Gratitude, Skepticism and Reality-Checks: Medical Library Association meets in Toronto, ON

Sunday, May 15, 2016

0514_3As fate would have it, my first long day at MLA fell on Ed’s birthday. Our plan was to meet up at the end of the day–he’d have to explore Toronto without me. I headed over to the conference after the first of several cups of tea. Toronto was chilly, and I needed to stay alert for a day’s worth of lectures. The conference opened with a welcome by Michelle Kraft, President of the Medical Library Association, and Senior Medical Librarian at Cleveland Clinic (Ohio). Michelle struck a chord with me by expressing how lucky we all were to be at the conference. I am ever mindful of my good fortune. After more “welcomes” from conference organizers, Nancy Cooper of Club Amick  spoke about efforts to support literacy among children in Ontario’s remote First Nations communities. She asked us to contribute to a special book drive, with the goal of sending 225 titles to five schools, primarily in northern Ontario. After Nancy spoke, Michelle Kraft took the stage for her President’s Address, again expressing gratitude to all those who made it possible for her to be here–most especially her family. I wholeheartedly agree that all of us were there due to the support of other people.

Ben Goldacre, the Bad Pharma guy

None of us were prepared for speed-talker Ben Goldacre. I do not regularly tweet, but I decided to tweet during the conference. I could not keep up with him, nor could any of my fellow tweeters. Our attempts are captured in this Storify.

Gems that I was able to capture: Ben Goldacre, author of Bad Pharma, actively encourages arguing about proper/improper data usage in scientific publications; librarians have a tendency to dig up existing data that ruins anyone’s sense of originality; bad evidence-based practice = pulling articles only from journals to which you subscribe for the purpose of developing the “bible” of practice guidelines; ICMJE and the FDA have cooked up fake fixes for the lack of data showing no effect or harm; everyone knows that if you torture data hard enough, it’ll confess to anything; Tamiflu is the poster child of flaws in evidence-based practice; we pay scientific journals for content management, yet they will not publish letters that challenge data; how do you deal with being WRONG? Hmmm…

For a snippet of what Ben Goldacre offers, at a much slower speed, watch this TED Talk.


Reality-Checks from Practicing Librarians

After eating my healthy lunch in the hallway, I attended my first CAPHIS Executive Board meeting. We went over the recent changes in conference planning, and they assured me that I’d be supported in my role as Chair-Elect. I headed back into the hallway, ready to hear from librarians doing the work of addressing the health information needs of patients and caregivers. I hopscotched through concurrent sessions. Here are notes from three presentations.

History of People-Centered Care. Michele Spatz, former Director of the Planetree Health Resource Center of Mid-Columbia Medical Center (Oregon),  spoke about the origins of Planetree and the consumer health movement. Her talk reminded me that consumers still grapple with barriers to health information. These barriers morph as technology morphs. How will our most disadvantaged patients utilize patient portals, for example? How are we managing patient care as diverse populations grow in numbers? We still have work to do.

Sharing iPads on Hospital Floors. Katie McLean, Lara Killian and Katie Quinn, of Capital Health (Nova Scotia), presented findings on attitudes of clinical staff and patients toward library-managed iPads in hospitals. They found that both clinical staff and patients were more concerned about sharing germs than sharing digital information (log-ins, passwords, photos snapped with the device). Much to their dismay, the librarians found that patients primarily used the iPads for Facebook and FaceTime, ignoring the carefully selected health apps that were loaded onto the iPads. This doesn’t surprise me, and echos previous reports of how patients use hospital computers, laptops and information kiosks.

Pop-Up Library Services. Julia Kochi, Kemi Amin, Ariel Deardorff, Anneliese Taylor, and Evans Whitaker from the University of San Francisco Medical Center (California), shared their experiences with increasing usage at the UCSF’s branch libraries, the Mission Bay Library and the Hub. The UCSF Library publicized “pop-up” opportunities to meet with library staff (note: not only librarians, but all library staff) to learn about library services. Lessons learned included that the registration software was too clunky (they wanted registrations, so they wouldn’t head over to the branches for nothing), and the term “pop-up” proved to be confusing (they eventually switched to the more familiar “office hours”).

Lastly, I headed into the Open Forum discussion of the Proposed MLA Bylaws Amendments. I was there to support my director, Ellen Brassil, as she lay the foundation for the discussion. I was impressed by her calm demeanor, and braced for the potential challenges to the hard work of the Bylaws Committee.

0515_2Ultimately, there were few questions. I was able to leave the conference ahead of schedule, and meet up with Birthday Boy Ed at the Loose Moose. Together with local fans, we cheered on Raptors in their historic playoffs win. We took a couple of bad selfies before heading over to the Sultan’s Tent for tagine–Moroccan clay pot cuisine. Alas, we were too early for the bellydancers. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped into a bakery to purchase a slice of chocolate hazelnut cake. We’d both put in a full day (Ed walked all over Toronto) and were ready to call it an early night.