DYA Because Too Many TLAs are Confusing

December 27, 2013 at 5:30 pm | Posted in NAHSL Annual Meeting 2013, Professional Development | 1 Comment

You may have just read the title of this blog and said “huh?” That is how people that you are presenting to may feel as well. When Clark Merrill from Dale Carnegie spoke at the NAHSL 2013 Annual Meeting, which I was able to attend because of a NAHSL Professional Development Award, he advised not to use too many TLAs, or Three Letter Acronyms. He warned that you might lose the audience because of confusion or misunderstanding.

Before working in a hospital, I worked in a non-profit public health setting, and as you can imagine, there were acronyms aplenty. The place I worked had three levels of acronyms of agency names to get through before you named the project itself (EDC>HHD>SPRC and funded by SAMHSA, which was part of DHHS). Ask me sometime and I can give you the full names!

To help alleviate confusion, we had a saying: “Define Your Acronym” or “DYA”. If you were in a meeting and someone was using an acronym that you had never heard before you could call out “DYA”. This was a wonderful tool for in-house meetings, but it just isn’t always possible to go around shouting DYA at conferences, in clinical rounds, or during medical reference interviews. I will never forget when I started at the hospital and the surgery students were discussing AAA (abdominal aortic aneurysm) and I all I pictured was an AAA (Automobile Association of America) tow truck.

So, be please be mindful to DYA. If someone else does not do the same, I have listed some resources below that may help guide you through the acronyms of our trade. It is by no means an exhaustive list, just a quick list that you may find useful.

Medical Library Association Style Guide – this is not all acronyms, but I found it interesting/useful nonetheless in terms of our profession(not to me confused with MLA-Modern Language Association Citation Style)


Appendix B: Some Common Abbreviations

Medline Plus


List of Error-Prone Abbreviations, Symbols, and Dose Designations

Institute of Safe Medication Practices


Medical Acronyms, Initialisms, Alphabetisms and other Abbreviations



 MediLexicon Abbreviations

MediLexicon International Ltd -UK



Lori Bradshaw, MSLIS, AHIP
Saint Mary’s Hospital
Waterbury, CT


December 17, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Posted in NAHSL Annual Meeting 2013, Professional Development | Leave a comment

I had the opportunity to attend the NAHSL ’13 Conference thanks to the NAHSL Professional Development Committee.   Congratulations, Massachusetts, it was an outstanding conference; and the wonderful setting contributed to a relaxed atmosphere that supported learning.

A little personal story…..in late August, I had to answer several questions from our Finance team during the budget preparation process.   My responses were to be in writing.  Now, I know my budget inside and out, upside down and backwards.   But I was having such trouble articulating the answers because I was drowning in detail.   My Director said simply….” Just answer the question”.    Words of wisdom.   But this made me do some self reflection:  how do I communicate when it is imperative that I do it well?   I thought I did it effectively, but…maybe not as well as I could.

With this experience in mind, I took advantage of these learning opportunities at NAHSL:

  • Business communications:  library style (CE)
  • The Value Study
  • The Secret Power of Presenting

 As professionals, we are dedicated to supporting our library users (who are our colleagues) with the best evidence and the highest level of service. We create a welcoming environment.   We remove any barriers to access.  We empower our colleagues to use resources well.   We model “service excellence.”  We make informed decisions as we select our resources to support the work of our colleagues.   We are excellent stewards and spend our budget dollars wisely.   We actively engage in continuing education and our own journey of personal development.

 But how do we continue to communicate and prove our value in these challenging and extremely difficult times for our hospitals and for healthcare?   How do we ensure that the power of our “stories” is valued and our libraries are funded?    How do we ensure that even though our libraries don’t generate revenue, we are a worthwhile investment that continues to pay dividends?

 This is something that we are all struggling with as we continue each and every day to support our colleagues, who in turn are caring for patients and families.

 Well back to my story.   The answer was simple.   A clear chart in excel with bulleted discussion points. 

 If only proving our value and stating our case was as simple.

 Good luck to all.

 Anne-Marie Kaminsky, Lawrence & Memorial Hospital, CT

Neither Fish nor Fowl

December 11, 2013 at 6:22 pm | Posted in NAHSL Annual Meeting 2013, Professional Development | 2 Comments

That’s the phrase that’s been coming to mind for the past few months, whenever I try to describe my position as the Health Sciences Librarian at Brown University. The phrase had already been bouncing around in my head for a few weeks when Elaine Martin used it in her presentation, The Informationist: Pushing the Boundaries. At Brown, I’m a member of the “Research and Outreach Services” department within the University Library. But I’m also paid by—and embedded within— the medical school. My office is in the (bookless) Champlin Library at the Alpert Medical School, which is located about ½ mile from the main Brown campus. So I play multiple roles: according to AAHSL, and from the point of view of the medical school administration, I’m the health sciences library director. And I’m the collection development librarian for Medicine and for Public Health, all the while maintaining (as best I can) an open door policy for the medical students who study outside my office and providing reference and instruction to the faculty, residents, and students in the medical school and in the School of Public Health.  Elaine, in her presentation, was using the phrase “neither fish nor fowl” to describe the work of an informationist. But for me, it goes much further than that: at the same time, I’m both all and none of the following:

  1. An embedded librarian
  2. A solo librarian
  3. A member of the reference and instruction team in a relatively traditional, education-focused academic library
  4. A public health librarian
  5. A medical education librarian and member of the medical education team
  6. A clinical librarian
  7. A research support librarian who can teach EndNote, Mendeley, or RefWorks; build or critique a search for a systematic review; talk about NIH Public Access policy compliance; or provide (very bare-bones) data management instruction
  8. A proponent and evangelist for the library’s role in the growing research enterprise at an evolving institution.
  9. A library director, who is responsible for maintaining relationships with our affiliated hospital libraries, and for being able to take a step back and see the opportunities for the library in all of the above areas


Do I sound overwhelmed? I am, at times.

So what does this have to do with NAHSL?

Networking. Although I’m not, technically, a solo librarian, it’s true that I’m the only one who does what I do here. In my previous institution, I was one of a team of health sciences librarians. If I needed a new search scenario, or wanted to bounce an idea off of a colleague, or even just blow off steam, all I had to do was walk around until I found a colleague in one of the offices in our suite.  I no longer have that easy access to peers, so networking with librarians and information professionals from other institutions is even more important than it ever was to me. However, I’ve been in New England for less than two years, and am still getting to know my colleagues from across the region, so conferences such as NAHSL are key to my professional sanity. At NAHSL, in addition to attending great presentations (which have been ably described in other posts on this blog),  I met librarians doing similar work and facing similar challenges. I heard about how other libraries are facing these challenges and turning them into opportunities. I remembered my love of trivia contests. And I was able to step back from my own daily work (even for just 48 hours), and start to think about what I see as the challenges and opportunities at my own institution, and how I might begin to quantify and articulate them.

The NAHSL conference at Falmouth had one other, very important, purpose for me. Those of you who keep track know that the 2015 conference is slated to return to Rhode Island. About 6 months ago I was asked to be the conference chair for NAHSL 2015, and I accepted. I felt a bit odd about doing so, though, primarily because I’d never actually attended a NAHSL conference before. I thought it important to remedy that issue as soon as possible so that I would have some idea what I was talking about when planning for Providence! Between having informal opportunities to talk to other RI librarians and find out about past conference history, and attending the wrap-up lunch for the Massachusetts-Maine hand-off, I feel much more prepared than I did for this task.

I thank NAHSL for providing the Professional Development Award that helped me to attend—and I look forward to seeing you all in Rockport in 2014, and in Providence in 2015!

Submitted by Erika Sevetson, Brown University

Professional Commitments

December 11, 2013 at 11:42 am | Posted in NAHSL Annual Meeting 2013, Professional Development | 2 Comments

My position at Maine Medical Center (MMC) was eliminated, so as of August 16th I retired. As a retiree from MMC, there were many decisions to be made, including how involved I wanted to remain in my profession and in professional associations. My chief concern was NAHSL 2014, as I had agreed to serve as Conference Chair, and planning was well underway.  Last August, NAHSL 2014 was 15 months away – I had no idea what I’d be doing at that time, and thought perhaps stepping aside would be the right thing to do for the association. I had already registered for NAHSL 2013 in Falmouth, and thought I’d use that conference to help me decide.

The conference was the first time I had seen or spoken to many of my colleagues and fellow librarians since August, and the support I received was overwhelming. A number of people commented on the contributions I had made to the local, regional and national associations over the past 35 years and couldn’t understand how MMC could overlook that. But, that’s not what was important to MMC.  As I reflected on this, I knew what I’ve always known – for me, recognition by my employer has never been the motivating factor. 

So, what is it that drives me – and here’s the point – can drive you – to step up and volunteer your time and talents to your associations? Way, way back, in the late 1970s, I was responsible for the NYNJ Regional Group’s membership directory. As a beginning librarian, it was a great way to get to know who my colleagues were, and where they worked.  Skipping ahead a few years (to Texas), I worked at an academic health sciences library. During a portion of my tenure there, my boss was the MLA President, and from her I learned the value of mentoring – as she mentored me and I tried to do throughout my career.  She encouraged me to serve as the local consortium chair where I learned a bit about group dynamics. During that time I was also active in the CE activities of the Chapter, and as a result, developed and taught a few classes, regionally and at MLA – great for building confidence.  I then moved to a solo position in a hospital.  I was very involved in the Hospital Library Section (HLS) of MLA. I served as Treasurer of the Section, and got to know some of the MLA Staff, and the operations of MLA. I was editor of the Section’s newsletter – and again, made many friends around the country. My network of colleagues expanded and expanded, newsletter issue by issue. For nine years, I served on the HLS Executive Board. This was an ideal opportunity for me to learn from my colleagues and bring back to my hospital the best and brightest ideas.

And then, my return to the East, and my affiliation with NAHSL. On the editorial boards of Medical Reference Services Quarterly and the Journal of Hospital Librarianship I learned how to constructively critique the work of my colleagues, improving my skills. When asked to serve as NAHSL’s Benchmarking Coordinator for MLA, I agreed and gained insight into how benchmarking could be used at my hospital – my administration was impressed with what we counted and how we ranked (granted, that was another time at MMC). As Chapter Council Representative, and then Alternate, I discovered the similarities and differences across the Chapters, and came to share what I learned with NAHSL and my library. When NAHSL came to Maine, I served as Program Chair the first time, and Sponsorship the next.  Both experiences gave me opportunities to work with people outside the library world and to again increase my competencies.

I ventured out of the health sciences library realm and became involved on the state level with library teams comprised of academic, school and public libraries. I acquired a new appreciation for challenges and struggles I couldn’t begin to imagine, making the ones I faced almost trivial.

In terms of peer recognition, admittedly one of my motivating factors, the most significant reward was being honored to receive MLA’s Virginia L and William K Beatty Volunteer Service Award in 2012. This award recognizes a medical librarian who has demonstrated outstanding, sustained service to MLA and the health sciences library profession.  It didn’t hurt that it also came with a $1,000 check!

The list could go on with many other examples of my professional activities, but this wasn’t intended to be me-centric. Instead, I want to point out the many benefits to be derived, both personal and to our colleagues and librarianship in general.  So, to recap –

– You get to know who your colleagues are and who you can call on when you need to

– Your colleagues get to know you and will call on you when they need to

– Your networking opportunities and benefits just can’t be measured – priceless!

– You become a mentor and a mentee

– You learn about working effectively in groups

– You build self-confidence

– You learn about the workings of the association, whatever it is

– You bring new and improved skills and knowledge to your work

– You might gain a higher sense of appreciation from your employer

– You gain an understanding of the work of other librarians

And back to NAHSL 2014, and whether or not I’ll continue as Conference Chair. The 2013 NAHSL Conference in Falmouth felt very different – I could attend (or not attend) what I wanted to, based on personal curiosity, rather than what I would bring back to MMC. There was plenty that interested me. It was a great conference, and the networking and camaraderie convinced me that yes, this is still my profession, retired or not. Right now, there’s no reason to stop doing what I’ve done for 35 years – volunteering my time and learning from my colleagues. It’s my hope that if you’re thinking about signing up for a committee, saying yes to a request, or getting involved in any way, you’ll stop thinking and jump on board. I’m grateful to NAHSL for the Professional Development Award that helped me attend the conference and for making my decision an easy one.

Janet Cowen

Retired – Maine Medical Center

Apocalypse Proud

December 10, 2013 at 8:18 pm | Posted in NAHSL Annual Meeting 2013, Professional Development | 3 Comments

Although I’m a full-time knowledge professional, I’m also a part-time minister in the Episcopal Church.  I bring this to the forefront as this blog post will have a spiritual nuance.  In the Sundays leading up to Christmas, I’ve been preaching on the apocalyptic writings that make up the readings for Advent.  Many will find it odd to prepare for Christmas with images of the anxiety and mourning that come with an “unknown” thrust upon us.  Yet, if we see the holidays as a call to radical change, it’s necessary to share stories of not only surviving but flourishing in that change.  At this year’s NAHSL Conference, we shared similar stories of hopeful preparation under an apocalyptic shadow.

An apocalypse is a sudden, disruptive change to the foundation of our lives.  Natural disasters are common and obvious examples of apocalypse, but so are personal disasters (such as an illness, death of a loved-one, or the loss of a job).  Many of us emerge from these apocalyptic experiences fundamentally changed.  We never see or experience our lives in the same way again.  The holidays are intended to be apocalyptic experiences in our spiritual lives.  Whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, we’re challenged to relate to the divine and each other in a fundamentally different way.  A similar challenge faces us in the apocalypse of our profession.

Throughout the conference, we heard stories of fundamental changes that are certainly disruptive.  David Weinberger discussed the fundamental change to knowledge itself.  In a networked, post-modern world, knowledge is no longer constrained by discreet, published works.  Instead, knowledge is in a constant state of becoming, while learning is more collaborative and iterative.  Elaine Martin expounded upon this by sharing her insights occurring in higher education.  With licensing restrictions, budget cuts and the changing nature of how students use knowledge, Elaine and her staff had to rethink what an academic library needs to become in this new world order.  And during the Knowledge Management Forum, we discussed how our roles and skills are expanding to include the management of shared, institutional knowledge. 

These stories are not intended to threaten us, but to strengthen us in preparation for a fundamental shift that we all know is coming.  Instead of fixating on the anxiety and mourning that come with an unknown thrust upon us, it’s important to demonstrate how we face those changes head-on.  Apocalypse doesn’t have to be something that we endure or cope with.  Apocalypse is also something where we can flourish and grow.  It’s here that we find our hope for the future, rather than a despair on the loss of our past.

Submitted by Gary Strubel, Library and Knowledge Services, Southwestern Vermont Health Care

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