Looking Back to Look Forward: A Reflection on 2018 MAC Annual Meeting

Brittni Ballard, 2018 MAC Student Vision Scholarship Recipient

I attended the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Medical Library Association (MAC/MLA) 2018 Annual Meeting as a second-year University of Maryland, College Park Master of Library and Information Science student. Three semesters don’t seem very significant, and yet my formal preparation in “how to be a librarian” nears completion. Nonetheless, there is much more to learn, especially given how recently I discovered this new interest in health sciences librarianship.

As an older sister to younger brothers ages 22 and 18, with a background in secondary English education, the intersections of school, knowledge, and teenagers’ lives is a driving passion of mine that hasn’t lessened despite a new career. Health sciences librarianship presents a uniquely compelling way to pursue this mission, and so receipt of the MAC/MLA Student Vision Scholarship could not have been more opportune!

Here are some things I learned during the three-day conference:

Alexandra Gomes and Anne Linton’s paper celebrated student creativity, something not necessarily encouraged or valued in academia, with exciting and innovative approaches for using social media in a positive way to disseminate health information as well as creating video to argue something professionally.

Patrice Hall’s paper reminded me successful teaching requires consistent professional development driven by humility and an enduring personal desire to learn as even health sciences faculty benefit from direct instruction in teach-back methods for facilitating student health literacy.

Kat Phillips’ paper explored the notion of time as the greatest gift you can give to someone in relation to students within academic and library contexts. Specifically, the willingness to meet with students in the evening, after they finish work and classes, can be a radical and rewarding practice of critical pedagogy.

Leah Cox’s Diversity Task Force session “Eyes Wide Shut: Implicit Bias Shaping our World” emphasized intentional, eternal development of cultural humility rooted in the understanding that, although we judge ourselves by our intent, others judge us by our impact.

All the papers in Paper Session 2 introduced me to systematic review and various automated tools in pursuit of efficiency that maintains accuracy while considering various perspectives, from screening studies and collecting data to project organization and management and even facilitating positive collaboration between participants.

And in the closing keynote, Paul Jaeger affirmed the work of all information professionals, but especially those in health sciences, is social justice work since – after all – information is the starting point of rights, from the Constitution and Bill of Rights to the Declaration of Human Rights. In this way, the values of the information profession are tied to human and civil rights. The challenge becomes acting through these values to make our ideals reality. Indeed, our institutions and ourselves are instruments of justice and inclusion.

MAC/MLA was a truly educational, inspirational experience and I left excited about the work of health sciences librarianship in this time of misinformation and uninformed discourse. The field’s potential, as well as my own, continue to feel more limitless than ever. Thank you for the opportunity.


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