MAC Conference Scholar Reflects on the 2018 Annual Conference

Lauren Wheeler, Health Sciences & Human Services Library, University of Maryland, Baltimore 

I wanted to attend the MAC-MLA conference because I was interested in learning what other libraries are doing to make their services and health information more easily accessible. While I came away feeling I had learned about this, I also learned about how people in this profession are feeling, how they avoid being complacent, where the field is moving in terms of data being everywhere and how students in their first year, or semester, are thinking of librarianship. So, while I went to the meeting thinking I would pick up some ideas for new services, I came away with a better understanding of trends and research being done as well as an eagerness to keep learning more about my profession.

The keynote speaker, Sayeed Choudhury, spoke about machine learning and artificial intelligence. I found this keynote interesting because these are topics that have been on the minds of many people at my own library. He equated poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s line “Water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink” to “data, data everywhere and not a drop to drink”, a concept I found particularly thought provoking. I found myself reflecting on the data I come into contact with and what we are, or are not, doing with it. How is this collection of data benefiting our users? I want to make sure information is “drinkable.”

Many of the lightning talks gave me ideas to achieve this goal. At my university, students are bombarded with different activities to attend. I often find myself asking how we can make our events stand out. The lightning talks showed that other libraries have these same issues. I learned that it is beneficial to bring in other departments or programs to speak at events as this aids to collaboration across the campus and helps get your word out. I was interested in what I learned from libraries that are unlike my own, hospital libraries, or undergraduate libraries. I liked how these libraries are acting on what users say they want, whether it is what speakers they would like to see or surveying users on which books they would like to read. As someone who is new to the profession, I was interested to see how our assessment tools compared to what other libraries are using.

The leadership panel was interesting and engaging. The questions asked of the panel and the discussions that followed were things I could apply to my own position. Hearing about what the professionals on the panel considered their biggest career mistake and advice they had to avoid becoming complacent was relatable. I liked how they gave advice not only to the seasoned professional, but also to the person just starting out. I think this made the panel a worthwhile experience and gave me a lot of notes and ideas to take back to my job. These included informally getting together with people to share ideas and actually making lists and doing what you say you will do at conferences when you are all “pumped up” from learning.

Overall, the MAC-MLA conference was a professionally rewarding experience and I am thankful I had the opportunity to attend, network, and learn more about what is happening within health libraries. As I expand my professional career, I will keep in mind what I learned at this meeting to continue to grow professionally and help my library reach its goals in providing expertise and resources to faculty, students, and staff.

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