Statement of Benefit from David Peterson
SWFLN Continuing Education Scholarship Statement of Benefit
June 1, 2018
Conference Attended: Medical Library Association annual conference
Location: Atlanta, GA
Dates: May 19-23, 2018
The Medical Library Association’s annual conference provided a wide variety of training, networking, and thought provoking discussion about a library’s role in medicine, healthcare, and information access. Although targeted at librarians in medical, university, and hospital libraries, the conference is broad enough to interest any librarian involved in consumer health or healthcare organizations. This year, for example, special concurrent sessions were marketed to local public librarians for training in consumer health resources.
In short, the conference was complex and invigorating. There are a large number of poster, presentation, lectures, chapter and interest group meetings, vendor sponsored lectures, and product demonstrations; in many cases, the events overlap. Thus, one must plan beforehand what topics are of interest. A comprehensive print agenda as well as a highly useful mobile app featuring a customizable calendar were heavily utilized. It should be noted that many continuing education courses (extra cost) were offered prior to the conference. I also found the conference invigorating because one was constantly on the move from one session to another, writing notes, and hearing new and interesting ideas. Networking is also a key component. Because medical and health science librarians are a relative small subset of the overall librarian population, this conference allows people to easily become familiar with others in their particular discipline.
There were five primary sessions that did not overlap other events. These sessions covered: awards and a report from the president of MLA, humans and artificial intelligence, social justice in medical librarianship, the future of public health research, and health equity/disparities. The lectures were intentionally broad, appealing to librarians from a variety of backgrounds, and emphasized a more philosophical component of librarianship.
Some of the major vendors sponsor lectures or discussions over lunch. I attended the following sessions sponsored by vendors: Three Trends in Point of Care Tools and Fact/Fiction in Science Research/Publications. While the vendors naturally highlighted their products, the sessions were informative and discussed the appropriate fields in an academic style. I never felt that it was a sales pitch, and greatly enjoyed the informative discussions.
The program sessions were highly interesting. In general, each session consisted of 3-4 presentations on a selected topic or theme. While there was a lightning talk session (5 minute presentations on varied topics), most sessions featured 15 minute presentations. One could switch in/out of sessions to hear particular talks. Sessions that I attended included: how a medical library updated their library orientation into a clinical case presentation, a discussion of the evolution of information literacy education in nursing, how medical libraries use citation managers, and how one library updated patient education materials. The poster sessions were both informative and interactive. As a poster author myself, I found the experience rewarding.
During the hour I was at my poster, I fielded a number of questions about my poster and received some honest critiques and thoughts that I will incorporate in any future iterations of the project.
In the following section, I attempt to summarize how key content points could apply to various SWFLN libraries. Additionally, I note a few areas where collaboration between different library groups might be extremely helpful.
The sessions covering evidence-based medicine and revitalizing library orientations represent important points for SWFLN academic libraries. Many SWFLN academic libraries support nursing, allied health, and other discipline programs. There is a major push for evidence-based content and application in the clinical practice. The library’s role is largely seen as helping students and faculty access, identify, and correctly utilize evidence-based materials. Speakers emphasized that such activity should result in increased collaboration between the library and academic departments. I have seen this occur at my library, and as a result, was able to be involved in faculty research.
At Florida Gulf Coast University, the library orientation represents the first chance for a library to introduce itself and make students aware of the potential resources. The speaker emphasized putting the library orientation into a known framework for students. For medical students, this meant a clinical case study, but I saw far greater application potential across all departments. For example, what about using a historical controversy to introduce history students to library databases? Personally, I have not been satisfied with my bland library orientations to health science students, and I look forward to implementing a new orientation. It would be interesting for all SWFLN libraries to share their tips and best practices regarding library orientations.
Throughout the conference, there was an emphasis on librarians knowing their communities. Two key points made in the conference centered on social justice in libraries and health equity/disparities. Coming from an academic library, I think public librarians have much to teach us about how to understand and relate with the people in our communities. From a healthcare perspective, I appreciated former Surgeon General David Satcher’s comments about stressing health equity for disadvantaged groups, instead of always associating those groups with the negatives of health disparities. It would be interesting if SWFLN libraries could meet and discuss some of these ongoing issues in the context of their communities.
Several sessions at the conference stressed the importance of database searching, particularly PubMed, a large biomedical database that is government supported. While SWFLN public libraries have access to PubMed and some health related databases from the state of Florida, librarians may not have received training on searching PubMed. This is an area that could easily be met by collaboration and support from SWFLN academic libraries and from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM). First, training sessions for librarians could be arranged to be taught by an expert from NNLM. Second, those librarians could sponsor basic sessions on health information, showing community patrons how to search basic consumer health websites like Medline Plus, and more advanced websites like PubMed.
Much of what was previously described in the public libraries section could also apply to school libraries. Enabling students to find quality information helps them, not only in school, but also in their personal lives. However, I thought the sessions on citation managers would be of particular interest to school librarians. Not inherently health science oriented, citation managers are vitally important to the research process in any discipline. While academic libraries frequently have paid subscriptions to premium products, several excellent free products like Zotero and Mendeley are available to anyone. Features like group sharing, creating bibliographies, and file management would be useful to high school students involved in research projects. Potential exists for collaboration between SWFLN academic and school librarians on projects like citation managers. Having a program session in a high school would assist with a few goals including: teaching students the basics of the research process, understanding the importance of references, and ultimately producing higher quality papers and projects.
Content from several sessions would be of interest to SWFLN special libraries. Evidence-based medicine sessions are particularly important to hospital libraries. As previously discussed, citation manager information could strengthen special libraries that are corporate, scientific, or government in nature. Other sessions discussed technical points of searching in a variety of scientific databases. This content would increase librarian searching skills. One key point for hospital libraries was the issue of patient education materials. The University of Tennessee’s hospital library recently reviewed and edited all patient education handouts at the hospital. They found that many patient education materials were written at a far higher grade level than the recommended norm. SWFLN hospital libraries could explore their role in making sure that patients receive quality and readable health information. Indeed, these libraries might consider collaborating with SWFLN public libraries given that consumer health handouts are sometimes available at public libraries.
Overall, the Medical Library Association’s annual meeting is a valuable conference for librarians that focus on medicine, public health, and other related disciplines. Primarily targeted to academic, medical center, and hospital librarians, other library staff could still benefit. The registration cost and typical travel expenses make this a difficult conference to attend without significant institutional or outside group support. I appreciate SWFLN for enabling me to attend and present my poster.