Fall was a very busy time for me and all of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM) Coordinators. We have a lot of conference exhibits, presentations, and health fairs to attend to promote resources from the National Library of Medicine. I ended up exhibiting at 6 conferences and 2 community health fairs from September through November. It was fun and exhausting. As I get ready to do some more exhibiting in the next few months, I thought I would take a few moments to reflect on what I have learned so far.
1. Know Your Audience & Speak Their Language
We are often sharing information about the same resources at different conferences. However, depending on the audience, we may describe them in different ways. For example, MedlinePlus is a consumer health website with content geared towards the general public. When talking with other librarians, using the term “consumer health” works fine. But if I exhibit at a conference for physicians, and tell them about a “consumer health resource,” that doesn’t mean much to them. I have to call it a patient education resource because that is how they would use it – to help educate patients. I was politely chided by a doctor for calling the pages and printouts on MedlinePlus “articles.” When I said articles, he thought of PubMed journal articles. He calls them patient education handouts. He reminded me that I needed to speak his language so we would both be on the same page. Likewise, when exhibiting for public health, I refer to MedlinePlus as “health promotion materials,” and for the education field, it can be referred to as a “health education” or “open education” resource.
2. National Library of Medicine – what’s that???
Unfortunately, the National Library of Medicine (NLM) is not a household name ….yet. Often when people visit my booth, they don’t recognize the name of the library. Sometimes they have heard of at least one of NLM’s products – PubMed/MEDLINE, MedlinePlus, WISER – and I can use that as a way to introduce other related resources. Other times they straight up ask me, “What is the National Library of Medicine?” or look puzzled that a library is exhibiting at their conference. I can’t operate on the assumption that everyone understands the importance of libraries, librarians, or specific information resources. Hence the need for exhibits. Of course I am always happy to educate. On the flip side, it is very gratifying to hear positive feedback from people who had experience with NLM products or librarians and came by to just to say “thanks.”
3. Know which resources to highlight when short on time.
Conference attendees often don’t have a lot of time to spend talking to exhibitors. There are some who take time for in-depth conversation and have lots of questions. But most of the time, they just spend a few minutes at the booth. NLM over 130 different databases and websites, and I don’t have time to talk about them all. So I have to be ready with my “sales pitch” and identify a couple of resources that I think are most important for that target audience to know about. I have even had some people ask me “what is the most important handout I should take?” or “what is the most important thing for me to know about?” For example, for family physicians (and other related professions like physician assistant or nurse practitioner) I usually start the conversation talking about patient education through MedlinePlus and MedlinePlus Connect. If there is time, I tell them about InformationRX materials as well. For public health I usually promote MedlinePlus as well as PHPartners. Information on NLM’s mobile apps are really popular with health professionals as well. I also include handouts about other resources on my table, so they can browse, or case something else comes up in conversation.
4. Sometimes you need to make the first move.
Everyone has their own “style” of exhibiting. When starting out, I tended to lean towards just letting people come to me. If they were interested in stopping, great, and if not, that’s cool too. However, I have become a little more proactive. I definitely try to make eye contact with everyone who passes by (unless I’m already engaged in conversation), and say “hello” or “how are you doing?” This sometimes encourages people to pause who might have been on the fence about coming to my booth. In general, I’m not big on small talk. But you need small talk when exhibiting! Sometimes I go straight to explaining what NLM provides. Other times I start out asking a few questions: where are you from, what kind of work do you do, how are you enjoying the conference, what information resources do you use, etc. This can help me identify which resources to promote to that individual. It also helps people to open up and tell me more about how they use information. Sometimes if I start out asking “do you have any questions,” they will say no, but if we start talking, I find out that there are some information needs that I can help them with.
5. Do your homework.
Some of the conferences I exhibit at have been covered by my colleagues in the past. So I have access to reports and information on their experience exhibiting there. As I explore other conferences, I realized that I can (and should) ask questions before registering. I can contact the conference staff and find out how many attendees they expect (will there be enough people to make it worthwhile to spend XXX amount of money to exhibit there?). I can also ask if there are non-profit discounts on exhibit fees. Some conferences will advertise their non-profit rate, but other conferences you have to ask if they have one. In most cases NN/LM qualifies for non-profit rates because we are not selling anything, and we offer free services and resources.
These are just a few things I have learned. Have you ever exhibited for your library or organization? What are some things that you have learned in the process?
It’s been 4.5 months since I relocated to Nebraska. My handful of faithful followers may be wondering how things are going. Well…being new is hard!
Someone told me:
“Being new makes you tired. Very tired. You start to wonder if you’re getting old, but you’re not. You’re just new.”
So true! I was not prepared for the emotional and physical exhaustion of just being new. Granted, everyone’s experience is different. I think mine was compounded by the fact that a) this is my first major move ever, b) I moved here alone, and c) I immediately started a job that required a lot of outreach and interacting with people. Some aspects of the job take a toll too because as an introvert social interaction is physically and emotionally taxing to me. For example within the first four months, I exhibited at 7 conferences, gave about 5 presentations/webinars, and set up numerous meetings with people at the University and in local organizations to introduce myself. Looking back…maybe it was a bit much…just maybe…
In all honesty, these first few months I have spent a lot of my time off work binge-watching Netflix. I refuse to feel bad about it either. Gotta recharge that social battery somehow. But it hasn’t been all solitary confinement. So what’s a new (introvert) girl to do when acclimating to a new city far from home? Well here are some tips from my experience:
1. Give it time…however much time it takes. I had to come to the realization that it takes some time to make new friends and to feel “at home” in a new place. This means that yes I will feel lonely and homesick. But it’s not the end of the world. Besides it’s been less than 5 months. Also, I have learned not to compare myself to others. I know other people who have moved and seemed to adjust really quickly. Sometimes I wonder why can’t I be that way. But everyone handles change differently, and if it takes me a little longer to adjust, so be it. Besides it’s been less than 5 months (I have to keep reminding myself I haven’t been here that long).
2. Go out and do stuff…stuff that involves interacting with other people. Such a novel idea right? Trust me, I have not been holed up in my apartment 24/7 (as comforting as that sounds). I have returned to figure skating and found a local figure skating club. I hired a new private coach, and we’re working on getting me ready to pass some skating tests in February (fingers crossed). I even started teaching youth Learn To Skate classes through the club. I also enjoy yoga and ballet, and found local yoga and dance studios, but I haven’t been consistent. I’m thinking about trying belly dancing again if I can find a place for that. I have also gone to some events like BarCamp Omaha, TEDX Omaha, and I attended a poetry slam one evening and volunteered as a judge. As much as I am a homebody, I really do feel better sometimes after I go out to events and activities.
3. Have a travel budget for when you need to get away. I am in the largest city in Nebraska…but it’s still smaller than the DC Metro area that I’m used to. So sometimes I want to get away. Either to experience a larger city, or to visit family. My first priority has been to visit family. I went to Asheville, NC for Thanksgiving, and I’ll be back in the DC area for Christmas/New Year’s. I’m starting to think about where I want to travel next year though. Maybe somewhere outside the US borders….
4. Find someone that you can be honest with about how you feel. And when they say, “you can tell me the truth,” take them up on it. When you’re new, people are always asking you questions. “Are you settling in?” “Did you finish unpacking?” “How are you liking the city?” “What new places have you discovered?” Often this comes from new co-workers who want to make sure that you are happy, and that you’re not about to jump on the next plane out of there and not come back. They really mean well. But sometimes I’m not exactly happy, and no I don’t exactly love Omaha (yet). I don’t feel comfortable sharing my negative feelings with everyone because I don’t want to look like a Debbie Downer, or I don’t want to offend someone who is Midwest native and loves Omaha (i.e. most of my coworkers at the library), or I’m just a private person who does not wear all my emotions on my sleeve. But I have come across some folks who are transplants like me from larger cities and we have been able to commiserate about what we miss. My honest feelings about Omaha at the moment: I don’t hate it. And that’s good enough for now. Check back with me in 8 months.
5. Remember this is not forever. At least for me it’s not. I have met a few folks who moved to Nebraska recently because of their spouse’s job or family. They will be here indefinitely although it’s not their first choice. I will pray for them. For me, that’s not the case. I told my boss when I interviewed that I only see myself being here 2-3 years, getting some very valuable work experience, and then moving on. That’s what I’m thinking today…who knows how I will feel in a couple of years. I might be so in love with Omaha I never want to leave …..yeah, okay… But while I’m here I do want to embrace the experience. The Midwest is different…and has its own unique quirks. I definitely want to enjoy my time here. So while I’m making my list of places to travel outside the state, I’m also making my list of cultural and community events to experience inside the state as well.
So that’s how things are going so far. Sometimes I have to pinch myself because I can’t believe I actually moved out here. I was so adamant that I was never leaving the DMV area or at least never leaving the East Coast. Haha, God had other plans for me. But I have no regrets, and it only gets better from here….right?
(I should edit to add that I am LOVING my job. It’s just the relocation that’s taking some getting used to.)
Well I’ve been on the new job for 1.5 months now. What a whirlwind — time flies when you’re having fun! And it has been fun…and a bit challenging too.
As you know, I am the Nebraska/Education Coordinator for National Network of Libraries of Medicine, MidContinental Region. My responsibilities fall into a few different categories:
- Coordinate the calendar for our regional webinars, assess educational needs of our members, and lead in improving promotion to our target audiences. Sometimes I will host or present for webinars too. Also, maintain the Training & Education section of website.
- Serve on the NN/LM Education Task Force (this is made up of representatives of all the Regional Medical Libraries).
- Serve as ex-officio member of Education Committee for our local chapter of Medical Library Association.
- Administer the Professional Development Award for the MidContinental Region. This award is for librarians in our region.
Nebraska State Outreach
- Make contacts and build relationships with individuals, organizations, schools, community-based organizations, etc.
- Teach classes or give presentations on health information resources to health professionals, librarians, educators, and general public.
- Exhibit at professional conferences and community health fairs.
- Site visits and support to member libraries and information centers.
- Write a quarterly column for the Nebraska Libraries Journal (first article is due end of this month!)
- Contribute to the MidContinental Region blog and newsletter.
- Write articles on health information resources/programming for other publications whenever opportunity arises.
- Monitor assigned listservs to keep up to date with news on NLM products & resources
McGoogan Library of Medicine
- I am based out of this library, and a small percentage of my time goes to supporting the University of Nebraska Medical Center faculty, students, and patients. Fortunately, the library faculty are being gracious and allowing me to focus just on my NN/LM responsibilities for a few months. Later on this fall, I will receive some training and will start to contribute to reference desk shifts, literature searches, blog posts, website maintenance, and consumer health information services.
So that’s the general overview…now to the nitty-gritty. What have I been doing so far?
- Trying not to feel overwhelmed. I have been told to expect it to take a couple of years to really feel confident in this position. I believe it. It is a very self-directed and autonomous role. I have a logic model of goals, outcomes, and indicators to guide me…but many specifics are left to me to decide. My colleagues are very supportive though and there are plenty of people I can ask for advice (both in our region and other regions of NN/LM).
- Meeting people and building relationships. Sometimes these meetings are facilitated by mutual acquaintances, and other times I am cold-calling/emailing or showing up to community meetings. Recent meetings have included North Omaha Community Care Counsel, Omaha Refugee Task Force, the Director of the Three Rivers Library System, and a site visit to Southeast Community College library.
- Teaching/presenting/exhibiting. There are some conferences and health fairs I am scheduled to attend, and I have a few presentations lined up as well. Today I attended a community health fair, a couple of weeks ago I presented to the Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services Health Promotion Unit, next month I am presenting for two webinars on health literacy and health information resources (one focused on public librarians, and the other is for the Nebraska Cancer Coalition), and in November I will be presenting a webinar on Veterans Health info resources. I also have at least three conferences I will be exhibiting at later this fall.
- There are a couple of articles I am working on writing that are due…soon.
- Serving on a search committee. The MidContinental Region is seeking a new Health Information Literacy Coordinator to be based here in Omaha too (at another university). Come work with me if it fits your interest! I have been asked to be on the search committee. After going through three interviews this past spring, I’ve very excited to be able to sit on the other side of the table now!
There are other things I’m doing as well…but you get the gist of it. Sometimes I wonder am I doing enough…am I being strategic enough in my outreach…but for less than two months on the job, I think I’m doing pretty good.😉
So those are my work updates….and I’ll be writing a separate post soon about the adjustments of relocating. Stay tuned!
Want to learn a little more about the MidContinental Regional Medical Library and the work we’re doing? Check out this article from NLM In Focus: Regional Medical Libraries Making a Difference: Focus on MidContinental Region (published last year).
And what an adventure it was. We traveled over 1200 miles through 7 states in two days. Enduring blazing heat, smelly manure fumes, a hostel that accidentally gave away our room reservation, tense moments with thunder/lightning/torrential downpour, and very monotonous scenery (think trees, cornfields, windmills, repeat). But we survived, and it was kinda fun. So happy to be done, and I don’t plan on driving that route again anytime soon.
Once we arrived in Omaha, I had to keep my guests entertained for their brief visit. The moving company hasn’t delivered my stuff yet, and my cable/internet hasn’t been set up yet. So with no furniture/TV/internet, of course we had to go see the sights of Omaha! Here are some of the places we discovered:
Of course we had to find the local public library! We took a peek into the Dale Clark branch, which has really cool murals on the walls of their stairwell.
The Missouri River runs nearby with Nebraska on one bank, and Iowa on the other. We explored some of the riverfront, visiting the Heartland of America Park (and found a few statutes along the way), and walking across the river on the Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge into Council Bluffs, IA.
We visited the Henry Doorly Zoo, which has some really nice indoor attractions (which is a definite plus on a hot summer day!). We especially enjoyed the Lied Jungle, and the Desert Dome.
We also learned that Omaha is the birthplace of Malcolm X. We went to visit the Malcolm X Memorial, but couldn’t get close because of some construction being done. Maybe another time…
The Bemis Contemporary Arts Center had an open house for the public to meet the resident artists, tour their studios and look at exhibits. There was a really cool exhibit by Brandon Ballengee called Collapse that was inspired by the Gulf Coast oil spill. I also enjoyed meeting some of the resident artists, and seeing what they have been working on. Bemis offers 3-month residencies that attract artists from across the world.
So those are the highlights of my week — busy, exhausting, and fun! So glad Alyse and Elijah could join me for a few days. It made the transition a little easier, plus it’s always so much more fun to have someone else along when discovering a new place.
Tomorrow is my first day on the new job. More updates to come!
Wow, I can’t believe it’s been four months since my last blog post. Winter is long gone and now it’s so hot. But I’m not complaining. I’ll take heat and humidity over cold weather any day! The past few months I’ve been busy with job applications & interviews, attending conferences, facilitating an unconference, giving presentations, and wrapping up my last year as an NLM Associate Fellow. I will do some additional recap posts…soon. But first, my most important hot news: I have a new (permanent) job!
I have accepted the position of Nebraska/Education Coordinator for the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, MidContinental Region. I will lead in developing an education plan for this region, and also lead in the promotion of our trainings and presentations. I will also be doing outreach to Nebraska health professionals, librarians, and the general public to promote National Library of Medicine products and databases, as well as other quality health resources. I will be based out of the McGoogan Library of Medicine in Omaha, NE where I will have faculty status and will also be involved in reference services to the University of Nebraska Medical Center (such as research support for faculty/students or consumer health info requests). So basically I’ll be really busy doing all the things I love.
This also means that I will be relocating from the east coast to the midwest. This will be an adjustment, but I’m excited! I have already found an apartment, and I am driving out there today. So many changes! I’m sure I will have plenty to write about.😉
You may be wondering, what is the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM)? Well I’m glad you asked. The NN/LM is a program coordinated by the National Library of Medicine and has been in existence for over forty years. Its mission is to:
“…advance the progress of medicine and improve the public health by providing all U.S. health professionals with equal access to biomedical information and improving the public’s access to information to enable them to make informed decisions about their health.”
This program splits the U.S. into eight regions, and each region has a Regional Medical Library that receives federal money and is responsible for using that money to provide training sessions and outreach to promote awareness of, and access to National Library of Medicine resources and other quality health information.The MidContinental Region where I will be working includes Nebraska, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Wyoming, and Missouri. The Regional Medical Library (RML) for this region is the Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library in Utah. The MidContinental Region uses a distributed model to staff it’s region and the outreach coordinators are based in different states. So I will be based in Nebraska, but my other coworkers are based in other states in our region. We rely very heavily on technology to keep in touch and collaborate.
I’ve always thought it would be fun to work for a Regional Medical Library, and I’m really excited this opportunity is available. Well I need to go hit the road now. Stay tuned for more updates!
(I apologize in advance for this long post…)
Hello readers…it’s been seven weeks since my last post and weather-wise not a whole lot has changed. We’ve had more snow, sleet, ice, and artic temperatures…and I am so ready for spring. I was watching the news yesterday and they were talking about how the long winter is contributing to incidents of snow rage around the country. I believe it. Surprise, surprise, it’s actually snowing right now. I’ve heard predictions calling for as much as 8-10 inches in the Baltimore area. Sigh. Fortunately, the university closed and it’s a snow day for me. But enough about the weather….
Working With Students
In my last post, I mentioned that I was starting to take student consults on my own. That is going very well. I have been mostly working with graduate students in the International Health department in the School of Public Health. In the past couple of months, I have met with maybe eight or nine students. Some of them have required multiple meetings or follow up emails. I have helped them with identifying the main concepts of their topic, selecting search terms, understanding the importance of using both controlled vocabulary and keyword terms, and translating search strategies from one database to another. I also provide instruction on how to use databases like PubMed, Embase, Scopus, Web of Science, Global Health (Ovid), WHO Global Health Library, and PopLine. I love teaching, and I love to see the “ah-ha” moment when students understand how to format a search strategy or use a particular database. I also love how grateful they are for my help. It’s always nice to be appreciated.
I currently hold my office hours by appointment in a conference room in the Library’s touchdown suite in the School of Public Health building. Students are referred to me by an informationist. Although I did receive a request directly from a student who heard about me from one her classmates. Recently, there has been in an increase of students asking for consultations that are working with a specific research center that is in a separate building. One of the informationists has inquired if I could have regular office hours at that research center. We’re still waiting to hear back from them. That would be great if it works out.
Patient Education & Consumer Health
I am continue to spend one day a week at the Harrison Medical Library/Community Health Library on the Bayview Medical Center campus. I’m still working on collection development.There are also a couple of “fun” activities I have been able to assist with. The Bayview library director holds office hours at the campus’ cardiology clinic. She collaborates with a physician, and is provided with a private room next to the exam room the physician is using. This room has a computer, internet, and access to the network printer. The physician will bring patients to the librarian before or after an appointment and tell the librarian what type of information would be helpful for the patient. The patients are always happy to comply and their time with the librarian is usually brief, maybe 10-15 minutes. We showed them MedlinePlus and the American Heart Association website, and provided them with folders that contained relevant brochures or printouts from the web. We had one patient that was more “advanced” in his internet searching skills, so we gave him a brief intro to PubMed, and told him to contact the library for further assistance with using the database and accessing full-text. I enjoyed this experience more than the visits to inpatient rooms, because from what I observed, the outpatients seem more likely be in a mental state where they are ready to learn and more interested in asking/answering questions.
Another fun activity this week was attending the Bayview Medical Center Patient Education Committee meeting. The library director wasn’t able to attend, so she asked me to go in her place. This week, we spent most of the time working on editing a draft of a patient handout that was written in-house. The handout was on preventing blood clots during a hospital stay and was written by a working group that included nurses, pharmacists, physicians, hospital quality control, and others. The handout was sent to the Patient Education Committee for feedback. So we sat and talked about it, and came up with ways to simplify the language, use better definitions, reorganize the content, etc. At one moment, we were discussing how blood clots (or venous thromboembolisms) are defined. One person started to do a Google search, and another nurse wondered aloud how MedlinePlus describes a blood clot. Fortunately, I had my smartphone with me and could look it up on the spot. I really enjoyed participating in that process, and appreciated that my input was asked for and listened to.
Collaborating for a Healthier Community Unconference
I’m really excited to be leading a group in organizing the inaugural “Collaborating For a Healthier Community Unconference” on June 20th in Washington, DC. I’ll talk more about this in another post. But short and sweet: This an opportunity for interactive discussion and building new partnerships related to promoting community health and health information. The target audience is public health professionals, medical professionals, lay health workers, librarians, and community organizers. If you’re involved in health/health information outreach programs and services and you want to share your expertise, or learn from others in a collaborative environment – this is the place to be. Registration opens in April. You can find more details on our unconference wiki page. Hope to see you there!
The Job Hunt
Last but not least, my time at Welch Library has been (and still is) awesome…but all good things come to an end at some point. The end of my fellowship is only six months away. So it’s time to start looking for jobs. So far I have applied to one job. I still have some time. But I need to get on the ball and start looking more actively, and get into the job hunting mindset. Because everyone knows that looking for a job is a part time job in and of itself. Wish me luck.
Those are all my updates for now. More to come soon!
Let It Snow…or Not…
Last week we had our first snow of the year here in Baltimore. The university had a delayed opening. I hadn’t thought to ask about inclement weather policies, so I didn’t know if the library staff were included in the delay. So I went to work pretty close to my usual time…and I found that we follow whatever closings or delays that the university has. Good to know. It wasn’t bad though. A couple of my coworkers had come in “early” too, so I wasn’t alone. Also, I didn’t have to drive, I just hopped on a campus shuttle.
Flying Solo: Teaching a Library Class
Last week I taught a library class on databases and resources for public health. I think I had seven or eight attendees. It was a good experience. I felt very nervous but I don’t think it showed too much. The class was one-hour long, and I talked about creating a search strategy, did a demo of Embase and its controlled vocabulary Emtree, gave a brief overview of our public health LibGuide, and touched on a few web resources (PHPartners Healthy People 2020 PubMed queries, the HSRProj database, and advanced searching Google for grey literature). My preceptor observed me teach and gave me a few suggestions afterwards:
- To help engage students and build rapport, ask them to introduce themselves and tell you one thing they want to learn.
- Remember they don’t know what you know. Always provide context (i.e. don’t use abbreviations for databases without saying what they are).
- I could have explained the hierarchy of the controlled vocabulary a little better.
Overall though, she said I did a good job. Yaaay me!
More Flying Solo: Student Consultations
The last couple of months I did a lot of shadowing with the informationists working with the School of Public Health, and observing how they assist students and researchers with literature searches and systematic reviews. This month I am starting to take the lead with some of the student consults, mostly within the International Health department right now. One of the informationists gives me some consults that she thinks I can handle, but remains available by phone or email if I have a question or need her to peer-review a search strategy. I really enjoy working one-on-one, and explaining the process of creating a search strategy and how to search databases.
Consumer Health Collection Development
At the Community Health Library, I was starting to assist with delivering patient health information to the bedside. However, since it’s the height of the flu season, the library director has decided to cut back on most visits to patient rooms right now. There is one librarian who will continue to round on the floors with residents, and she can take up any resources requested by patients. Around March, we’ll resume our regular visits to patient rooms again. For the time being, I am working on a collection development project for the consumer health books. I am starting by taking inventory to see if any items are missing. Then I will evaluate what items need to be updated, or look for new materials to add to collection.
Those are all the updates I have right now! More to come soon.