Professional Development Award Blog Post – Cait Ford, MLIS

Out West of My Professional Comfort Zone

A full day of work, delayed flight, 2.5 hours of turbulence, 1am arrival time, which was really 3am my time could not dampen my excitement to attend CHLA/ABSC 2017 in Edmonton. CHLA/ABSC is the annual general meeting and conference of the Canadian Health Libraries Association/ Association des bibliothèques de la santé du Canada, which affords Canadian, American and international medical librarians the chance to meet to share research tips, and to network. Without the UNYOC travel grant, I would not have been able to attend this year to learn, network, and collaborate with my fellow medical information professionals.

Two of the greatest opportunities this conference offers are 1) the opportunity to challenge myself and how I view our profession; and 2) to learn from others who hold different professional roles than myself. I am a Research Information Specialist at CADTH (the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health) where I spend about 90% of my time drafting and performing specialised, or systematic searches for a wide array of products, including health technology assessments, horizon and environmental scans, drug reviews and rapid reviews. At this conference I chose to attend sessions presented by other medical librarians that centred on outreach, engagement, and consumer health information. I have a great interest in this part of the field, and, although my employer encourages us to explore related interests outside of systematic searching, we are often too busy to explore outside our own walls. I feel this conference is a great opportunity to learn from colleagues about other topics and I know I learn best by getting out of my professional comfort zone, systematic searching, and by looking at my professional role through another lens.

From these presentations I learned about: connecting with patrons and colleagues through using therapeutic adult colouring book programs utilizing historical medical textbooks; the role of the medical librarian in facilitating shared decision making; the librarian’s role in knowledge translation and management; and the need for good quality, discover-able consumer health websites. Though these presentations and papers focused on health consumer and academic library patrons as the audience, I found a way to see my own customers/stakeholders (medical researchers, pharmacists and health economists) in the populations that are the target of these ground-breaking ideas I realised that all of these patrons had something very important in common: the need for information that is trustworthy, timely, and provided without judgement. Keeping that in mind, I began to realise that with some changes I could implement some of these ideas at my own organization, or on the Chapter level through activities for OVHLA.

The papers, audience questions, and post presentation conversations were very thought provoking and had me asking “how can I bring this home?”. My challenge to myself was to think outside my job, and how I can bring some of these great ideas into my professional roles at CADTH. An immediate idea I had while sitting in a room, speaking with other special librarians revolved around patron engagement. The use of a passive program like adult colouring stations worked well at the academic library, and I think it could be used at CADTH as an outreach program, highlighting any historic texts in the collection, while creating a new, or solidifying an already present, dialogue between the research information specialists and our patrons.

Each day I was at the conference, we had incredible presentations from invited speakers. The keynote speakers whom I was able to see were Dr. Shannon Scott and Dr. Louis Franescutti, both of whom are front line health care workers. These keynotes, in addition to the one from Dr. Timothy Caulfield, which I regrettably missed as I was still working, were extremely engaging. Although they were not specifically aimed at the role of the medical librarian in health care specific settings, they made me think of how our profession, and specifically my role as a health technology management/assessment librarian, directly impacts patient care. Whether it is keeping emergency room physicians up to date with the latest point of care technologies, advocating for credible, discoverable consumer health information online, or simply answering a front line workers quick reference question, our job matters. I will keep thinking about those patients in the emergency room seeing Dr. Franescutti, or the pediatric patients seen by Dr. Scott and wondering how I can make their health care experiences the most effective and efficient they can be. We medical librarians have a role in this, and it is up to us to bridge the gap between ground breaking knowledge and practice — we just need to work together to find out the best way to do it.

Between these presentations, I was able to connect with a small group of my Canadian colleagues: I attended CHLA/ABSC as a representative of OVHLA (Ottawa Valley Health Libraries Association). I am currently the CE Coordinator for the Chapter and was privileged to attend the Chapter Presidents’ Lunch with members of the CHLA/ABSC Board of Directors. This gathering allowed Chapter representatives the chance to participate in a strategic planning activities, and giving valuable feedback in hopes of getting the most out of our professional associations. The lunch gave Chapter representatives a chance to update fellow Members with the goings on of our Chapter and share any exciting news and events. On behalf of the OVHLA Executive (Alexandra Hickey, President; Sandra McKeown, Secretary; Aleksandra Grobelna, Treasurer, and myself) I was excited to share the news of: the third annual OVHLA Mini Symposium research sharing event in July; the OVHLA logo project; and, the most exciting of all, the planning for CHLA/ABSC 2019, which is to be held in Ottawa in 2019. Our Chapter is hard at work and will take many lessons on conference planning from the local planning committees of Edmonton and the St John’s (CHLA/ABSC 2018), in hopes of planning a wonderful, worthwhile conference. We sincerely hope that all our UNYOC colleagues will make the trip to Ottawa to attend.

The UNYOC Professional Development Travel Grant was extremely useful in me attending my first Board of Directors meeting for CHLA/ABSC. I now hold the position of Director, Public Relations, and with the funds UNYOC provided, I was able to attend the Board’s post-conference meeting, as well as the open annual general meeting. While at the Board meeting, we met with the local planning committee, spoke about strategic goals for the next year, new and exciting programs and events and how to make these accessible to librarians across Canada. I am very much looking forward to my position and responsibilities on the Board, and in particular advocating for our profession and helping to facilitate the transfer of expert knowledge within our Membership and throughout our profession across the world.

Thank you once again, UNYOC, for giving me the opportunity to fully engage in a very hectic 3 day trip to Edmonton, filled with many challenges and even more connections and knowledge sharing. Going outside of my professional comfort zone has done me a world of good, and I hope to share all that I’ve learned with my community.

For any further information, and to read my Tweets during the conference, please follow me on Twitter at @library_cait; and follow the conference hashtag #chlaabsc17 for insights from librarians from across the world.

View from Edmonton hotel room (Chateau Luscombe, downtown Edmonton – conference hotel with a great view of the city) “hotel”




Picture of plan departing from Edmonton airport.  – “YEG”

Chapter Activities, Member News

Professional Development Award Blog Post – Michelle Price

Professional Development Award winner Michelle Price discusses her experience attending “Systematic Reviews: Opportunities for Librarians.”

As a 2017 UNYOC Professional Development Award recipient, I happy to report my experience attending the Systematic Reviews: Opportunities for Librarians workshop.  It began with online modules and assignments to complete and then culminated with a two day in-person workshop in Syracuse, New York.

The choice to adopt a flipped model for this workshop was an excellent one.  Not only were the modules of high technical quality, the content was well paced and sequenced.  The asynchronous nature of the modules allowed me to spend more time on difficult content.  Also, with a two-week timeline, there was plenty of time to digest the concepts before the in-person workshop.   The continuous and early contact with the course instructors was great, including the timely, constructive feedback on the online assignments.

Front loading the workshop with many of the technical skills allowed for thoughtful discussions during the in-person workshop.  The small group format was perfect for examining the soft skills regarding systematic reviews.  Relevant case studies were presented and each table discussed what role the librarian could play in the situation and how to react, then there was a large group share out.  The varied experiences and workplaces of the participants made this a very rich discussion.  A response that might work well for a small academic institution, might not work in a larger hospital setting.  Also, the inclusion of participants from the private sector was very illuminating and added a whole new dimension to our discussion, particularly regarding the management of the search strategies.

Toward the end of the second day, Whitney Townsend presented a session on meta-analysis methods.  I found myself swirling in new terminology and concepts like I2, homogeneous data, forest plots, line of no difference and sub-group analysis.  Now I have a new confidence to identify and evaluate those elements in a meta-analysis.   In the future when I am part of a systematic review team or peer review for a journal, I will be a stronger participant because I’ve had this exposure.

As a closing element at the workshop we had to create a small goal to complete right away and a more comprehensive action plan. I am proud to report that my small goal of reading five systematic reviews a week has become an enjoyable part of my workday.  My long term goal to implement systematic review evaluation into the graduate curriculum is underway.   After completing the workshop, I found it easy to draft learning objectives to address multiple, prominent issues regarding the construction of a systematic review.

Member News

Professional Development Award Blog Post – Denise Smith

Denise Smith was awarded a Professional Development Award and used the money to attend Systematic Reviews: Opportunities for Librarians. She discusses her experience below.

Systematic review training is relatively easy to find, but finding a course that offers MLA credits that is also engaging, thought-provoking, and easy to retain is not so easy.  I have participated in opportunities to learn about systematic reviews and a librarian’s role in them in the past, but the workshop Systematic Reviews: Opportunities for Librarians was the best learning experience I’ve had so far. I am happy to report that I feel more prepared than ever to advise on searches for systematic reviews or even participate on a systematic review team as a co-investigator.

The workshop approaches the content it covers with a flipped classroom model. I found this approach to be remarkably beneficial because it allowed me to learn, engage, and reflect at my own pace. As a result I retained a lot of the content and I felt confident going into the workshop that my limited experience and recently acquired knowledge would allow me to participate fully. The digestible modules and their respective assignments helped break down what could become an overwhelming amount of material.

In order to get anything out of the in-person workshop, active participation was a must. As a person who dreads answering questions or sharing ideas in front of a group, the small group environment was inviting and the instructors were supportive. I felt comfortable with my table-mates and we exchanged some really good ideas. I really enjoyed participating in this workshop both online and in-person.

A highlight of this workshop, for me, was the capstone project that each participant was required to complete prior to attending the workshop. Then, with our newly acquired skills, we peer-reviewed each other’s search work. It was great to see how other minds approach a systematic review and how my own work might be interpreted by someone else. It really impressed upon me the importance of constructing a clear, well-structured search strategy to optimize its replicability.

Syracuse, NY is lovely and although it rained on both days I went out for a scenic run and visited the local Target (a must-do whenever I am in the USA) after the conclusion of day one. I am honoured to be a recipient of a 2017 UNYOC Professional Development Award and I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to UNYOC for affording me this incredible opportunity.

Member News

Booking Information for the 2017 Annual Meeting

The UNYOC Group block rate at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Syracuse has been confirmed! Click this booking link or call the hotel at (315) 432-0200 to reserve your room. The special UNYOC rates are available for two nights, with an arrival date of October 25, 2017 and a departure date of October 27, 2017.

Hotel: DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Syracuse

Group Name: UNYOC

Rate: $119/night

Chapter Activities