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March 5, 2015 / Christian M.

The Winter That Never Ends…and Other News

This is my "I'm so done with winter" face.

This is my “I’m so done with winter” face.

(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.

The conference room where I currently hold my consultations.

The conference room where I currently hold my consultations.

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!

January 15, 2015 / Christian M.

Snow, Teaching, Collection Development and More….


First Snow of 2015 at Mt Vernon Park, Baltimore City

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. 🙂

January 13, 2015 / Christian M.

My Evolving Career Goals: The Intersection of Librarian and Birth Worker


So many options for information professionals…

This past December marked five years since I started blogging about my experiences pursuing a career in librarianship. It’s funny to think that when I decided to pursue librarianship, I was looking for a career I could be happy with for “the rest of my life”. I had a pretty one dimensional view of the type of work that an information professional could do. My experiences in library school, networking with other information professionals on social media, and especially participating in the NLM Associate Fellowship Program have really opened my eyes to the variety of ways a librarian can put their skills to work.The more I learn, the more my career goals evolve. I have yet to settle into the exact role/position in libraries that I want for “the rest of my life”. Maybe I never will. Life is an adventure, and so is my career path apparently.

In the past couple of years I have become more and more interested in public health and women’s health issues, specifically as it pertains to maternal and child health. I find myself wanting to go beyond the scope of practice of a librarian and becoming more involved in supporting/educating women in their healthcare options as it pertains to pregnancy and childbirth. I want to be proactive in empowering women to ask the right questions and find the right information to help them 1) understand the normal physiology of pregnancy and birth, 2) know how to evaluate and choose a healthcare provider and birth setting for respectful, evidence-based and patient-centered care, and 3) know their rights as a patient throughout the process of giving birth.

Becoming involved in birth work…

This is where I believe I can combine my skills as an information professional with those of a birth worker.  Birth workers include doulas, childbirth educators, midwives, labor & delivery nurses, lactation consultants, etc. I am interested in becoming certified as a childbirth educator, and possibly a doula as well. I just need some additional training and education as it relates to pregnancy and childbirth. Just as an FYI:

  • A childbirth educator teaches classes (can be group or private) for expectant parents. The classes can cover information on the various aspects of pregnancy, labor and delivery, and newborn care.
  • A doula provides physical, emotional, and informational support to a mother before, during, and after birth. The doula helps the mother with a birth plan, provides information to make informed decisions for care. stays with the mother during active labor and birth to provide emotional support and physical comfort measures, and can assist during postpartum period as well.

Neither of these roles practice medicine or take the place of medical advice from a obstetrician or midwife. They are a part of a mother’s healthcare team, and can help with providing additional information and questions to help expectant parents evaluate the care they are receiving and make informed decisions.

For childbirth education, I am leaning towards the Lamaze certification. I like the way they emphasize evidence-based maternity care, and the way they simply and easily explain healthy birth practices to parents. They have some good professional resources like a monthly newsletter, their own peer-reviewed journal, and mentoring to assist with developing a curriculum.

For doula training, I am considering the Mamatoto Village Certified Community Birthworker program, or the International Center for Traditional Childbearing Full Circle Doula Training program. Both programs seem very well-rounded, and I like that they include information on cultural competency/consciousness and have a priority of increasing the number of women of color doulas and decreasing the maternal and newborn health disparities in the African American community.

My current reading list.

What’s on my reading list…

What is required for certification?

The specific certification requirements vary depending on the certifying organization (there are a quite a few to choose from too), and at least 2-3 years is provided to finish the requirements. The requirements usually include some mix of attending classes, a required reading list (books on pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding), observing and/or teaching a childbirth education class, and observing and/or attending a certain number of births. An exam may be required as well. If interested in being a postpartum doula, then breastfeeding support and attending postpartum moms will also be included.

What’s next?

For now, I’m still exploring options for certification, and trying to find some childbirth educators and doulas to talk to for informational interviews. I also went to my local public library and checked out a few of the books from some of the reading lists.  At the moment, I am NOT leaving the profession of librarianship. I love being a medical librarian and specifically working in an academic environment. But I see this additional training as a new way to use my informational skills, and become more involved in improving the quality of maternity and newborn care. Keeping my full-time job as a librarian will allow me the flexibility to offer my birth worker services for free or low-cost to those who need them but can’t afford to pay full price. I’m also looking into local nonprofit organizations I could work with as well. Some day, I would also like to return to grad school and pursue a second master’s in public health (with a focus on maternal & child health).

In the past year, I have been increasingly flooding my Facebook page with so many articles and resources related to maternity care (sorry FB friends lol). I promise I won’t turn this blog into a childbirth resource. It will still mostly be about librarianship, but I will occasionally include posts about specific health topics or my progress as a birth worker as well. I don’t feel up to starting a new totally, separate blog at the moment.

How has your journey in librarianship introduced you to new passions or additional professional interests?

December 27, 2014 / Christian M.

Gaining Experience Delivering Consumer Health Information in a Hospital Setting

Ever since my days working in a public library, I have been interested in consumer health information services. My experience with this type of information in the public library was very limited, but I realized the importance of patients and caregivers having resources written at their level of understanding to help them make informed decisions. During the first year of my fellowship with NLM, I completed my certification with the Medical Library Association’s CHIS program, but haven’t had the opportunity to put this training to use….until now.

A librarian brings a book cart to a patient in a hospital (circa 1969). Photo from Thunder Bay Public Library.

A librarian brings a book cart to a patient in a hospital (circa 1969). Photo from Thunder Bay Public Library.

As you know, I’m spending the second year of the fellowship at Welch Medical Library, which serves Hopkins University students, faculty, and staff. I’m really enjoying my experiences providing instruction and research support to the School of Public Health. Welch Library does not provide consumer health information services. However, there are some hospital libraries in the Hopkins health system that do. So I decided to schedule some “field trips” to see what opportunities might be available.

First I visited the Family Resource Library at the Hopkins Children’s Center. This library is managed by a solo librarian who provides leisure reading and health-related books to pediatric patients, and some health information to parents and caregivers. The library has a beautiful space with big windows. I enjoyed my chat with the librarian very much. My next visit was to the Harrison Medical Library & Community Health Library at the Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. This was actually my second time visiting, you can read about my first visit three years ago here.

The Community Health Library provides a circulating print collection of consumer health books, computers, and printouts of patient education materials. The librarians also collaborate with nurse managers, physicians, and patient educators to provide health information to patients and caregivers at the bedside and in outpatient clinics. I am really interested in the health information services they provide, and the patient care and education committees they are involved in. So I asked if I could spend some time there learning and assisting with their patient services. This request was approved by both my supervisor at Welch and the Director at Harrison Library.

Now I spend one day a week at Harrison Library, and the rest of my time is at Welch Library. Some of my activities have included:

  • Shadowing during the delivery of health information resources & leisure reading to patient rooms. I’ve shadowed twice, and will have the opportunity to visit patient rooms on my own soon.
  • Covering the information desk in the Community Health Library.
  • A literature search on using patients and family members as teachers for medical education at the request of one of the a hospital advisory committees.
  • Attending various hospital committee meetings related to patient care, such as the Patient Education Committee, and the Geriatric Community Advisory Board.
  • Talking with the library director about services, budget, management, collection development, and more!

I’m excited to be gaining more experience in providing health information to patients. It’s an awesome opportunity to be able to work in both an academic and hospital setting. Looking forward to sharing more with you all soon!

November 26, 2014 / Christian M.

Presenting and Resume Reviewing

MAC-MLA poster 10-20-14

First poster presentation! (Photo taken by MAC-MLA)

My First Poster

In October, I attended the annual meeting for the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Medical Library Association. It was held in Alexandria, VA. It was nice to reconnect with other librarians in the region that I don’t see very often. You can find a recap of some of the meeting sessions here on the MAC Messages Blog. What I want to highlight is… *drumroll*…my first poster presentation! I feel like a late bloomer, since I know some people who started presenting while in grad school, and I’m 1.5 years post graduation. Better late, than never, right?

My poster is entitled: “A User-Centered Approach to Redesigning the NLM Associate Fellowship Program Website.” During the first year of my fellowship at NLM, my projects included the redesign of the website used to recruit new Associates. This website had been sporting the same look since the 1990s and there were complaints that both content and design were in need of improvement. My poster focuses on the needs assessment I did at the beginning of the project, and the methods which can be utilized for any library website. I will write more about this project at another time, but if you would like to see my poster click here.

I felt a little overwhelmed when I first sat down to design the poster. I’ve seen some bad posters, I and didn’t want mine to be one of them. So I started with a Google search for guidance on creating a good poster, but I still felt overwhelmed, because there are so many sites with advice. Then I talked with the librarian who sponsored the website redesign project. We discussed what I have liked about other conference posters in the past, and what I usually focus on as the viewer of these posters. This was very helpful. I decided to make my poster with lots of visuals and minimal text. I used PowerPoint to create the poster, and most of my images came from

The presentation experience was great. It was fun telling people about my project and discussing user-centered web design. I received positive feedback on the poster design and the new website (even met a few LIS students who were interested in the Fellowship and had used the new site). I’m looking forward to future poster presentation opportunities!

All About Blogging

On November 12th, I presented as one of the panelists for “Writing Series: Blogging for Work, Blogging for Life.” This presentation was sponsored by the DC Chapter of the Special Libraries Association. My co-presenters were Marie Kaddell and Aileen Marshall. I talked about finding the balance in sharing your personal and professional life online, and how I utilize blogging to engage with others in the library profession. Aileen talked about finding your voice and branding your blog. Marie talked about workplace blogging and being strategic in using the blogging experience. We each presented for about 10 minutes followed by Q & A with the audience. I was afraid we wouldn’t have many questions, but there was great audience participation and we had a really good discussion about blogging. I felt like I also benefited from the presentation, and gained some insight that will be helpful as I consider future directions and designs for my blog.

Resume Reviews — the Other side of the Table

Resume Review_AGLISS_11-13-14

Talking with Vita about medical librarianship. Photo taken by an unknown person at AGLISS 😉

On November 13th, I visited my graduate alma mater, Catholic University, for Mentoring and Resume Review Night hosted by the Association of Graduate Library and Information Science Students (AGLISS). I’ve been to several events like this as a student, but this is my first time attending as one of the resume reviewers. The reviewers sat one or two at a table, and the students could move around and talk to different reviewers. I had six students come and talk to me. One was interested in government libraries, one in academic libraries, one in medical libraries (yaay!), and three were from the health information technology (HIT) program (which falls under the library science department).

I felt very comfortable giving advice to those interested in librarianship (especially medical librarianship). The HIT students were a little more difficult to provide “mentoring” to, because they were interested in careers in health informatics. I know a little about informatics, since we were introduced to it at NLM, but I’m no expert. I was able to provide feedback on their resume, and give some suggestions for professional organizations to check out, and some options for free courses and websites to boost tech skills. I came away from this experience feeling good about being able to “give back” and help others prepare to enter the workforce, and also with a desire to learn more about health informatics. There are medical librarians involved in informatics, and it would be useful for me to learn more about it.

Those are my updates for now…more to come soon though! 🙂

October 18, 2014 / Christian M.

7 Weeks In…

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At grand opening of Henderson-Hopkins School library. Helping to design a mosaic art piece to be put on display. L-R: Me, Holly Thompson (Associate Fellow), Anne Seymour (Welch Library Director)

I’ve been here at Welch Library for seven weeks.  The orientation activities are finished, and now we are delving into the “real work.” I thought I would give a little recap of some of events I have attended, and projects I am starting work on. In addition to contributing to the work at Welch Library, I enjoy having the opportunity to learn more about Johns Hopkins University and the many projects and collaborations that are happening within the University as well as with outside organizations.

Grand Opening of Henderson-Hopkins School Library
My second week here, I attended the grand opening of the library and Early Childhood Center at the Henderson-Hopkins School. Henderson-Hopkins is a K-8 charter school in East Baltimore that is co-operated by Hopkins University and Morgan State University. The school opened last year, and if I remember correctly it is the first public school to be built in East Baltimore in 20 years. The library and childhood center received funding from the Weinberg Foundation. The library is part of Weinberg Foundations ongoing Baltimore Library Project. You can read more about the event, and watch a brief video recap of the grand opening here.

Telling Stories About Science
The goal of this series of events is to help researchers in science and medicine to improve their communication with people outside of their field. Scientists are very good at writing for and communicating with other scientists, but in general they are not trained to communicate with the general public, policymakers, the media, potential funders, etc. There needs to be more training and modeling for how to tell the story of why research is important and deserves funding. The event I attended featured Dr. Bill Nelson, Director of Kimmel Cancer Center and Elizabeth Tracey, Director of Electronic Media at Hopkins Medicine. They reviewed recordings of Dr. Nelson’s past radio and TV interviews, and he provided tips and advice. You can watch a recording here.

Work I’m Involved In

  • Systematic Review Support – The informationists here at Welch participate in a LOT of systematic reviews. I’m very excited to be involved in systematic review support as well. One of the informationists works with the Cochrane Eye and Vision Group here at Hopkins. She creates the search strategies for their reviews. Every review is supposed to be updated every two years. So my first introduction to this process is to assist with updating search strategies for some reviews that need updating. The search strategy I’m working on right now is for “Surgery for Nonarteritic Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy.” I’m going to write a future post about the Cochrane Collaboration and their systematic reviews, because I didn’t know much about them until I came here. I think it’s pretty interesting.
  • Global Health Task Force – I have been invited to participate on a task force of informationists who are preparing to do a needs assessment of Hopkins University to determine what additional services or resources are needed to support the university’s global health programs and activities. In addition to that, I am partnering with one of the informationists to create a new global health LibGuide, and I have been tasked with developing a new class to be offered next year on global health databases and resources.  So I’ll be learning all about global health, the University’s work in this area, and the development of new services and resources to meet user needs.
  • Research support – I sat in on a consultation the other day that an informationist had with one of the staff/researchers here at Hopkins. This researcher is developing training curriculum for medical professionals and hospital staff in a lower/middle income country. She wants her curriculum to be evidence based, and needed some help getting started on a literature search. Hearing about the research topic was fascinating, and watching the process of guiding the researcher through selecting concepts and search words, and building the search strategy was very helpful to me. I’ve done reference interviews in a public library setting, but the questions and topics were always so simple. I feel more confident now, and the informationist said that she would let me know when she has more consults, and even let me take the lead. I guess what made me feel most nervous was not knowing too much about potential research topics. However, most patrons don’t come to us for help with their subject specialty. They need guidance with the actual search itself — forming the research question, identifying main concepts (and synonym terms), creating a search strategy, selecting the appropriate databases, and understanding the differing search syntax for each database. That I can do….although I’m still learning about the different databases.

There are some other projects that I will be involved in at later date, but these are the ones I have gotten started with.

Upcoming Events

  • The Mid-Atlantic Chapter of Medical Library Association Meeting (MAC-MLA) starts today and runs through Tuesday. I will be presenting a poster (my first poster presentation!) on the “User-Centered Approach to Redesigning the NLM Associate Fellowship Program Website”. I will be focusing on the user needs assessment tools and activities I used in the process that can be applied in any library setting. If you’re there, come talk to me (I’m presenting in the morning poster session). If you’re not there, you can follow conference tweets at #macmla2014.
  • I’m really excited that I will be able to attend my first American Public Health Association Conference next month. I’m looking forward to learning more about public health in general and connecting with librarians who work with public health researchers and practitioners. The conference is so huge and has so many events — I’m still trying to decide which ones to attend.
  • Also, I have been invited to be one of the panelists for a presentation on blogging that is sponsored by the DC Chapter of the Special Libraries Association. It will be held in Washington, DC on November 12th, and will be broadcasted over the web as well. There’s a brief event description on the DC/SLA website, I’ll share more details when I have them.

So those are all the updates that I have right now.  This post ended up being much longer than I planned, but I had so much I wanted to share. Until next time…  🙂

September 29, 2014 / Christian M.

Check Out the Storify for “Live and Learn” Twitter Chats!

Last week @SLAhq and @INALJchat co-hosted two sessions of the “Live and Learn” Twitter chat. The chat featured a lively discussion on learning and keeping skills sharp in the library science field. I really enjoyed participating in this conversation and learned some new info on continuing education opportunities. If you missed the chat, here are the links to the Storify stories for both sessions.

It’s been a while since I have actively participated in a Twitter chat. Often I forget about the ones that I do want to follow, or when I do remember, then I end up just lurking. I need to start putting reminders on my calender, and look for specific chat topics that I feel like I have something to contribute to. It’s fine to use chats as a learning activity, but as someone who wants to become involved in the profession beyond my workplace, chats like these provide an opportunity to add my voice to the larger conversation about the many issues swirling around in the librarian profession. It’s a great way to network too.

Both SLA and INALJ also separately host regular Twitter chats. If you want to join in these conversations, follow @SLAhq and @INALJchat for updates.

  • INALJchat hosts #inaljchat on Mondays, 9pm ET.
  • SLAhq will be hosting the next #slatalk on October 28th, 3pm ET.

I also like to participate lurk during the #medlibs chat.  It’s held on Thursdays, 9pm ET.


I’m looking for more Twitter chats. What are your favorite chats to follow?