MLA 2019: Boosting the Work of Librarians

Monday, May 6, 2019

My second day of conferencing began with Jerry Perry’s Janet Doe Lecture on “The Activist Health Sciences Librarian.” Jerry demonstrated his leadership ability in the opening sentences of his lecture. He briefly acknowledged that racism positively impacts the trajectory of his career. As a white man, he benefits from racism. He did not dwell on this. If he did so, he would be elevating himself as a hero–look at me! Rather, he simply stated this fact and I was impressed.

Jerry’s presentation was rich with art and poetry. He referenced Audre Lorde (I did not know that Audre Lorde worked as a librarian!) when he spoke of the necessity of anger.

My response to racism is anger. I have lived with that anger, ignoring it, feeding upon it, learning to use it before it laid my visions to waste, for most of my life. Once I did it in silence, afraid of the weight. My fear of anger taught me nothing. Your fear of that anger will teach you nothing, also. ~Audre Lorde, “The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism

Jerry spoke about his experience as a young, queer man coming of age during the HIV/AIDS crisis. He reminded us that HIV/AIDS is still with us. His statement reminded me of the National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day that I attended over six years ago. I did a quick search on my phone and confirmed that Black women are still at high risk for the infection, but we are not listening to their voices.

And, not listening to Black voices? Jerry told us that the Medical Library Association discussed whether or not to admit libraries from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) for nine years. Nine. Years.

We need to be better than our history.

After Jerry’s lecture, I scooted up to my hotel room to practice my lightning presentation. I would have five minutes to hit the highlights of my Focused Outreach project in Bangor ME. I was determined to stay within my time limitations. Practice, practice, practice!

By 2:00pm, I was more than ready.

Screenshot of tweet.

What is Focused Outreach? The National Network of Libraries of Medicine, New England Region (NNLM NER) provides training, funding and support for health information outreach. To raise awareness of these opportunities, NNLM NER conducts annual Focused Outreach initiatives.

Focused Outreach targets two geographic areas each year, one rural and one urban. NNLM NER contacts librarians, educators, health care providers, public health workers and/or community leaders to identify key informants. We conduct eight-twelve interviews before scanning available data to identify health priorities.

Focused Outreach includes synthesizing community observations of health information needs; identifying target populations and health information foci; and designing health information outreach strategies. Evaluation is based upon process assessment, noting changes in participation rates in our training and funding opportunities.

In Maine, we put the spotlight on the work of librarians. We provided tailored PubMed webinar training for Maine librarians. We funded Bangor Public Library staff training on compassion fatigue. Library staff at Eastern Maine Community College received funds to purchase tablets that would feature National Library of Medicine apps. One Eastern Maine Community College librarian received funding to attend a national conference.

After my five minutes expired, I sat down and listened to my fellow presenters. “Coping Strategies for Impostor Phenomenon among Health Sciences Librarians” caught my attention. This would be a hot topic for my hospital librarians group.

From the abstract: Impostor phenomenon is the inability to internalize accomplishments while experiencing the fear of being exposed as a fraud. Impostor phenomenon can have serious adverse effects including: anxiety, depression, lack of confidence, decreased job satisfaction and performance, and burnout. Our research objective is to discover effective coping strategies to help health sciences librarians address feelings of impostor phenomenon.

In the weeks following MLA 2019, I hoped to connect with presenters Debra Werner, Michelle Bass, Liz Kellermeyer and Jill Barr-Walker.

Interior of the Chicago Architecture Center museum.

At 3:00pm, I was done for the day. I dashed over to the Chicago Architecture Center (CAC) to meet Ed. He spent the day touring Wrigley Field and the surrounding area. We toured the exhibits at CAC and purchased postcards and a book from the gift shop. I noted a diagram of The Design Process in one of the exhibits. Imagine > Collect Information > Test and Adapt > Build > Learn Key Lessons > Define a Problem > Imagine, and so forth. We use this same process during Focused Outreach.

Ed and I tossed around a few ideas for the evening. We thought about catching a blues show, but the start time was too late for us. We ended up at Barrio, seated at the bar, watching the Celtics lose on one screen and the Bruins win on the other. I indulged in the steak fajitas with charred vegetables. The flavor was out of this world. Walking back to our hotel, we marveled at the beauty of nighttime Chicago. This trip gave me a previously nonexistent appreciation of skyscrapers.