Alice Graves writes about her experience at MLA. She was awarded a UNYOC Professional Development Award.
Thanks to the UNYOC Professional Development Award I was able to attend my very first MLA annual conference in Seattle. As Manager of the Hospital Library Services Program for the Southeastern NY Library Resources Council, I represented the 13 member hospitals in my region.
I was welcomed at the First Time Attendees program, where I learned about MLA’s sections and SIGs. I became a member of the Hospital Library Section when I joined MLA. It’s great to receive regular email updates. There was a breakfast buffet and I chatted with people in line. Everyone was so friendly.
Afterwards, at the Presidential Address, when Teresa L. Knott stood at the podium, I realized I had been talking with her on the food line! No wonder she knew so many people! At that moment I truly felt that MLA was a community, and that I had access to the expertise of each and every member.
I am not an adventurer, but I found Julie Angus, who rowed across the Atlantic and has cycled around the world, an engaging and inspiring speaker. She made me realize that I can do so much more to advocate for hospital librarians.
Two sessions that I found most pertinent were the Round Table on Issues in Hospital Librarianship and the Hospital Libraries Section business meeting. In the first, we discussed proving the value of hospital libraries in a time of eliminations, downsizing and repurposing. People shared best practices in research, teaching, and other daily activities. I realized how hospital librarians support their institutions, and I learned alternative means for hospitals to have library services. That sense of community returned. At the business meeting, it was suggested that we form a task force to address library closings by lobbying the Joint Commission, the ANCC, and the ACGME. I am thinking about getting involved.
Activism in a Time of Turbulence was a most timely and apropos session. One of the speakers, Katie Gibbs, is a Canadian scientist and organizer who encouraged us to “get political.” She attributed Canada’s new liberal government to political activism on the part of the nation’s scientists, who held a public mock funeral for the death of evidence. This made science a key election issue and local candidates were forced to address their support for scientific evidence. Ms. Gibbs stressed the need to communicate to evoke emotion, to fight misinformation by writing op-eds and calling people out if they post misinformation. And she said we must build community. The other speaker, M.J. Tooey, talked about change through legislation and about separating the personal from the political.
I found the issues presented in the sessions to be useful and timely, such as systematic reviews, clinical rounding, and emerging technologies.
The MLA was a great experience for me. I met people I knew only from listservs and emails, I reconnected with a library school friend who lives 1200 miles away, I made new friends, I chatted with sales reps, relaxed with a chair massage, compliments of McGraw Hill Education, and learned so much from the speakers and my peers.
Not only was this my first MLA, it was also my first time in Seattle, which proved to be a great location. I ate freshly caught northern Pacific salmon and I sipped a Pike Street blend on Pike Street. I saw the breathtaking Mt. Rainier rising in the distance. I went to the incredible public library with its funky architecture, glass walls and ceiling that lets in tons of light, and the fourth floor, painted fire-engine red top to bottom, and accessed by red stairs. This is where the meeting rooms are located. The 10-story library is welcoming, comfortable, and in my opinion, Seattle’s greatest asset.
A gigantic thank you to the UNYOC Scholarship Committee.