This past week was the Florida Library Association‘s annual meeting in Orlando. This meeting for state librarians has the distinction of being the meeting that I have attended every year since I first entered library school. It is a chance to catch up with (now former) classmates and be inspired by ideas from other libraries of all shapes and sizes. The first year I was blown away by the opening presentation from R. David Lankes and every year I have enjoyed hearing from the likes of Chad Mairn on new technology trends affecting the field. It was at FLA that I first discovered that the best way to get to know other people in the field is through volunteering and getting involved. This discovery has lead to my new role as chair for the Leadership Development Committee for the upcoming year, as well as quite a few job opportunities and other connections.
But the most interesting part of this year’s conference for me was taking part in the poster presentation. The process – from participating in the Health Info-to-Go literacy project last year to writing up the abstract and creating the actual poster – has been such a learning experience for me that I thought I should capture it here.
Along the way I learned that:
- It is harder than it looks to distill a complex project into a simple presentation. I must have spent weeks cutting, combining, and rethinking in my attempts to find the best way to tell the story of how our library did the project and what we learned, without overwhelming the viewer with too much detail.
- A picture that looks fine on your computer screen can get mighty blurry at 4′x6‘. An addendum to this is to remember to take lots of pictures (AT HIGH RESOLUTION) throughout your project.
- The more eyes you can get to review your poster, the better. My colleagues at the library were very gracious with their time, carefully reviewing the many iterations, and offering advice.
- The learning continues right through to the presentation. While a paper or conference presentation may be more prestigious on the resume, I really enjoyed talking with the people who stopped by and learning from them. Because FLA is a mix of librarians from all types of libraries, I got new perspectives on the project, such as tying the program in with eGov in order to appeal to the limited time of public librarians.
It was a great experience and one I highly recommend to anyone who has the opportunity.
My First Poster
I don’t want to admit here just *how* long it’s been since I took a biology class but suffice it to say that, immersed as I now am in my Human Physiology class, I can tell in excruciating detail. The class is Introduction to Human Physiology, taught by instructors from Duke, and offered through Coursera. (Let me just add here that I LOVE Coursera. I daily expect it to disappear as I do not understand how they are making it pay; but I am taking full advantage while it lasts!)
I chose to take the physiology class because I am a geek when it comes to things medical and I thought it would be interesting to see how online instruction works for a class in the sciences. The format is primarily videos of lectures with problem sets and some recommended reading. There will be a total of three exams and an average score of at least 70% is required to pass the course. While the format is nothing special (I was a little disappointed about this), I do find that I prefer the video lectures that allow me to rewind, look up definitions and processes, and add illustrations and pictures to my notes (see sample below).
I also enjoy knowing that I am part of a very large movement. For this class, for example, there are 66k+ people signed up for the course, of whom roughly 33k are active (as in taking part in discussions & exams). In addition to the course website, there is also a Facebook group where impossible questions are discussed. Every time I am amazed that I am taking this class with people from all over the globe (see Google map below)! It is just so cool!
I’ve been able to keep my head above water on the exams but regardless of how well I do, the class has been amazingly helpful for medical reference. I have a much better grasp of how the body works and why certain therapies work the way they do. So when someone comes to the desk with a reference question, I find that I spend less time getting background information and more time on the meat of the question.
As predicted, the full class load has me scrambling to keep up and, as always, the blog is the first to go. This is also influenced, I suspect, by my struggles to identify why it is that I blog and to find my “voice” here. For the most part, I blog for the same reason that I journal: I enjoy the process of searching for deeper meaning in the countless minutiae of everyday life. Blogging has the added benefit of holding me to a higher standard. I doubt many (anyone?) actually reads my posts but on the off-chance that someone might someday glance this way, I edit out some of the more whiny jots that seem to fill my private journals. I *should* apply this principle to my journal as well – after all, think of the thousands who might read those once I am famous – but they have a distinct tendency to devolve quite quickly into the same old ruts.
The most exciting things I have to report are:
- I passed my first exam in the Coursera Intro to Human Physiology course I am taking (88%! Pretty good for someone who last took Biology well over a decade ago).
- My internship is broadening into working with the College of Pharmacy, something I am quite excited about. More on this later but in the meantime, I’ve been immersing myself in all things pharmacy and evidence based medicine (EBM), as well as beginning to meet with the people I will (fingers crossed!) be working with in the coming year.
- I began a class on EBM last night here on campus. It is one that is being offered to residents so I did feel a little out of my league at first. The instructors however were great, even introducing me and the other librarian present as the “rock stars” of EBM.
I do wish that I had more time to sit down and process things a wee bit more but I am enjoying this medical librarianship life immensely. Despite the worry and sleepless nights involved in making the switch from the more lucrative career in marketing to this, I cannot say I have ever once regretted it. It is true what they say about loving your work – it changes your whole perspective on life in amazing ways.
I am learning so many new things and I think at least once or twice a week “THIS would make a great blog topic.” I will try to do a better job at keeping this updated more frequently!
Our first class of PubMed for Trainers took place this morning. While much of the material was a review so far, I think that the class will be useful.
Here’s what I learned today:
- DON’T use punctuation or Boolean operators – This one really knocked my socks off. I know that you are supposed to investigate each and every database but so many use Boolean operators or quotations to search for a word string, that I honestly never thought to check if PubMed did.
- Start with the most specific MeSH heading – This was just more of a reminder that it’s usually best to start narrow and expand if needed. Starting broad means you are more likely to miss something relevant.
- PubMed is pretty smart – For example, when I search for <AIDS drugs breast feeding>, not only do I get articles with those specific words in them, it also searches for the MeSH terms: “anti-hiv agents” and even “anti-hiv agents” [Pharmacological Action].
The class itself has about 30 participants and for an online forum, the instructors did a pretty good job of making sure everyone understood how to use the features in advance and warned them multiple times to mute their phones when not talking. There was also some group work and even a pop quiz to make sure we were all getting it. Perhaps a leeeetle more lecture than necessary but at least they did make the effort to be interactive. Considering the diversity of the participants and the complexity of the material, the class is just about right.
I think I’ve been missing the glorious stress of being in school. I just realized that I have signed up for three classes in the last month or so, two of which overlap almost entirely. They are online or blended (just one all-day session for one of them) but still, it may be challenging to carry the equivalent of a full load of coursework. Or maybe not.
My first class begins tomorrow. A month of “PubMed for Trainers” put on by the National Library of Medicine. This course should be useful, both in bringing to light areas where my knowledge of PubMed is sketchy as well as to know what things to focus on for beginners. The biggest risk I think I run at the reference desk/in classes is forgetting that it is hard to absorb information when first introduced to a subject, as many of the patrons here are when it comes to PubMed. Most use the general search bar in a similar manner to Google search. Luckily, recent changes to PubMed make this a fairly viable solution for general searching.
Once we hit February the real fun begins. I am signed up for a Coursera course taught by Johns Hopkins professors on Human Physiology. It is touted as a refresher for people prior to taking the MCATs or as information for the merely curious. My goal for this class is to become more familiar with the terms and concepts used in medicine in hopes of becoming a better librarian and better searcher. My biggest concern is textbooks. As with all medical textbooks, the recommended one runs over $200 new and even the rental Kindle option will be around $60. We do not have that particular text in the library although we do, of course, have physiology texts that would likely serve just as well. My finances will force me to wait on this decision anyway. In the meantime, I did pick up the recommended coloring book (!) for free using some credit card points. Yay!
Finally, I am also taking a consumer health literacy course offered by the Southeastern/Atlantic Region of NN/LM. They are offering a whole series of free online courses on consumer health literacy topics. I am taking one entitled “Prescription for Success: Consumer Health on the Web“. I wish I could think of more ways to put this into practice. Aside from the few non-medical patrons who wander into the library from time to time, now that the consumer health literacy grant is completed, I have missed working with general health consumers. In the meantime, perhaps this will give me some ideas for other venues. Maybe the local public library?
So this spring is shaping up to be a busy one! Tomorrow begins the first session of the PubMed class and it is already off to a great start with some pre-testing as well as goal and reflection activities required. I do love being in school!
There is something so inspiring about the beginning of a new year. I think that’s why we all begin each one full of new goals and dreams. It is like a blank journal to me – I may not be able to think of anything to write, but just the prospect of filling up those pages and the new, crisp pages are so enticing.
I apologize for the long gap in writing here. Now that school is over, I cannot even claim reading and paper writing as my excuse (although I probably wrote more than any other time: procrastination is such a great motivator!) I have been staying busy nonetheless. The health sciences library where I work has graciously extended both my hours and everyone has been very generous with their time and advice as I begin the journey of becoming a bona fide medical librarian. Just before the break, I received notification that I am officially a member of the Academy of Health Information Professionals. Not only is this an achievement but it also entails a commitment to self-education and professional development. Part of my plan for self-development is to publish on this blog on a regular basis regarding issues in medical librarianship and librarianship in general. I am very excited to see where this leads. First item is a class from NIH on PubMed for Trainers this month – 3 online classes and then one all-day class in Orlando – so I will be reporting on that soon.
Porch Rocking Chair
It’s interesting that creating a pleasing and balanced composition has more to do with negative spaces than positive ones. It seems as though there should be a life lesson there, doesn’t it?
The biggest struggle – AGAIN – was going against my hard-coded instincts to draw the chair, not the spaces. Once you get that turned on, those negative spaces pop out everywhere. I keep finding myself staring at interesting compositions while I’m out and about, wishing I could sit down and draw everywhere.
The zen of details
Another curious side effect of these exercises and this book is that I enjoy tactile, mechanical tasks more. Chopping vegetables has become a form of meditation for me, a task that I formerly rushed through, leaving an odd assortment of chunks and bits.