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Oh, the work I could do on a day without email.

Posted by on July 22nd, 2019 Posted in: Blog
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The story behind the NNLM/NER & MCPHS University Instruction Retreat for Health Sciences Librarians 

by Shanti Freundlich

Inevitably I leave professional development events with brilliant new ideas. Hand-scribbled notes, a new understanding of learning theory, worksheets, new active learning techniques to try, meaningful quotes, starred tweets, and/or new articles and books to read. The next day I go into my office and I put those new-to-me brilliant ideas onto my (literally) pile of brilliant ideas on the back corner of my desk. Then, I swivel around and begin triaging the questions that came in while I was out, and working through the absolutely necessary, everyday tasks of librarianship.

My pile of new-to-me brilliant ideas stays just out of reach.

This spring, I came back from ACRL 2019 and realized I didn’t need another professional development opportunity to learn; I needed time and space to start using my pile of new-to-me brilliant ideas. I needed permission to not answer my email for a day, to instead focus on my list of “important projects that I’m excited about, but since they don’t technically have deadlines, they’ll have to wait until later.”

I realized I also wanted the empowering connections and community of librarian gatherings like The Library Collective. I wanted to work near those amazing folks I only see a few times a year and be encouraged to bounce ideas around and get excited about our projects together.

That’s where the idea of a retreat emerged. Dedicated time to work on instruction-related projects is really hard to find in a regular workday, so this is that time.

. The day is organized around the following principles:

  • Having goals helps us get more out of whatever we’re doing.
    We’ll start with some quick goal-setting for the day.
  • Breaks are important.
    There will be breaks scheduled throughout the day for everyone to pause and look up from their work for a few minutes.
  • Variety is good for the brain.
    The day is divided into four blocks to encourage you to switch between projects and stumble upon connections.
  • Use the resources.
    Talk to your colleagues and explore the literature: know that you’ve got people and you don’t have to create a new wheel rubric alone.
  • Practice is key.
    The first time you use new classroom activity is when you really learn if your brilliant idea is going to work. So we have a classroom booked for folks to try out new learning activities on fellow librarians and figure out what’s working.
  • Sometimes choices are overwhelming.
    We’ll have a list of project suggestions and questions to help focus your brilliant ideas. We’ll also have articles and books (suggested by you!) in case you just want to catch up on some IL-focused reading for a little while.


My hope for the day is that everyone will bring their pile of new-to-you brilliant ideas and their list of “important projects that I’m excited about, but since they don’t technically have deadlines, they’ll have to wait until later” and that by being in a different place, surrounded by encouraging colleagues we’ll individually and collectively turn some brilliant ideas into meaningful practice.

About the NNLM/NER & MCPHS University Instruction Retreat for Health Sciences Librarians

  • Date: Tuesday, July 23rd 2019
  • Time: 9am – 4:45pm
  • Location: 6th Floor Griffin Building, 670 Huntington Ave, MCPHS University, Boston MA 02115
  • Transportation: Accessible by public transportation (MBTA “E” Green Line or 39 bus)
  • Cost: This retreat is funded by an NNLM/NER grant.

To register: https://forms.gle/dbg6fDMPL7bzNQGT8

Please note, there are a limited number of spaces available.

Got questions? Please contact Shanti Freundlich: shanti.freundlich@mcphs.edu or 617-735-1088.


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NNLM Region 7
University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School
55 Lake Avenue North
Worcester, MA 01655
(508) 856-5985

This has been funded in whole or in part with Federal funds from the Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012347 with the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School.

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