Saturday, March 29, 2008

Conference Notes: WMLA '08 (aka yay!)

Yesterday I attended the Washington Medical Librarians Association (WMLA, which is pronounced 'wim-lah' or 'w-m-l-a' depending who you ask) meeting on the beautiful and snowy (?!) Bastyr campus. WMLA '07 was the first time I went to the meeting as a second semester graduate student, and during it I received the news that I would graduate at the end of the year (yay!) This year as a new graduate I actually understood everything, and celebrated the news of accepting my first librarian job (yay!)

After our business meeting and updates from our Regional Medical Library (RML), we learned more from Will Stuivenga (who also went to North Texas, yay!) at the Washington State Library about the upcoming April launch of Wayfinder, a multilingual online library catalog project providing a single search entry covering an initial 250 libraries ranging from public to tribal in our state. It is a partnership between several state library associations and the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), with funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS, who also funded my degree... yay!) Wayfinder has options to filter search results, such as state region and type of library, and the ability to click directly to search results on individual online library catalogs for users to request a book. When users navigate to other websites, the top bar retains a button to return to Wayfinder with its logo, which was well-designed to reflect our region and the catalog's purpose. It will be interesting to see how well this is marketed & received by the community, I look forward to posting a link to Wayfinder when it's public.

Will was also kind enough to supply our meeting swag: cool WebJunction pens and orange rubber bracelets with Dream. Learn. Achieve. LIBRARIES promoting :)

Ann Whitney & Sherrilynne Fuller from UW Health Sciences Libraries presented an update on HEAL-WA, an online portal to evidence-based medicine (EBM) databases for most licensed medical professionals practicing in the state of Washington & the librarians who assist them. HEAL-WA is one of several directives of the Washington State Senate Bill 5930 that passed in 2007, and the portal is currently in very early stages of development with an expected launch in 2009. This is an excellent opportunity to remove barriers to often costly EBM databases funded by a small addition to current licensing fees that is far less than the cost of most monographs in the medical field. Additional updates regarding HEAL-WA's development will be posted in a category of Dragonfly, our RML blog.

Fran Clark from Highline Community College presented an update on the recently revised Library & Information Services (L&IS) program the library there now directs. With a focus on paraprofessional library careers, Highline offers both face-to-face and online classes for programs ranging from an Associates of Applied Sciences (AAS) to K-12 certification taught by library staff who are currently doing what they teach (i.e. the cataloger teaches cataloging, and for the Spring quarter an RML employee will teach the Medical Reference class). Highline welcomes the opportunity to place L&IS interns in libraries, and Fran mentioned she's creating a list of those open to doing so. I need to connect with her as there is a similar project for the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Medical Library Association (PNC/MLA) I'm working on so we can share resources!

I'm a huge fan of WMLA meetings at Bastyr because of their fantastic vegetarian buffet at the cafeteria, and the cream of asparagus soup with spanakopita for lunch was perfect for our cold, snowy day (yay!) There was also gluten-free gingerbread with some yummy topping for dessert that tasted 'normal' to me and quite delicious. I was bummed out that their bookstore was out of stock on their cookbook and their online recipes don't include it :(

We all kept staring out the window at the snowfall, which was beginning to accumulate by lunchtime, and a decision was made to continue the meeting but cut it a little short. Those traveling back home to Eastern WA left early and I hope they arrived safely since Snoqualmie Pass was closed for a while due to a nasty accident later in the afternoon.

David Masuda, MD and instructor for the UW School of Public Health, gave an informative presentation on Clinical Informatics: The Genie in the Bottle. My program of study was Health Informatics and I still can't give a crystal clear definition of it; I was glad to see he couldn't either. He highlighted the 5 core information issues for clinicians; being patient-specific, a medical knowledgebase, awareness of social influences, logistics (insurance & related) information, and population information. He then nested the physician-patient relationship within a sphere of 5 influencing factors of electronic medical records (EMRs) including 1st degree delivery organizations such as hospitals, 2nd degree delivery organizations such as pharmacies, others such as employers and the community, measurement organizations such as the Joint Commission and CNS, and the "new kids" such as Cerner, Google & Microsoft. Value in the medical field is traditionally seen as an equation of quality over cost; the US cost for healthcare is currently at $1.7 trillion yet we are 30th in quality. Ouch. An unspoken factor in this equation is access, as currently 47 million people in the US are without health insurance including 20% of the population of California. What can we as medical information professionals do to help in all this? His suggestions included working with CE committees, creating sets of articles to respond to issues involving medical errors and difficult cases, and provide information support directly to the hospital administration staff in support of evidence-based clinical care.

Joseph Janes, Associate Professor at the UW iSchool and founding director of the Internet Public Library, presented What To Think About When We Think About Reference. In today's setting, there is more information coming to more people in more ways than ever before. Reference services can be provided in both synchronous and asynchronous methods, but the most important tasks for us as librarians is to determine the appropriate ways for our particular set(s) of users and to make certain they are aware it's a single, value-added service for them. Entry points for reference are up to the user (i.e. face-to-face, phone call, instant message) but it is up to us as the librarian to determine the appropriate exit/conclusion. His perspective is that libraries contain the secret weapon of print resources, but notes these will be a decreasing importance in the long run as more information becomes digital. It is worth the effort for libraries and librarians to learn, play, succeed, fail, share, lead and innovate. Libraries are not just stuff, help & place but also values and interaction, and our users are everyone.

A suggestion he had is to go to bloggers and post relevant input regarding their subject specialties (more on my perspective regarding this in a future post!) and that this is usually received well. As we learned in library school, it is important to do a good reference interview but know you will probably do a few lousy ones the first few times you try a new medium (i.e. instant message).

An example of outreach to online communities includes two new YouTube videos called Research Minutes that Cornell developed to give a brief introduction to scholarly articles and substantive news articles for their undergrad students below:

He closed with a reminder that librarians make humanity more human, and our task is to organize and keep the human record. We need to be central to the information lives of communities, wherever those communities may be, and in an extended notional of library and librarianship we actually have to be better online than we are in person. Social protocols (usually!) guide traditional reference interaction on the phone and face-to-face, but they do not exist on the internet and users can click wherever they choose for information.

Overall this was a very informative and relevant meeting, and it was great to connect again with colleagues to share that I managed to graduate in December and have a new job on the horizon. I'll keep an eye out at MLA '08 in Chicago soon and hopefully be able to find them in the masses there!