Reflections From the 2013 Medical Library Association Conference (Hello Boston!)


Last week yours truly, Alonzo, was invited to attend the Medical Library Association as a 1st time guest blogger. ‘Twas very nice of the MLA to select me, so I tried to “wear the crown” as best I could.  Though of course I took in a few sessions not related to Welch, I also managed to attend several presentations and talks given by our Welch Informationists.

Carrie Price, first time presenter, spoke about “Virtual Office hours at the Welch Medical Library,” and was spot-on in the short time allotted. Carrie’s talk was in the “lightning round,” so 10-15 minutes was about the limit. Carrie explained how we’ve tried to create an easier protocol for patrons to reach Informationists, and from any of the Informationist Webpages you can clearly see when an Informationist is online or off.


I wandered into the vast expanse of the poster hall exhibit, and found two shining beacons of light----Donna Hesson (below, left) and Lori Rosman (right). The theme for their poster was “Distance Education: How a School of Public Health Informationist Program Responds”.


 Though there were many posters on display, how could anyone not notice our saavy duo dispensing public health knowledge. Along with Donna and Lori, the poster was also created with the combined efforts of Peggy Gross, Poshen Wang, Claire Twose and Steven Katzen. Trust me, the poster exhibit hall was a-buzz with other posters and poster creators, I just happened to catch these two during a quiet moment.


Jaime Blanck (above) presented “The Library Without Walls: How We moved Out of the Welch Library Building and Continued to Improve Our Services.” Jaime provided a very thorough timeline for all the recent Welch transitions, and illustrated how our website serves as an access-point to a veritable paradise of resources and social media updates. Since her presentation was listed in the “Informal Meetings” category, Jaime had a full hour to detail some of the geographical challenges relative to Welch. As an example: from a student perspective the Armstrong Bldg. is a VERY alluring study spot---big, new, comfy and cozy---it could well alleviate the need for students to travel all the way across campus. Jaime also highlighted the social media interactions (blog, facebook, latest news, youtube channel) which dispense library service updates and announcements. During the course of my MLA time, I realized that not every library has these initiatives in place. The challenges many libraries have with connecting and engaging with their audience is indeed a formidable undertaking. As with Hopkins, there are many “information choices” for patrons to choose, and frequently vital messages get lost in the cybersphere.

Victoria Goode (many apologies for not having a picture of my Podcast co-host!) gave us “Measuring Value: A Survey for Assessing Our Impact.” The survey was devoted to analyzing the impact of the Welch Library, and was based on 22 questions, with a rating scale of 12 items. The value of Informationists and the value of library service were several of the main items that were evaluated. Some results from the survey included a more streamlined access issue reporting structure, along with improving remote access to resources. Patrons also commented quite favorably about their experience with Informationists. Also, as a result of the survey, Welch has enhanced our webpage to focus on under-publicized (and under-utilized) services along with developing monthly Podcasts with the goal of broadening our presence.

Victoria “held court” quite nicely and you could see, as with the “Library Without Walls” session, that many in the audience were still processing the changes Welch has undergone. However, just as clearly you could see the developments Welch has put into motion were perhaps in the not-too-distant future for their own situations “back home”. Ultimately, the results from the survey highlighted Welch providing more user outlets that reflect what the Library has to offer.

My apologies (again!) for missing Blair Anton, Welch Clinical Informationist, who moderated “Emerging Roles for Health Librarians and Finding New Information in Novel Places”. I really wanted to be there, but if I was perfect I wouldn’t be me. And even MORE apologies (STILL!!) to Claire Twose who presented "Informationist support for 8 week systematic review and meta-analysis". I missed this also. Why'd you schedule yourself to be 2 places at the same time, Alonzo?      

I don’t think a trip to Boston, especially at this time, would be complete without a mention of the Marathon Memorials that were on display on Boylston Street.


It’s one of those places that, even though you may have seen it on the news, is even more powerful in-person. The variety of tributes, momentoes, flowers, caps and t-shirts that people contributed are a sight to behold.


All the visitors who drop-in on a daily basis make the Memorials seem to come alive. As if there’s an ongoing event that’s still waiting for everyone to witness. I mentioned in an MLA blog post that I didn’t have words for it. It’s over a week later and I still don’t.

If you’d like to get more of the MLA “Flava,” scroll through some of the official posts, I’m in there (click “older posts”and just keep going), and you’ll get an idea of the shared spirit the event brought together.


Alonzo LaMont

Bookmark and Share