Reflections on Mendy’s MAC Scholar Experience
Thanks to a generous scholarship from MAC, last month I traveled to Alexandria, VA for the 2014 MAC/MLA Annual Meeting. This was my first MAC meeting and a wonderful way to learn more about the organization and meet other health sciences librarians. I knew about MAC and MLA from my time as a hospital librarian, but I wasn’t sure if it would offer much for me as an academic librarian. Obviously, I was wrong, and this became apparent from the moment I arrived.
I made it to the meeting late Sunday morning, just in time to register and have lunch before my continuing education class. I ran into my meeting mentor at the registration table and we agreed to chat more at the reception that evening. After that I struck up a conversation with a librarian who invited me to join her group for lunch. I immediately felt welcome and was excited to have other health sciences librarians to talk to about our unique interests.
After lunch I attended a continuing education class called Active Learning and the Flipped Classroom. I’d heard of these concepts, but knew little about them. What I did know was that my instruction skills were lacking. This workshop turned out to be exactly what I need to jump-start my teaching. Besides covering specific active learning methods, the instructors also talked about basic teaching and learning theories- something I had not studied before. I can’t say enough about how useful, interesting, and informative this class was. I will definitely be incorporating active learning into my instruction sessions next semester.
After a late afternoon break and a walk to the town center, I returned for the evening reception where I met with Rex, my mentor, and enjoyed some delicious food and wine. Rex helped me get oriented and showed a lot of patience in answering all of my questions. He suggested I look into the MLA NAHRS group and told me about some MAC committees that might be interesting to work with. After talking to him, I have made the national MLA meeting a priority for next year. See you in Austin! I am also looking forward to next year’s MAC meeting in Asheville.
Monday was a full day of talks and presentations. Highlights included the keynote speaker, Dr. Leighton Ku, who gave an excellent overview of the Affordable Care Act’s history and future potential. This is an issue that interests me both personally and professionally, and I was thankful to get such a clear and insightful breakdown of it.
Posters are usually a conference highlight for me, and MAC did not disappoint! I would have liked more time to spend with the posters, but we had a packed itinerary so I had to be choosy. I collected some business cards for follow-up with some of the presenters. Next time I will try to budget my time so I can see more.
Besides the posters, I also really enjoyed the panel discussion about the future of libraries. My head was reeling with ideas after that discussion. One concept that stuck with me was the importance of librarians approaching their work with an attitude of partnership instead of servitude. I agree that librarians are sometimes too modest when it comes to taking credit for our contributions. Other take-aways included the dawn of Big Data and the need for librarians to get involved, and the continued importance of advocacy, especially in hospital libraries.
The contributed paper sessions on Monday and Tuesday both offered food for thought. Roy Brown’s presentation about embedding into the nursing community at the VCU School of Nursing was especially interesting for me since I am currently a liaison for a School of Nursing. I also learned a lot from Doug Varner’s presentation about measuring the library’s contributions to research and grant projects. His talk about quantitative ROI assessment models tied back to the importance of advocacy. In order to demonstrate the library’s value we need to be able to speak the language of institutional leaders and administrators.
All in all, I found the meeting to be educational, fun, and professionally rewarding. MAC is large enough to offer diversity, but small enough to be accessible and welcoming. The meeting events were planned in such a way that both learning and socializing were effortless. I came home with a head full of new ideas and fresh inspiration. Thank you, MAC, for your generosity. I will see you next year in Asheville!