contributes to faulty health care.

Keynote speaker Dr. Ben Goldacre (author of Bad Science) stated that we are entering the “second phase of evidence-based medicine” – one in which the focus should lie on improving methods, transparency, reporting, and thus the overall quality of the evidence itself. We librarians can position ourselves to help.

Thank you to the NAHSL Professional Development Committee for making it possible to attend MLA!

 Elizabeth (Beth) Dyer, MLIS, AHIP

Reference & Instruction Librarian

University of New England

Portland, ME


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

A New Age for Librarianship?

July 17, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Posted in Meetings, Professional Development | 2 Comments

Look who I met! Dubs, the mascot of University of Washington. Woohoo!! (or should I say, “WOOF!”?)

[Submitted by Sally Gore, Head, Research & Scholarly Communications Services, Lamar Soutter Library, UMass Medical School and Chair-Elect for NAHSL]

Thank you to the Professional Development Committee of NAHSL for providing me with a scholarship to attend the annual meeting of the Medical Library Association held in Seattle in May. This was my 7th MLA meeting (I’ve attended each one, with the exception of Honolulu, since entering the profession in 2005) and if I put them to a vote, 2012 would win for the best in terms of plenary sessions, group meetings, section programs, and location. AND not to be dismissed, of course, FUN! There was plenty of fun. I’m lucky to have several colleagues in the Seattle area who I really and truly enjoy. Getting to spend some time with them in their town during and after the meeting (I spent a few days sightseeing afterward) made the trip just delightful.

As a brief recap before I get into the real thought of this post, I want to recommend two books and one presentation that came out of the Meeting. The first of these is Steven Johnson’s book, Where Good Ideas Come From. Johnson delivered the John P. McGovern Award Lecture and while he devoted some of the talk to the story of John Snow’s epidemiological research that ultimately led to discovering the source of London’s 1854 cholera epidemic (the subject of his 2006 book, The Ghost Map, also recommended reading), I was taken by his points relating to the more recent Good Ideas. In summary, he stated that ideas are networks and don’t “come out of solitary light bulbs.” He also stressed that the “Eureka!” moment is really a myth. The “slow hunch” is more truthful to how great ideas emerge and the environment in which such hunches grow is one where we stick with things, where we quit rushing through everything that comes our way as if it’s just one more thing to check off the list. Patience, persistence, perseverance are qualities to foster, now more than ever. When I got home from Seattle, I checked Good Ideas out from my public library and read it. It was a good idea and I’m glad I followed through on it. (For a quick summary, check out Johnson’s TED Talk.)

The next recommendation comes from Wednesday’s plenary, a lecture by the investigative journalist T.R. Reid. Reid has done extensive research and writing on the subject of health care systems around the world. His work was the subject of both a “Frontline” documentary, Sick Around the World, and the book, The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care. As we struggle with the issues of a broken health care system in the United States and the incessant rhetoric of politicians arguing rather than looking to solve problems (strictly my opinion here), Reid’s lecture – and his book – was a breath of fresh air. Filled with facts, his talk helped those of us in the audience to clearly understand the different systems that exist, the imperfections in each, and how it IS quite possible to create something in our own country that will be more efficient, more economical, and still be tops in terms of the level of research and health care possible. If you missed this lecture, do yourself a favor and watch the documentary and/or read the book. You’ll be better informed for doing so. (Here’s an interview with Reid on NPR’s “Fresh Air”.)

In this third highlight, I know that I’m not alone in my opinion. Mark Funk hit a home run with his Janet Doe Lecture. Much like his Presidential Address a few years ago, Mark was entertaining and insightful as he presented findings from a bit of bibliometric research he did as part of the Lecture’s award. In a nutshell, his work shows some really interesting findings regarding the words and topics, issues and gadgets, and trends and directions we’ve followed in our organization, based upon articles in JMLA, over the past years. (And yes, I would have both liked and found the lecture interesting whether he cited Gore et al, or not.)  Mark has generously made the lecture available online. Check it out. And enjoy a cookie while you do.

Janet Doe Lecture, MLA 2012 from Leavesamark on Vimeo.

And now, finally, if you’re still with me in this post, I want to share the thought that led me to give this post the title I chose. Part of my time at MLA involved me being invited to present during the NPC’s Section, From the Bench to the Field: Translational Research. We’ve enjoyed a good bit of success at my Library over the past year, forming a strong partnership with our Center for Translational Science that in turn has resulted in some exciting projects utilizing our institutional repository. I was really happy to be able to share these during my presentation.

Others on the panel spoke of developing unique methodologies and services to measure research impact (Washington University St. Louis), creating specific courses to help clinicians speak to patients about genetics (Vanderbilt University), researching the unique informational needs of clinical translational researchers (University of Florida), and providing an evidence-based approach to training researchers new to translational science (University of North Carolina). Each speaker shared of success in integrating the health sciences libraries into this rapidly growing area of science. Each speaker spoke about new services being delivered, new resources provided, and new collaborations built through these efforts.

As I stepped away from the program, my high-stress moment of the Meeting behind me, I took the time to reflect on some of the things that my colleagues and I had shared. The idea of success was nice, of course, but what struck me most, what kept coming back to my mind over and over (perhaps because I also kept noticing it in other programs and speakers and posters) was how NOBODY IS DOING THE SAME THING!

I think that perhaps there was a time when health sciences and medical libraries could look to each other to model their programs and services. Everyone managed the same general collection, everyone practiced cataloging using NLM’s subject headings, everyone delivered reference services and everyone taught classes on PubMed. Some of this remains the same, but more and more, I believe, we’re seeing what I’ve come to call the Postmodern Age of Librarianship. In other words, those things that once defined us and our reality are shifting. They are being deconstructed and put back together in ways that are deeply dependent upon the resources available to us in our particular institutions. Similarly, they are being shaped by the environments in which our libraries sit. The priorities, budgets, faculty, researchers and administrators of our respective institutions drive what we do. To some extent, this has always been the case, but the pressure seems at a higher level today than in years past.

We talk a lot about “emerging roles” in health sciences librarianship. One thing I’ve noticed is that in our discussions, we often focus on some area, one or two specific new roles, like data management planning in eScience or knowledge management in hospital libraries. I’m not arguing that examining, proposing, and training librarians for these areas isn’t warranted, but I do worry, based up what I observed at MLA, that a top-down approach to defining our services might not work in the future. Heck, it might not be working now! What I saw at MLA is that the most successful programs and services are those that are sprouting from the ground up; those that develop from the melding of the interests, skills and expertise of a library’s staff with the needs of its patrons.

The Translational Science Panel I was a part of showed that libraries with repositories are successful, libraries with patient education are successful, libraries with researcher training are successful, libraries doing research are successful, libraries measuring research are successful… each one is successful in serving the translational science community, but not a one is finding success in the same way! For me, one of the most interesting bits of information from our panel talks was one shared by Jennifer Lyon at the University of Florida; in their research, they found that while libraries were by and large omitted from the original processes of preparing CTSA proposals, when it came time for the first round of 5-year renewals, almost a quarter (23%) of the evaluation and preparation teams included members of the library in their makeup. The value of the library to the success of grant funding and more importantly, the outcomes of the funded research, is being seen. And perhaps more importantly still, from our professional perspective, this value is found spread across a wide spectrum of services and ultimately, opportunities.

On the one hand, it’s tremendously unsettling to be in an age without clearly defined roles, but on the other, a lack of definition provides us with all sorts of ways to smudge our way into new areas. If there’s one thing that I took away from the Meeting this year is that our profession has a long way to go. And that’s a good thing!

Planning Ahead – WAY Ahead

January 27, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Posted in Meetings | Leave a comment
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If you’re like me, you need to have the following bit of information pointed out to you. I’ve either not been paying attention OR just denied the truth of it because it seems SOOOOO early, but…

Paper and poster submission for MLA 2013 (yes, ’13!) in Boston are due – hang on to your calendars – before you even make it to MLA 2012 in Seattle!

The submission due date is May 1, 2012.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve no idea what projects I might be undertaking in the latter part of this year and into 2013, but I’m putting on my swami hat and peering into my crystal ball to see what I can come up with in the next 3 months. Hope you’ll do the same!

For more information, check out the MLA 2013 Meeting website.

~ Sally Gore, NAHSL Chair Elect

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