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The Importance of Flexibility

Posted by on December 8th, 2016 Posted in: News from Network Members

This is a guest post from Kathryn Kane, Health Sciences Outreach Librarian. It originally appeared in her blog, Adventures in Library Land: My Travels Through the World of Professional Librarianship. We welcome guest posts in Dragonfly. Please contact Patricia Devine if interested.

My position as a Health Sciences Outreach Librarian is entirely new, so I am able to design my work approach as I go along. I love that freedom, but as I’ve said before, it can also be challenging because I am essentially making things up as I go along. Sometimes my initial approach is successful, and sometimes it misses the mark. Over the last few months, I have been working on ways to increase awareness of health information resources among rural healthcare professionals in my region. The original aim was to meet with healthcare professionals in person and guide them through an interactive workshop, and supplement that contact with online resources.

I am now finding that the opposite approach may be more successful.

Healthcare professionals are busy. This is hardly a surprise to anyone familiar with this particular population. This makes it hard to find a convenient time for an hour-long workshop. And this problem is compounded because I am targeting rural healthcare professionals. This subset of healthcare professionals are more widely dispersed than their urban counterparts. So it becomes even harder to gather this group of people in one place.

I read hints of this in the literature, and I have experienced it myself. I spent weeks planning a series of workshops in the bigger cities in my region of focus, sending out posters and emails, and contacting people at the main hospitals. There was interest in the content, but few were interested enough to spend an hour in a workshop at the end of the day. I ended up cancelling the workshops.

This was hugely disappointing. I wanted to follow my grant proposal to the letter, but the reality of the situation is that doing so may result in a failure to reach the outlined objectives.The important thing to remember is the purpose of my position, which is to increase awareness of the health information resources available to rural healthcare practitioners. How that ends up taking shape is less important than actually accomplishing the objective.

I need to be willing to look honestly at my approach and evaluate what is working and what is not. I am still hopeful because people are telling me that this is information they want to learn, and an interested target audience is half the battle. My new strategy will be to hold online webinars and to create an online self-study module that healthcare professionals can access on their own time. I plan to supplement that virtual contact with site visits to hospitals during staff meetings, when people are already gathered in one place.

I am optimistic about this new approach. I have the rest of December to work out the details, and come January, I will be ready to start again!


Image of the author ABOUT Patricia Devine
Medical Librarian, Network Outreach Coordinator, NN/LM, PNR. I work for a network of libraries and organizations with an interest in health information.

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Commenting (2)

Thoughts on "The Importance of Flexibility"

Avatar Kathy Muray says:

Hi Kathryn,
I have also faced your dilemma. The folks here at the Alaska Medical Library are charged with providing hospital library services throughout Alaska. We are fortunate to also have funding the the NN/LM PNR to travel to remote/rural hospitals and clinics to update/teach/provide workshops. Lunch sessions with food (the hospital provides the food) have the best chance of success. But even that can be hit or miss.

I’ve found that having a guide who walks you through the facility so you can visit the different nursing units and hospital departments can be a way to meet and greet and leave clinicians with packets that include handouts on the various products and services they have access to.

We have also just made our first attempt at using Guides on the Side – to create interactive tutorials. We worked with the Montana Nurses Association and a local nurse to get CEUs for folks completing these interactive tutorials.

Good luck!

Avatar Michele Spatz says:

Hi Kathryn,
I think your experience is one that is somewhat universal among health sciences librarians. Your anguish is palpable and I think that is because we librarians are so deeply committed to our work. I appreciate your candid sharing of your experience working with rural healthcare practitioners. Having done so myself for many years, I understand the complexity of outreach to them. I also appreciate your resilience and like the revised approach you’ve developed. That is something else about we librarians – we are resilient. I hope that you find more traction with your promising new approach.

I, too, am working under an NNLM/PNR subaward (Knowledge is Health: Interprofessional Partnerships to Promote Health Literacy) and have had a similar experience in that the original scope of work has morphed and changed as I have come to know the faculty and healthcare providers at my primary institution. I have definitely exercised flexibility within my scope of work to meet both the objectives of the grant to provide meaningful library/librarian support to the College of Health Profession’s Interprofessional Education endeavors with an emphasis on health literacy as well as address health literacy needs of patients in rural and other underserved populations. Sometimes it feels a bit like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, but even so, it’s an exhilarating time to be a librarian.

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