Monday, June 2, 2008

Cajun sashimi: Freshly (un?)seasoned & ready to roll

I want to begin by thanking T.Scott for the comment he left on my entry about communication and change to let me know that

... the vision he [immediate past Medical Library Association (MLA) president Mark Funk, referral to last post] has for the association is strongly shared by the board of directors and headquarters staff, but it'll take the involvement of people like you to help make it happen. Associations move & change slowly and we all get frustrated with it at times, but the commitment to make the changes we need to make is definitely there.

This is truly heartening to know because to be perfectly honest I have no clear sense of 'What now?' with MLA since our 2008 conference ended. I'm new here; I don't know how much weight the current/elected/immediate past presidency carries, exactly how directors factor into the leadership equation or how they get to be there, and what they stand for as a collective whole. I know the current/elected decide committee members on a national level, and I know who our current president is. However, I wasn't able to hear her inaugural speech and no one else has said anything about it online that I've read. Why is this?

I also have to smile at Mark's response to Gail's question about what "younger" means with

...“seasoning” comes from life experience as well as years in the profession. But by using Web 2.0 tools – opening up participation in the many units of MLA beyond the appointed members – younger and unseasoned members can not only get a quicker grasp of how MLA “works,” they can begin offering us their opinions and ideas more easily and earlier in their careers than before.

I'm not younger; in fact I jumped up a demographic bar right in the middle of all the Chicago festivities and didn't know until it was in my face on a slide during a plenary session the day after my birthday. Talk about a depressing revelation! Life experience, on the other hand, I have in spades as does Gail when she began her medlib career and so do numerous others... just not in this profession which I have only been able to claim a professional part of for a whopping month. Not under 10 or 5 years or even a year, a month. Get me started on human resources, hospital systems, PHI, HIPAA, EMRs and a variety of other issues that are directly relevant to our field, though, and you'll never get me to shut up.

What am I? When in doubt I turn to fusion cuisine, so an image of Cajun sashimi came to mind: a blend of cultures leading to a strongly seasoned life with the freshest of unseasoned careers. It works, I'm already a fusion of Texan education with a West coast life to be an Eagle Dawg, right?

With this in mind I read comments like Michelle's on The Krafty Librarian's blog of

I didn't have a chance to go to the New Member Breakfast, but did attended the New Member SIG meeting and was surprised to find only a handful of people!

I've confessed this in several venues already but will here as well. I was a student member of MLA since fall 2006 through graduation just 5 months ago, and until the New Member Breakfast on May 18th this year I had no clue what the difference was between a Section and a Special Interest Group (SIG), nor did I think students were welcome to either. This impression is from someone who received a full-ride health informatics fellowship and was always in touch with a number of incredibly helpful people filling me in on all sorts of information about the field.

Why? Do you see any explanation, let alone mention, of what sections or SIGs are on the MLA page for students where we are encouraged to connect, ask questions and learn about the field? They are only mentioned in passing as an opportunity on the page to sign up as a student member. This does not convey sincere openness for genuine involvement but an afterthought, and it's one that has stayed with me as I've made the transition from student to professional this year. Could this help explain why so few people were at the New Member SIG meeting?

First impressions are lasting, and if the website is going to be one of our recruiting tools to point to as an information resource we seriously need to work on MLA's. I want to help and even now... I don't know how. MLANET's Editorial Board information is current to 2006/07.

What now?


Alison said...

I think you've hit upon a program idea: a panel presentation by medical librarians who came to the profession from other fields. You/They could talk about your previous careers inform how you think about and practice librarianship. If not a panel presentation, at least a blog post or two :)

Your work and life experience will prove relevant in ways you probably aren't even expecting. This is silly, but at MLA I kept thinking back to what I learned in 4-H as a kid... public speaking, interviewing, parliamentary procedure, project management, poster making... I'm not sewing dresses or raising cattle anymore, but I guess I did learn a thing or two about how to be a librarian.

The Eagle Dawg said...

Thanks for the input Alison, and I love your program panel (best practices/resources wiki maybe?) idea. Career slates shouldn't be wiped clean with an MLS/first librarian job.

The parallel to 4-H & other community youth organizations is a good one too, shows the continued need for them in today's society for tomorrow's leadership. I'm in awe of anyone who can sew a dress, combining that with raising livestock blows my suburban mind away :)