Candy Cane Countdown (Days 1 – 3)

3 Dec

Candy Cane CountdownWhen I was young, my brother and I each had a “candy cane countdown” calendar to help us count the days until Christmas. It was a long strip of red felt, with 25 pieces of bright green yarn attached, to which my mother tied a candy cane. The last candy cane, Number 25, was a bit bigger than the others, marking the importance of that day for us. I wish I had one of these today. I should make one for myself. I like countdowns. I crazily decided that instead of eating a candy cane each day this month, I’m going to run/walk a 5K each day until Christmas. I’m calling it my “Virtual Jingle Bell 5K Classic.” (Virtual meaning that I’m doing it by myself and on a treadmill, not that I’m making it up.) As I struggled up the steps to my third-floor apartment last night, my spouse asked, “Are you going to survive?” Good question, but so far I’m 2 for 2 and feeling like there’s not much getting in the way of me making it to the gym after work. I think 3 for 3 is a good bet.

While I was wheezing my way towards the 3K mark on the virtual course last night, I remembered my candy cane calendar and, struggling as well to figure out what to blog about lately, decided that I’m going to share a virtual candy cane a day here on my blog, for each of you to enjoy. An interesting tool, topic, article, website… one each day until we hit 25. Then for those who celebrate Christmas, you may open your presents. For those of other faiths and traditions, still consider this a present in the bigger spirit of all of the holidays that roll around this time of year. 

Since I’m starting off on December 3rd, I’m going to have to serve up 3 canes. Don’t get a sugar rush!

 December 1 - Take 2 Cartoons & Call Me in the Morning

Regular readers of my blog know how much I love the use of drawing to retain and/or explain information. I’ve written a lot about visual communication, sketchnoting, and scribing as ways to bring the art of drawing into our work. It turns out, doctors and medical students are also into this. Or at least there’s a segment that sees the value. There was a great story in Vermont’s independent newspaper, “Seven Days,” recently about the cartoonist and recent MacArthur Fellowship winner, Alison Bechdel, teaching cartooning to medical students and faculty at the University of Vermont’s School of Medicine. Drawing from Life: Cartooning in the Medical Arts, is a great read. Check it out!

 December 2 - Speaking of your Funny Bone

Another great resource that floated across the MEDLIB-L listserv recently was Graphic Medicine, a website “that explores the interaction between the medium of comics and the discourse of healthcare.” From cartoons to blog posts to podcasts to an annual conference, the site provides numerous ways to examine how comics and/or graphic novels can help people understand healthcare issues in ways much better than the traditional provider-patient discourse. I was psyched to see someone on MEDLIB-L chime in that she uses part of her collection development money to buy comics of this genre and that they are very popular! 

December 3 - Art School Meets Medical School

I was so intrigued with the Graphic Medicine site, I poked around on it quite a bit and eventually looked into information about past conferences. I noted that one of the sponsors for the 2014 conference in Baltimore, MD was the Department of Art as Applied to Medicine at Johns Hopkins University Medical School. I was FASCINATED!! Here’s a department and program at one of the most prestigious medical schools in the United States offering … an art degree! More specifically, they offer education to “future medical illustrators through a two-year, accredited, Master of Arts program in Medical and Biological Illustration.” Graduates from their program go on to produce … well … comics (see above), but also illustrations for medical textbooks, research materials, graphic designs, and animations. Some students also specialize in making prosthetics (aka, clinical anaplastology) that, when you think about it, is really a pretty specialized type of sculpture. What I loved most about discovering this program is that the students within the art program learn anatomy and physiology side-by-side with the medical students. And really, what’s a better place to really learn anatomy than med school? I sometimes hear students in the biomedical PhD programs of UMass Medical School say that getting the chance to earn a PhD at a medical school was a big selling point for them when they were deciding where they wanted to go to school. I imagine art school students looking at MFA programs – particularly those with an interest and bent towards medical illustration – would say the same about the program at Hopkins.

Tune in tomorrow when I’ll offer up another treat, likely NOT related to the funny papers!  

Why Not Us?

21 Nov
Credit: NIH/NLM

Dr. Donald Lindberg, Credit: NIH/NLM

A couple of weeks ago, Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, issued a gracious and thoughtful statement on the announcement of Donald Lindberg’s retirement as Director of the National Library of Medicine. Dr. Lindberg has held this post for more than 30 years and as any and everyone knows, the past 30 years in libraries and/or information science has seen monumental change. Dr. Collins lauded Dr. Lindberg’s leadership throughout this time. He also said this:

Trained as a pathologist, Don re-invented himself as an expert and groundbreaking innovator in the world of information technology, artificial intelligence, computer-aided medical diagnosis, and electronic health records.

Doctors seem to do this all of the time or at least they seem to be able to be many things at one time. We celebrate doctors who are also writers, doctors who are also artists, and doctors who are excellent teachers. We think little of showcasing their ability to be multi-talented. In this statement, Dr. Collins praises Dr. Lindberg for being able to be something else besides a doctor, or better put, to be an expert in medicine AND an expert in informatics. 

I share this because I was recently speaking with a doctor about how I was an expert in library science and something else. More specifically, I was explaining how my expertise in library and information science lent itself to being an expert in something else. And when I said this, the doctor looked at me somewhat quizzically. “Really?” she asked, the implication being, “I can’t even imagine.” 

I was hardly resentful about the encounter because to tell you the truth, it happens all of the time. While we don’t bat an eye at the fact that doctors can be multi-talented, the challenge is always there for us to convince them that they’re really not the only ones on whom this characteristic falls. And that’s part of our job. There’s no use grousing about it or getting all bent out of shape. Instead, we need to simply get out there and demonstrate that librarians can be experts in lots of things, too. Sometimes, we can even re-invent ourselves as experts in completely different areas without forsaking our expertise in librarianship. 

As we celebrate the many skills and talents of our patrons, let’s celebrate them in ourselves, too.

Librarians: Perfectly Aligned to be Opportunity Makers

10 Nov

Anderson

I subscribe to a couple of TED Talks feeds and thanks to that, I found a link in my email this morning to a talk by Kare Anderson, a columnist for Forbes who writes about how and why people make connections with one another. I took the 10 minutes required to watch the talk and couldn’t have been happier that I did. Not only was it inspiring on a personal level, but also because it was inspiring on a professional level. As Anderson shared a story about how she connected several people that she knew over a shared interest in public art, I couldn’t help but think and see how she’d make a great librarian (if she wasn’t a great journalist already). Bringing people together, connecting them, is what we need to do in our profession today, perhaps more than ever. As I’ve written before, the library long served as a physical place where different people gathered and found connections. If/when you’re working with a patron group who rarely if ever come to the library anymore, they’ve lost that opportunity to connect. We, the librarians who go out and meet them where they are, we bring that connectivity of the library to them. That’s a big part of our job. And as Anderson says, that work is the work of OPPORTUNITY MAKERS.

Near the end of the talk, Anderson lists the traits of opportunity makers:

So here’s what I’m calling for you to do. Remember the three traits of opportunity-makers. Opportunity-makers keep honing their top strength and they become pattern seekers. They get involved in different worlds than their worlds so they’re trusted and they can see those patterns, and they communicate to connect around sweet spots of shared interest.

Can you see where and how librarians fit this mold? I sure can!

Where the Buffalo Roam: Adventures in Health Sciences Librarianship in North Dakota

27 Oct

I’ve been on the road a LOT this month, traveling to North Dakota and Maine and, later this week, Virginia. It’s been a full schedule and I’ve missed catching up with my blog post each week. Here’s an attempt to begin filling in the holes.

Roamin' with the buffalo in North Dakota.

Roamin’ with the buffalo in North Dakota.

Last year, I was invited by members of the Program Planning Committee of the Midwest Chapter of the Medical Library Association to present a keynote lecture at their Annual Conference. As the meeting was to take place in Bismarck, ND and North Dakota was the only state of the 48 states in the Continental United States that I’d never visited, I jumped at the chance! I was flattered to be asked to talk about my work, too. 

I shared the first morning’s sessions with Betsy Humphreys, the Deputy Director of the U.S. National Library of Medicine. When we realized that we would be speaking back-to-back at the conference, Betsy and I arranged a quick phone call to talk about what we thought we were each going to say. It proved to be a really beneficial chat, as our keynotes ended up complementing one another very well.

Betsy’s talk, entitled “Points of Departure,” offers a survey of the current landscape in which medical libraries and medical librarians find themselves, and sheds light on the MANY places that professionals can insert themselves and their skills. From electronic health records to patient advocacy to health literacy to informatics, the opportunities abound for those individuals and libraries who are willing to step out (or step up) to the challenges, rather than saying the future holds no place for us. “Set out from any point,” we were reminded. They all lead to opportunity. (You can see my sketchnotes of Betsy’s talk here.)

I titled my own keynote, “Making the Case: Health Sciences Librarians Staking their Claim in a ‘New World.'” You can download the slides here, but I’ll provide an annotated version of the talk in this post.

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I confess that in those times when I’m facing many deadlines, feeling stressed, feeling bored, or feeling tired, I have a particular vice that I indulge in. Fortunately for me (though not necessarily for my practices in discipline of any sort), my vice is pretty easy to partake in, as it involves a certain television show that one is hard pressed to not be able to find airing at any hour of any given day. As the deadline for this talk loomed larger, I found myself giving in to my vice so often that eventually, I figured I’d use it as a framework for my talk. Here goes…

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A disclaimer.

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Imagine the infamous “duhn duhn” sound. (It played during the talk.)

Sally-Gore-keynote_Page_04Our episode starts at a dinner party in Louisville, Kentucky, some time in the late 1980s. Everyone had finished eating and gathered in the living room, sitting in a circle and chatting, when someone said, “I know. Let’s go around the room and everyone share a dream.” 

The usual suspects were offered up; “I hope for a family.” “I want to have children.” “I want to travel around the world.”

When it came my turn, I shared what has, for as long as I can remember, been my life’s dream,” I want to win the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.”

“GET SERIOUS!” shouted this woman who, by the way, I’d never met in my life. “Tell us something that you might ACTUALLY do!”

Sigh… My dream. Busted.

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Thank you, Lenny.

 

Sally-Gore-keynote_Page_06So, what’s your dream for libraries? When you think of what a library is and/or can be, what do you dream? Do you imagine the “Library of the Future,” complete with no books and lots of modular furniture, spaces for gaming and tools to help students and faculty and researchers fuel their innovative spirits? Do you dream of tranquility and order and the beauty of our National treasures, like the Library of Congress? Or do you see the library as not a place at all, but people embedded in research centers, bringing the services of libraries directly to the patrons?

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And what do you dream for librarians? Do you miss the “good old days” when we held the keys to the information kingdom; when we were the gatekeepers that everyone had to pass through and by in order to access what they needed? Do you miss the heady power of those days? Or do you dream of times when librarians are no longer associated with libraries; when we’re not even called librarians anymore? What do you dream?

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And for all of those dreams, do you have any kind of plan in mind for how to get there?

Sally-Gore-keynote_Page_09My own library recently had our annual all-staff retreat in which our Director, Elaine Martin, delivered her “State of the Library” address. She covered where we’ve been the past year, where we are now, and where we’re likely headed over the next months. One of these future places involves the development of a new strategic plan. Looking ahead five years, where do we think we’ll be? That’s the question Elaine posed to her staff.

When I think back on all of the change that’s happened here in the past 10 years (the amount of time that I’ve worked at UMass Med), I find it pretty hard to even imagine that I ever could have imagined the things I’ve seen come and go, the transformations we’ve endured, and the many different roles we’ve taken on as a library (and as librarians). The thought of imagining the next five years seems daunting, if not downright impossible for me, and it got me to thinking about how I do go about planning my work, my roles, and my future as a health sciences librarian.

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Backyard camping!

I grew up in a camping family. We camped weekends and summer vacations. We camped in the mountains, occasionally at the beach, and often in New England and Canada. My father was also a backpacker and he took my brother and I on week-long backpacking adventures, alternating years between us, during spring breaks. The first time I went on one of these trips, I was probably about 10 years old. My dad, being a good bit taller than me, often hiked ahead on the trail. He’d make his way up the path, me following behind, always being sure that he never got too far ahead that I couldn’t see his pack. (It was always a bright color – red or orange – so that I could easily see it.) 

As I thought about how I strategically plan my work, I came to realize that I do so very much like I strategically made it through the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. I call my strategy…

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It works. Not just for hiking along unknown trails, but also for making one’s way down the mysterious, always developing and ever evolving paths of medical librarianship.

Sally-Gore-keynote_Page_12And as every strategic plan needs goals and objectives, these are the ones that I propose for my Backpacking model:

  • Know yourself – what you do well, what you don’t do well, what you like to do, what you don’t like to do, etc.
  • Know your environment – the people, places, and things that surround you and make up your workplace.
  • Know how to bring these two things together – YOU and your environment.

Sally-Gore-keynote_Page_13We talk a lot in our profession about the gap between what students, faculty, staff, and researchers want from health sciences libraries and what health sciences librarians know how to do. We’re very focused upon identifying the skills that we need to develop to close this gap and become, again, a vital and relevant resource to our patrons. The gap produces a great deal of anxiety for many of us; we don’t know how we’ll ever keep up, ever gain the skills we need, and/or ever meet our patrons’ needs again.

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So I propose an exercise…

I've had LOTS of jobs.

I’ve had LOTS of jobs.

Take some time to think about every single job that you’ve ever had in your life. Write them down. Every job, everything you’ve ever volunteered for, every class that you’ve ever taken in formal education or not. List them all.

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And then, take that list and from it create another list of all of the many, many, many things that you know how to do. Yes, you’re a librarian and you have a whole host of skills that come with that, but think of others. Think of how all of the other things that you’ve done in your life have helped you gain expertise in information management or communication or team building or organization. And once you have that list, look around you at all of the many, many, many needs your current environment offers. Can you now, with all of these lists in hand, find one or two or a dozen matches, opportunities where you can put yourself, the librarian, to good use to meet these needs? As Betsy Humphreys noted in her talk, these opportunities are our POINTS OF DEPARTURE. They are our keys to relevancy and the future of our profession.

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My list looks like this.

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And it defines me, the health sciences librarian, as a person who does all of those things. As we each redefine ourselves and our roles, we will, ultimately, redefine our profession. Sally-Gore-keynote_Page_19

And our value will no longer be such a mystery.

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This plan, I think, pretty much closes that gap that worries us so.

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Next, I provide a bunch of examples from my own work. For each, I offer the project that came to be and the skills used to meet the needs of each.

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I can imagine some new projects and dream up some new places to perhaps find myself working.

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I can dream of really BIG things on the horizon, areas that could offer countless opportunities for a librarian.

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For my closing argument, I offer up my good friend, Cindy Stewart. If you’re a medical librarian, you may well know Cindy, for up until just a few weeks ago, she was an Associate Director for the health sciences library at Dartmouth’s medical school. Today, though, she’s the new Program Manager for Dartmouth’s Clinical and Translational Science Award. Do you think she stopped being a librarian, simply because she assumed this new position? NO. Do you think that she got this position in large part because of all of the skills she honed over the years as a medical librarian. YES. Cindy was able to sell herself as the person for this job because of all of the things that she knows how to do, from being a librarian, that fit all of the information needs (and more) that the researchers at Dartmouth and their CTSA program have and/or are going to have over the next few years. She closed that gap, but good.

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Next I read a great passage from this book, but I’m not going to post it here. Suffice it to say, it summed up how we do a lot of things in life, develop a lot of habits and patterns and trains of thought, based upon not much more than a couple of horse’s asses. (The story is about why railroad tracks are the width that they are.)

Sally-Gore-keynote_Page_30Did I make my case?

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You decide.

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There were other tremendously great talks at the conference. I won’t recap them all here, but I’ve posted my sketchnotes for each:

 

 

Teaching Like a Ninja!

1 Oct

Massachusetts Health Sciences Library (1)I attended a really terrific continuing education event last Friday, co-hosted by the Massachusetts Health Sciences Library Network (MAHSLIN) and the Western Massachusetts Health Information Consortium (WHMIC). It featured two excellent speakers and a “sold-out” crowd.

First, Rebecca Blanchard, PhD, MEd, from Baystate Health, Academic Affairs Division, led us through a session focusing on the idea of “stealth teaching,” i.e. teaching people without them knowing that they are being taught. This is a great approach to education and one particularly suited for those of us who work in harried environments and with people who generally have little time or attention to give towards learning something new. From one-on-one encounters to small group instruction to formal classroom teaching, we learned and practiced ways of moving people from the place where they don’t know and/or don’t even know that they don’t know, to a place of knowledge, all by ways that facilitate learning. Dr. Blanchard has coined her approach, “ninja teaching” and by the time the session was over, we’d all earned our white belts in ninja school! 

After learning about teaching, we enjoyed a time of stress reduction – a perfect thing for a Friday! Donna Zucker, RN, PhD, FAAN, from University of Massachusetts, School of Nursing taught us all about the use of labyrinths in stress reduction. We learned about the very long history of labyrinths and the practice of walking them, including their modern day use in clinical settings, health care, and rehabilitation. We got to see a short video about a project that Dr. Zucker is involved with at a county correctional facility, where the inmates built a labyrinth and use it for improving their own stress management skills, something that benefits them greatly when they return to society.

Perhaps the coolest thing … We learned about the use of labyrinths in libraries! Sparq Meditation Labyrinth is a portable, projected labyrinth that was developed by Matt Cook who works at the University of Oklahoma’s library. His project has been installed in his library, as well as at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst’s, W.E.B. DuBois Library. I found this FASCINATING! The science behind labyrinth walking and stress reduction abounds and it was really great to see libraries and librarians aware of the anxieties students face and using this incredibly unique tool to help them manage their stress. I’m going to keep up with this project. Who knows? Maybe we’ll get to install it in my own library one day.

Big thanks to Margot Malachowski of Bay State Hospital’s (Springfield, MA) library for arranging this event for her colleagues, and to MAHSLIN and WMHIC for supporting it!

Here are my sketchnotes from the day:

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FlipQuiz: A Great New Teaching Tool

24 Sep

I’m teaching Health Sciences Librarianship for the University of Rhode Island’s Library and Information Studies graduate program this semester. Sometimes, I think we can learn as much being a teacher as we do being a student. In this case, I’ve been learning to use a number of new tools, new concepts, and new ways to teach online, and for distance learners. I’ve had to read a lot of theory and try out a bunch of resources and it’s still only September!  Fortunately, I think my students are both patient and open to the trial and error of my learning. 

This week, I discovered a terrific new tool that I want to share via this blog. I think others will find it pretty useful, too. If you’re a fan of learning via games (as I am), give FlipQuiz a try!

NCBI Game

Feel free to click on the game board and play, but don’t share answers with my students! :)

Follow the Leader

17 Sep

I read a really interesting post on the Harvard Business Review’s blog yesterday titled, “Convincing Employees to Use New Technology.” Any regular reader of my blog knows that I’m fascinated with new technologies, behavior change, and the intersection of the two. I’m particularly interested in how they come into play in science and in libraries, the two places where I spend my working hours. For all that technology has done to reshape both of these areas, I continue to be amazed at how reluctant many scientists and librarians are to try new things and adopt them into their work habits and processes. Despite a growing body of evidence that helps us see which tools work well and which don’t, what behavior changes improve efficiency and which create distraction, and how we can more effectively advance our information dissemination, sharing, and networking, many still say, “No thank you!

The post from HBR hits on several reasons that might explain the reluctance, not the least of which is the lack of investment companies or organizations or institutions place upon adoption of these tools. 

The real return on digital transformation comes from embedding new work practices into the processes, work flows, and ultimately the culture of organizations. But even in cases where the value of adoption is understood, cost containment often takes over. Faced with limited budgets, companies focus on the most tangible part first – deploying the technology. Adoption is left for later, and often “later” never comes. (Didier Bonnet)

I’ve observed this pattern on multiple occasions, but one of the clearest was when I was working on a study involving the use of Twitter to help people lose weight. The idea was that the microblogging service could be used to develop a free, easy to access, online support group that could supplement in-person meetings of people in a weight loss group. What we learned, though, is that unless people are already active users of Twitter, we needed to build in time and effort to help participants develop behavior patterns around communication that involved Twitter. Without this, we were really seeking two behavior changes instead of one, i.e. behavior changes around diet and exercise, as intended, but also the adoption of a social media tool. (See “Tweeting it off: characteristics of adults who tweet about a weight loss attempt,” Pagoto et al, Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 2014 Jun 13.)

I’m sure that you can think of your own experiences where your organization or department or library or university implemented a new intranet or new personal profile pages or a blog. “It’s a GREAT IDEA!,” everyone thinks, but then lacking much motivation or incentive to contribute to it, the new, great idea slowly finds its way to the big cloud of wikis that went nowhere. Over time, we become jaded and cynical and whenever we hear someone suggest the next newfangled new idea, we immediately think, “Yeah, right. Like that ever works.

Yet, recognizing this, I think the HBR post hits on a fact that can, in time, truly make a difference in the adoption of tools:

Lead by example. You can influence the transition to new digital ways of working by modeling the change you want to see happen – and by encouraging your colleagues to do so. For instance, actively participating on digital platforms and experimenting with new ways of communicating, collaborating, and connecting with employees. It is the first important step to earning the right to engage your organization. Coca-Cola faced huge challenges when it deployed its internal social collaboration platform. Only when Coca-Cola’s senior executives became engaged on the platform did the community become active. As the implementation leader put it, “With executive engagement, you don’t have to mandate activity.” (Didier Bonnet)

From the Journal of Cell Biology. Used with permission https://www.flickr.com/photos/thejcb/4117496025/

From the Journal of Cell Biology. Used with permission https://www.flickr.com/photos/thejcb/4117496025/

One of the scientific communities doing a lot of leading here is the neuroscience community. When I began working on the neuroimaging project, I was thrilled to see how active this community is online. They have well-developed data repositories, online journals, information portals, and resources for cloud computing. (See NITRC, as an example.) They have an awareness of and openness to the ideas of sharing; to moving their science forward by using the tools that make sharing so much easier today. Indeed, I was brought on to the neuroimaging project to help improve a few processes along these lines.

And then this morning, I saw an announcement of another new online tool launched for the neuroscience community, this one an extension of the Public Library of Science’s (PloS) Neuro Community, a site on the platform, Medium*, “created as a collaborative workspace for reporting news and discussion coming out of this year’s Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting on November 15–20, 2014.” Moving past “simply” tweeting a meeting, the Society instead is thinking ahead and building a place for openly sharing, contributing, and reflecting before the meeting happens. And it will be successful. You know why? Because those who initiate these tools in the neuroscience community are the leaders of the community. They have been a part of their past investments, seen the pay off, and thus continue to invest more for the future.

We need this same kind of leadership in libraries, in the Academy, and in other areas of science. Those of us who see and/or have experienced the value of implementing new technologies into our work need to be fairly tireless in banging the can for them. We need to continue to lead by example and hopefully, in time, we will all reap the rewards.

*I’ve become a big fan of Medium over the past months as a place to keep up with a lot of interesting stories on the Web.

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