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What I Learned: MLA 2014, Chicago

Posted by on July 2nd, 2014 Posted in: All Posts

Written by: PJ Grier, Outreach/Access Coordinator

Contact PJ at:

Yearly, the MLA Annual Conference exists in a compressed timeframe for like-minded librarians to gather and to express their intellect, creativity, research and cutting-edge activities. Sadly, there is never enough time to attend all the desired sessions, papers, posters, SIGs (Special Interest Groups) and business meetings. On the bright side, it is always a pleasure to meet new people and to catch-up with friends and professional acquaintances.

This year I was privileged to teach a well-attended CE – Breaking an Electronic Health Record System: a sandbox workshop at Northwest University’s Galter Health Sciences Library. The class examined roles for hospital librarians to operationally engage themselves with an institutional electronic health record (EHR) system, while simultaneously having the opportunity to “test-drive” a popular EHR system in a computer lab environment.

After teaching the morning CE class, I attended The Patient Experience and Engagement: Improving Patient-Centered Care One Person at a Time, a symposium in which fellow SE/A colleague, Terri Ottosen, was planning committee co-chair. It was interesting listening to each panelist take a different approach to patient engagement. Ruti Volk’s (University of Michigan Health System) presentation was about the need to design and present patient education print materials in a culturally aware and understandable manner. Judy Stribling’s (Weill-Cornell Medical College) talk was on continuing outreach efforts at the Myra Mahon Patient Resource Center. T. Scott Plutchak’s (University of Alabama – Birmingham, Lister Hill Library) perspective recounted his recent personal journey through the healthcare system as a patient with a complex condition. Each speaker’s presentation is located on the Symposium’s LibGuide.

On Tuesday afternoon, poster displays drew my attention. Susan LaValley, a University of Buffalo PhD student and I co-produced a poster on Information-seeking and End of Life Decision-making: future directions for medical librarian involvement. It compared the research results of a national 2007 hospice care study with that of selected MedlinePlus multi-year counts of page views including advanced directives, end-of-life issues and hospice care.

The DOCLINE Update given at its Users’ Group Meeting is now available to view at the DOCLINE presentations page.  One highlight of the presentation by Maria Collins from the National Library of Medicine included soon to be released information on new functionality for serial embargos. DOCLINE continues to be part of the National Library of Medicine’s strategic plan exploring the future of resource sharing.  Also available are all the NLM Theater presentation recordings, hot topics include the Affordable Care Act, MyNCBI, and MedlinePlus.

Joining a SIG or Section are two additional ways of enjoying the benefits of MLA. Personally, I’ve been a member of the Medical Informatics Section for several years. A special shout-out to Emily Hurst, NN/LM South Central Region, for organizing a great program entitled “Information Building Blocks: Open Data Initiatives and Trends.” Moderated by Margaret Henderson (VCU), Kevin Read spoke about interesting work on the progress of two data catalogs and the conceptual intricacies involved in development. Megan Laurance, Jackie Wirz, and Deborah Charbonneau contributed other interesting aspects of open data initiatives. One not so surprising outcome from this program was that academic research libraries involved with open data issues are hiring professionals, with or without the MLS degree, who have credible scientific data management and curating experiences in their backgrounds.

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