MLA 2010 Experience–Are you experienced?

I attended the Medical Library Association Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.  One of my personal goals was to share what I learned.  Here’s a summary of my experience.

Wash Sunset

Sunday, May 23

New Members Breakfast.  I attended the New Members Breakfast.  The breakfast featured the usual “get involved” speeches.

Plenary Session:  Welcome.  I enjoyed listening to out-going MLA president Connie Schardt from Duke University Medical Center.  This spring, I took an online class through University of North Carolina-School of Information and Library Science.  The class was taught by Connie and Angela Myatt from University of Texas Health Sciences Center, San Antonio.  The class Evidence-Based Medicine for Medical Librarians is a brain workout but still fun and highly relevant.  A good fit for librarians who are new to medical libraries.

Plenary Session:  Daniel Pink.  Dan Pink, author of A Whole New Mind , was very amusing.  (Ask me about drawing an “E” on your forehead).  Dan gave the ultimate “we have to think outside the box” talk.  I sat with a librarian from East Carolina University.  She’d read the book and assured me that much of his speech came from the text.  So, I bought the book.

Tech Showcase:  NEJM.  The most interesting website feature (for me) discussed is Clinical Decisions. After I got back, I could not seem to locate this feature on the actual website, and I spoke with two customer service people at NEJM who couldn’t find it either.  But, here is the description and an archived example: 

This is a new type of article that helps you evaluate treatment options and gain insight from colleagues. The article includes a case vignette, plus 3 clinically acceptable management options, each supported in a short commentary by a respected clinician. You are invited to vote for (and comment on) the options at NEJM Online, where a diverse range of thinking will be presented. 

 The website will have a new release in July, so maybe this feature will be easier to find after that.

Lunch in Dupont Circle.  I walked down toward Dupont Circle to get a salad and iced coffee.  As I was eating, Diana McDuffee from University of North Carolina Libraries walked in.  We had both served on the Orange County Public Library Task Force from 2005-2007.  We made plans to meet in Chapel Hill at the Health Sciences Library.  She heads the department that coordinates AHEC and Outreach activities for the State of North Carolina.  She is a very gracious woman.

Innovations in Consumer Health.  I attended two talks in the Consumer Health program:  iPods Bring Traffic and Creating a Disability Portal.  Here  I will summarize just the iPod program:

UMich Health System has an iPod lending program for patients.  I found this idea fascinating, even though I have reservations about implementing a similar program.  For the past 2 years, the librarians have been lending iPods to hospitalized patients.  The iPods are loaded with music, games, podcasts, health information, and internet access.  The iPods loan for one business day.  A music therapist chooses music of many different genres.  The podcasts are chosen for humor, relaxation, and hopefulness.  The iPods are cleaned according to a protocol developed by Infection Control.   Undergraduate student volunteers go up to the floors to ask patients if they would like to borrow an iPod.  They offer to teach the patients how to use the iPod.  In two years, only a few iPods were not returned, and the patients were billed.

Between 2008-2010, the library recorded 2047 check-outs.  The user profile is 58% over 41 yrs old; 31% over 56 yrs old; and 78% no experience with an iPod.  Use of the iPod:  75% music; 50% internet; 40% games.  The health information components were not used.  When asked, 79% said the iPod helped pass the time; 61% said they used the iPod for relaxation; 50% reported that they felt better (reduced discomfort), and 61% said the iPod helped them cope with uncomfortable treatments.

Personally, I think a good argument could be made for the value of introducing older people to new technologies and improving the patient experience on the floor.  The fact that no one used the health information doesn’t surprise me, and it doesn’t particularly disappoint me either.

Bioethics and the History of the Health Sciences.  I attended three talks in the History of Health Sciences program:  Evidence-Based Bioethics, How Did my Skin Lesion Get on YouTube and Healers at the Pool of Bethesda.  I will focus on the EBM presentation:

Linda Murphy’s talk on EBM Bioethics was fascinating.  Unfortunately, she tried to squash a two-hour presentation into 15 minutes.  She was flying right through some of her slides.  I wish she had re-tooled her presentation instead.  She walked through the EBM process and related it to ethical dilemmas.  She said ethics begins when the clinicians are deciding which action to take.  She mentioned the following article:

Strech D. Evidence-based ethics–what it should be and what it shouldn’t. BMC Med Ethics. 2008 Oct 20;9:16. PubMed PMID: 18937838

Poster Session.  This was my opportunity to share.  My poster is entitled Reflecting on Our History: Digitizing Materials for Hospital Archives.  In addition to having the poster displayed at MLA, I was encouraged to submit it to a fancy website called Poster Trap.  This website uses a visual search technology that makes me a little seasick.  For some reason, MLA decided that only conference registrants can see the posters.  I could unroll the paper version and you could take a look that…

At the conference, the poster received a fair amount of attention.  I was stuck in a quiet corner, so I wasn’t expecting much traffic.  And, of course, the first question embarrassed me:  “Where is this?”  I had my name and Baystate Medical Center on the heading of the poster, but I had neglected to put Springfield, MA.


  • How are you storing these items?
  • Are the items in a climate-controlled environment?
  • You could submit the pictures to the hospital newsletter or the hospital intranet to call attention to the collection.
  • You could get library sciences students to help with the project.
  • What are you digitizing?
  • We are doing this, too!
  • Are you indexing?
  • We are getting genealogy questions now.
  • You could make copies of photos and display copies; protect the originals.
  • This pilot will help you get grant funding for a bigger project.
  • I’m going to make a poster of my digitization project!

I was asked to write two articles about the project.  I was surprised (and pleased!)

Hospital Library Business & Reception.  I attended the first half of the business meeting.  Most of it was conducting business (treasurer’s report, new leaders announced) and handing out awards.

Dinner at Hank’s Oyster Bar.  Ed and I headed over to Hank’s on Q Street for fried oysters and beer.


Monday, May 24

Plenary Session:  Ana Cleveland.  This seasoned medical librarian gave a speech detailing her career and making suggestions on how we should approach the future.

Tech Showcase:  DynaMed.  DynaMed continues to fight against the unspoken foe (UpToDate).  They promise to make inroads in attracting medical students toward their product, thereby making it easier for us to “make the switch”.  I’m not sure that will happen, given the popularity of UpToDate.   But, I would like to see us offering options in point-of-care databases.  Tufts does have Dynamed, for Baystate folks with Tufts access.  You need to log in.

Mixtec Brunch.  Ed and I walked up to the Adams Morgan neighborhood in search of a restaurant.  We stepped inside Mixtec for authentically delicious huevos rancheros.  Wow!  This was an incredibly flavorful meal.

AHIP Q & A.  I am interested in working on AHIP credentials, so I attended this Q & A.  I see AHIP as a tangible way to signal my commitment to serving on committees, publishing, and presenting for MLA and area associations for health sciences librarians.  In the Q & A, there was some discussion about whether or not it is worth doing a Provisional Membership.  To join provisionally, you pay money and get a mentor.  The alternative is to wait until you have five years experience—you need to have five years in health sciences and you need to be a professional librarian.  At that point, you can join and start paying membership dues.  I have 14 years experience in libraries, but only 6 of those years as a librarian and, within that, 1.5 years as a health sciences librarian.

E-Resources in CIS.  I attended the entirety of the Hospital Libraries Program on E-resources in CIS.

Charles P. Friedman gave an informative talk on the nationwide mandate for electronic medical records.  He talked about HITECH, ARRA, HIT, carrots ‘n’ sticks, and the patient’s right to a copy of the medical record.  He explained how the Obama Administration’s mandate is a “game changer”.  The focus is not on technological ease, as with previous initiatives, but rather with improved health outcomes.  This mandate is all about how technology is used.  Friedman sees lots of opportunities for librarians in the wake of this activity.  Patients will have more questions about medical decisions.  Medical decisions will be harder to make.  Clinicians and families will need to communicate more about options.  Clinicians will need additional training to handle the technology and the communication issues.  Friedman quoted Wayne Gretzky in his closing statement:  “Skate to where the puck is going to be.”

I cannot find his PowerPoint for this particular talk, but here’s one from a similar talk.

For more information about all of this stuff, go to

Scott Garrison’s talk was on collaborating with your IS staff.  One tip he gave is “keep your software documents and agreements handy!”  Also, he made the observation that librarians and IS techs are moving in the direction from handling stuff to helping others use stuff.  So, we all need to polish our over-the-phone coaching skills.

Donna Flake from Wilmington, NC made the room come alive with her presentation.  Donna’s personality is hard to compete with.  She talked about cornering doctors in the hallway with cookies and databases.  Her big message was that it is all about them (the doctors).  She recommended that we focus on “making their jobs easier” and tweaking our service delivery to meet the needs of specialties because “they care about THEIR specialty”.  In other words, doctors don’t want to sort through “Physicians Resources”, they want “Anesthesia Resources” or “OB/GYN Resources”.  Donna’s red dress and her Southern accent stand out in my mind.

Evening on U Street.  Ed and I headed down U Street for the evening.  We started with Ethiopian food at Dukem.  We had no idea what to order, so our waitress suggested a sampler of 8-10 meat and vegetable dishes.  Some dishes were spicy, and all of it was exotic.  After dinner, we went to Bohemian Caverns  for an early show (8 pm) with the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra.  This club definitely feels like a cavern.   The whole scene was like a neighborhood event.  Several of the audience members knew people in the band.  The band itself was loosely organized, but the music was tight and well-done.  We had a great time.


Tuesday, May 25

Plenary Session:  NLM Update.  I attended the NLM Update, which was more interesting than I thought it would be.  Dr. Donald Lindberg gave the opening speech.  He reported that the NLM experienced an effective decrease in the budget (flat budget in times of inflation).  This budget funds biomedical research, resources for scholarly works, and training in informatics.

We were shown two cool NLM projects–The Disaster Information Management Research Center  and the Haiti Earthquake People Locator.  The underlying concept of these projects is that disasters are only made worse by gross failures in communication.  These projects are an attempt to help.

NLM is gearing up to celebrate 50 years of MeSH.  Bet you didn’t know that!

And, the NLM creates traveling exhibits including exhibits on Frankenstein and Harry Potter.  It might be fun to host something like that, don’t you think?  More fun than Research Week (just kidding!)

Dr. Deborah Zarin promoted  as the leading edge of research.  This is the public record of a clinical trial, including “just the facts” and adverse events.  This data is available before articles are written.  In fact, 77% of the results in Clinical Trials have not been published in an article.  This is her article:

Zarin DA, Tse T. Medicine. Moving toward transparency of clinical trials.  Science. 2008 Mar 7;319(5868):1340-2. PubMed PMID: 18323436 DOI: 10.1126/science.1153632

Copyright Roundtable.  This luncheon was a fabulous way for me to end the conference.  I was the recorder for the table.  Evelyn Behar (NYU Health Sciences Library) facilitated the discussion on Copyright.  Most of us at the table were all-too-familiar with copyright issues.  We talked about e-reserves, intranet postings, digital repositories, use of images in presentations, and other issues.

Drive to Durham for Bulls vs. Paw Sox.  We made great time, leaving D.C. around 1:30 and arriving at the at 6:30.  We met my stepson just outside the ballpark  gate.  There’s nothing like Minor League baseball for launching a vacation!

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