MAC Conference Scholar Reflects on the 2023 Annual Conference
Prior to attending MAC 2023, my only conference experience was presenting my undergraduate thesis research at Midwestern Psychological Association at Chicago in 2019. That experience, while helpful in setting my expectations for what a conference entails, could not have prepared me for the fascinating content and slew of connections I made in attending my first-ever library conference.
I had the incredible fortune of being able to attend my first professional library conference in the city where I currently reside, and I can safely say this opportunity helped me learn a LOT about Pittsburgh’s history. Miguel Sague, Jr. provided an incredibly detailed history of the Indigenous communities around the region, including the Iroquois Confederacy (the Cayuga, Oneida, Seneca, Mohawk, and Onondaga tribes). Mr. Sague highlighted the Seneca Tribe, who used to occupy Western Pennsylvania, New York, and Eastern Ohio. His presentation provided a lens into both the general life of the Seneca (crop planting practices, a matrilineal social structure, and the organization of their villages, to name a few) as well as the Seneca’s involvement in several historical events (the French and Indian War, relationship with George Washington, and the friction between the English colonials, French settlers, and Seneca Tribe). This history was fascinating to hear about as I’m not originally from this region, so I was comparing the perspective of a tribe like the Seneca (much farther east than the Midwest where I’m from) to the Indigenous narratives I’ve seen/heard in the area I hail from, where the two main tribes I’ve encountered are the Meskwaki (Mississippi River Valley in Iowa) and Ho-Chunk (Southwestern Wisconsin).
The activity following Mr. Sague’s presentation allowed attendees to brainstorm ways that they could, in their own libraries, do more to consider and make space for Indigenous communities in health librarianship (and in health settings, generally). I think there’s a natural connection for my institution here, which is to partner up with local Indigenous groups such as DefendOHIO to host educational programming for the Duquesne community. It’s our responsibility as health librarians and stewards of information to prepare our patrons (academic, medical, or community) to effectively meet the healthcare needs of all individuals in their care, especially those who so frequently slip through the margins.
In addition to the Indigenous programming, there were several great presentations regarding Generative AI and implications for the library. The plenary panel (featuring Michelle Kraft, AHIP, FMLA, Dr. Erin Walker, and Dr. Faina Linkov) provided excellent information on the numerous contexts that we as medical librarians will encounter generative AI, such as in education, in healthcare, and in librarianship (specifically publishing) settings. This multifaceted approach helped me understand the implications for generative AI that will directly impact me and my own work as well as broader impacts on the field. In the past, I had a myopic lens regarding generative AI, and so the conference’s related activities helped me break out of that mindset. Additionally, a lot of the focus in the presenters’ content was in recognizing the positives of generative AI – a refreshing twist to what is normally a discussion riddled with downsides and contingencies. Dr. Linkov’s emphasis on our need to embrace new technology and avoid policing was a powerful narrative shift.
I had the honor of serving on the Contributed Content Working Group as part of the Annual Meeting Committee to help plan for and judge content submissions for MAC 2023, which was a surreal experience. It was admittedly strange to go through the process of judging content for a library conference despite never attending, but it did help me understand how much goes into planning these gatherings behind the scenes. My work on the CCWG also brought me a newfound appreciation for all of the excellent lightning talks, paper presentations, and posters that were presented. In addition to my service on the CCWG, I was able to present my own poster – yet another great experience and opportunity for forging connections with other attendees from libraries across the region. Helping plan MAC and reviewing contributions was a really fun process, and I’d be happy to revise my role in the planning of future MAC assemblies.
These are just a few of the key experiences I was able to gain through my role as the 2023 MAC Conference Scholar. I was also able to learn more about the up-and-coming tools being offered by several library vendors (some of which I knew, many others I did not). I had the unique opportunity to meet both our regional leaders at MAC as well as our nationwide leaders in MLA at the new member meet and greet. I also made connections with several other librarians from across the region, who I look forward to collaborating with on future projects together. I even got to try a new restaurant I had never been to, despite living here for 2 years!
I am endlessly thankful that I was able to make professional connections and learn about numerous skills and technologies related to medical librarianship. I want to specifically thank the Professional Development Committee as well as MAC leadership for providing this opportunity for myself and other new and aspiring librarians. I look forward to using what I’ve learned to implement new practices at my library, and to collaborating with other regional institutions in the future.