Getting Started with Health Information Outreach

On the first day of Midwest/MHSLA 2017, I attended Getting Started with Community Health Information Outreach, taught by Darlene Kaskie. In this course, attendees learned how to examine specific populations for targeted outreach initiatives.

To do this, we first discussed the various resources available for getting a clearer picture of the populations in certain communities. By utilizing census data and other government health resources, it is possible to develop a better understanding of the demographic makeup of specific communities, as well as the health needs in those areas.

Throughout the course, there was an emphasis on learning and asking questions. For example, if you wanted to speak to a demographic that was culturally different from groups you had worked with previously, it’s important to develop an understanding of that group before trying to start an outreach project. So, if you were working with senior citizens who had limited understanding of mobile technologies, you may not want to lead with the cutting edge mobile apps available to them. However, by communicating with your targeted group and asking questions, you could learn what their particular struggles and health issues might be and how you as an information professional may be able to address them.

One way to learn more about a community is to seek out a community health assessment for that particular region. If an agency or institution has already conducted a community health assessment, you can easily determine what the health needs are for that particular area. Examining a community health assessment also allows you to easily target potential partners for your outreach efforts.

In addition to learning how to target and explore specific communities for outreach efforts, we also discussed NLM and other government resources that are freely available, including MedlinePlus, HealthReach, Genetics Home Reference, and the Disaster Information Management Resource Center.

I have always enjoyed attending conferences for the educational opportunities that help me keep abreast of advancements in our field. These courses teach us how other librarians are problem solving, expanding their roles, and developing new strategies to best utilize their skills in an ever-changing environment. Both continuing education courses I attended at Midwest/MHSLA 2017 gave me the chance to learn about new (or new to me) resources and how librarians are harnessing these tools to create new roles for themselves.

Research Data Management and Serendipity

Saturday at #MidwestMHSLA17 was a full day of Continuing Education for me. I had planned to learn about Research Data Management (RDM) with Kevin Read and Alisa Surkis from New York University School of Medicine in the morning, then about library assessment in the afternoon. I thought it would be a nice introduction to two dissimilar topics, one having to do with research and numbers, and the other with having to do with marketing and the business of libraries.

Serendipitously, though, I ended up spending a full eight hours learning about RDM. My afternoon class got cancelled and so I ended up in a second class entitled Data Management for Librarians given by Caitlin Bakker from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.

From Kevin and Alisa I learned not only the basics of RDM, but also how it can be marketed. I learned that librarians should make meetings with researchers about their research, not about the library. Kevin even went into how to “cold-call” researchers to drum up business for the library. A couple of ways to find out about what your institution’s researchers are doing include the NIH RePORTER database and your institution’s grant office.

Then Alisa showed us this cute video, which dramatized many of the frustrations researchers have when managing their data and what can go wrong with RDM and sharing.

I’m going to start learning more about RDM by reading this article by Kevin and Alisa and their colleagues, “Starting the data conversation: informing data services at an academic health sciences library.”

As usual, I felt overwhelmed with the information in just one CE class; nevertheless, I persisted in the afternoon, as Caitlin Bakker reinforced many of the RDM topics from Kevin and Alisa’s class. Caitlin provided us with some hands-on exercises using the DMP Tool to actually critique and compose a Data Management Plan. Within a few hours she had the class reviewing and creating real plans that would meet institutional and funder requirements.

I ended up with a day-long crash course in data management, but I still learned about library marketing as I had hoped. I was a beneficiary of a serendipitous confluence of three great instructors and a rising topic in health sciences librarianship. I made sure to tell Emily Ginier, the Chair of the CE Committee, how pleased I was with my day, despite the cancellation and substitution of my afternoon class. I also wrote to Kevin, Alisa, and Caitlin suggesting they team teach a seminar together on RDM. What an excellent day of learning at #MidwestMHSLA17!

Donald Pearson, MBA/MIS, MLIS, AHIP
Library Technology Specialist, Mount Carmel Health Sciences Library
Columbus, Ohio
dpearson@mchs.com | library.mchs.com