Monday, November 2, 2020

Professional Development Award Report: MLA 2020

 From Jennifer Schram, Mayo Clinic Libraries


I received a Professional Development Award for 2020 and had planned on using it to attend MLA 2020 in May in Portland, OR.  Registration and airfare had been paid when things changed because this is 2020 and a pandemic hit.  MLA moved the in-person meeting to August but realized over the summer that an in-person meeting was not going to be possible this year.  MLA and the National Planning Committee quickly switched gears and developed a virtual conference for the meeting in August.   My registration for the in-person conference was exchanged for the vConference and CE Passport.

The conference actually opened in July with the opening session and some different social events over the next few weeks.  Paper and paper presentations were pre-recorded and available on demand.  In the middle of August, the live sessions of the conference were held.  These sessions included the vendor sessions and virtual exhibit hall, Q&A sessions for paper presentations, the different plenary speakers, and immersion sessions.   I am still going through different sessions and catching up on the many things I missed.   A common problem with the vConference is that attendees (myself included), did not block off time for the sessions and attempted to work while attending.  Next year, I will definitely plan to block off more time for the sessions. 

The Janet Doe Lecture this year was by Chris Shaffer entitled “The Move to Open: Medical Library Leadership in Scholarly Communication.”  This talk started with an overview of the history of medical librarianship, ILL, MLA and open access.  A common problem over the years has been access to information and rising costs.  In 2008, the NIH mandate increased open access and open science is the next step beyond open access.  Open science is the movement to make science research and data accessible for all according to UNESCO.  The Foster taxonomy can be found here.

Immersion Sessions

I really have enjoyed Immersion sessions the past few years and made sure to attend several of those this year.  One I attended was “Context is Everything: Answering the Clinical Question for Nursing, Culture and Research.”  This would have been a great session for a librarian who was newer to medical librarianship.  They gave an overview of Evidence-Based Practice and how to frame a question into the PICO(T) (Population/Patients, Intervention/Therapy, Comparison, Outcome, and Time/Duration) format.  They showed the Evidence Pyramid and worked through different scenarios with typical search questions one might see.  Some tips for point of care searching were: to listen to the end to fully hear the questions, don’t be afraid to ask more questions to clarify, might think about a quick answer right away followed up by more papers later, and to learn how to use your favorite tools well.  When working with EBP the following were suggestions for questions.   How will the information be used?  Shared governance project?  Change in policy or procedure?  Is so, can you see the current policy/procedure and the references used for that? 

Another Immersion session I attend was “Part II: Reenvisioning Data Visualization Services and Training: Data Storytelling and Data Visualization Lessons for the Field.”  This session introduced me to different types of data visualization.  Data comics use data driven comics that tell a story about data.  There are four parts to data comics: visualization, flow, narration, words and pictures.  Data visualization is used in evaluation.  There are also four steps in the evaluation process and data visualization happens at any of the steps. 

·         Understanding-GIS, graphic recording, mixed mapping

·         Collecting-sticky notes, dot voting

·         Analyzing-dash boards, spectrum graph, network mapping

·         Communicating-infographics

Data storytelling is a process of transforming data into understandable information to affect a decision.  There are seven types of data stories: change over time, drill down, zoom out, contrast, intersection, factors, and outliers. 
Data visualization should be reproducible.  A great deal of decision making comes into play with data visualization.  Some questions are:  how to group, what story to tell, what connections to highlight, what data to use, what format, what background information, how simple/complex?  There are some ways to make the data visualization reproducible.  Data management should be done.  Save the data and record the steps.  Mention what software was used for the data visualization.  The last step is collaboration by creating an overview of the project and clarifying rights and citation information. 

The third Immersion session I attended was “You Can Do It: Developing Your Research Identity within Health Sciences Librarianship.”  The takeaway is that many of us are doing research even when we do not really realize we are doing research.  We were encouraged to go beyond the survey/questionnaire.  Develop a research agenda.  Think about the study design-the strategy to answer your research question.  The research method is how you will implement that strategy.  Some questions to ask to get started. 

  • ·         What do you want to learn/know?
  • ·         Population/audience and what do you want to tell them?  What impact do I hope to have?
  • ·         What is the big question?
  • ·         How will I collect, store and organize data?
  • ·         Is budget a concern and if so what is the budget?
  • ·         Do you have access to help for research or are you willing to learn?

How to pick a topic?  Think about what you are already doing….or is there a new idea you have been thinking about trying?  Some examples would be in teaching maybe assess a new educational intervention.  For collection development you might be looking at usage or user experience on a new platform.  For services one might look at a space use study or patron survey. 
Once the research is finished, sharing is strongly encouraged.  Ways to share your research include published papers, conference papers, lightening talks, and posters. 

The fourth Immersion session I attended was “Improving Ourselves and Improving Care: A Hands-On Workshop to Address Unconscious Bias in Health Sciences Literature and Health Sciences Library Systems.”  Unconscious bias is attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding and decisions in an unconscious way.  They can be favorable or unfavorable and are without awareness.  Unconscious bias is related to racism, microagressions and cognitive bias.  For further exploration it was recommended to read Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People and take the The Implicit Association Test (IAT) at

Implicit bias affects health sciences libraries in several ways.  One way is that there are racial disparities in medicine.  Examples were given about childbirth, pain control, and not recommending rehab for traumatic brain injuries in people of color.  Certain medications might be damaging or ineffective to certain ethnic groups/races.  There is also bias in the underrepresentation of people of color in clinical trials.  Unconscious bias appears in libraries in things like catalog records, discover systems, controlled vocabularies and hiring patterns.  The reference interview can also be problematic as one makes assumptions about that patient or the research question.  Two sources suggested for culturally diverse health information are and  in addition to and resources from the NNLM.  To address unconscious bias we need to assess our personal biases and consider what databases, resources and terms we are using to answer research questions. 

 Thank you to WHSLA for the Professional Development Award! 

Jennifer Schram, Mayo Clinic Libraries




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