Midwest-MLA 2013 Conference Highlights

Midwest MLA Logo from http://midwestmla.org/index.html

Midwest MLA Logo from http://midwestmla.org/index.html

This past weekend, I attended my first medical library conference with my fellow blogger and colleague, Caitlin Kelley.  We were both recipients of the Midwest-MLA Student Grant Award which covered our conference registration and provided a generous stipend for travel and lodging fees.  An important message to students interested in pursuing positions in Health Sciences librarianship: membership in Midwest-MLA is FREE so I encourage you to join.

Medical Library, Public Domain Mark 1.0

Medical Library, Public Domain Mark 1.0

This year’s Midwest-Medical Library Association conference was held in East Peoria, IL (world headquarters of Caterpillar and home to Bradley University ) and was attended by participants from all nine states in the region.  Many representatives from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine Greater Midwest Region (NN/LM GMR) were present and highlighted recent outreach projects, including Taubman Health Sciences Library Systematic Review workshop.  My mentor during the conference was the wonderful Karen Hanus, Assistant Director of the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Libraries.  We toured the vendor fair together and she shared her path to medical librarianship; however, her most important contribution to my education this weekend was helping me understand the difference between Midwest-MLA and NN/LM GMR.  Here’s the deal: The Medical Library Association and subsequent regions are populated by individual librarians.  NN/LM is nested within the National Library of Medicine and members in these regional organizations are library institutions.  It’s a people versus place-based membership.

The keynote speaker was Michelle Kraft, Senior Medical Librarian at the Cleveland Clinic Alumni Library and author of the KraftyLibrarian.com Blog.  Her talk focused on the ways in which technology changes our world, particularly as librarians, and encouraged libraries to evolve with society or face possible extinction.  Technologies, such as apps for mobile devices, should be considered opportunities rather than as disruptive, “the technology is here, we should go for the opportunities to use them”.  Bibliotech in Bexar County Texas is a prime example of embracing the opportunities of technology: it is a completely digital library with 10,000 titles.

Sarah Houghton, Director of the San Rafael Public Library and author of librarianinblack.net, shared her ideas about the future of digital libraries.  Libraries are currently facing fatigue from being inundated with new and evolving technologies and recent memories of bad technology adoptions.  However, we should have a bit more breathing room as technological changes and innovation have slowed a bit.    However, it is still always important to be in the know regarding trends to watch and services desired by library users.  She encouraged libraries of all sizes and user populations to take simple steps in developing strategic plans: Go to a local spot which has a high concentration of users and ask

What would make your life easier?

Libraries democratize information and expertise and we need to make sure that we are helping our users find and understand the information they seek.

I thought it was great that both speakers are prominent bloggers in the library arena and hope that the continued publication of the THL Blog leads to further dialogue between professionals and colleagues.

Think about attending MLA-Midwest next year when the conference is held in Bismarck, North Dakota October 10-14, 2014.

Midwest-MLA 2014 Conference in North Dakota, by Michelle Bass, CC By 3.0

Midwest-MLA 2014 Conference in North Dakota, by Michelle Bass, CC By 3.0

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