Submitted by Jere Odell, Chair, Midwest Chapter/MLA Awards and Scholarship Committee
First-Time Attendee Annual Meeting Grant Awardee: Abigail Goben, Information Services, University of Illinois-Chicago
It was my pleasure to receive the MLA Midwest Chapter First Time Meeting Attendee Award. While I have been a librarian for several years, it was my first opportunity to attend this regional conference and connect with local colleagues who are facing similar challenges to what I see in my workplace currently.
First-Time Attendee Annual Meeting Grant Awardee, Abigail Goben
I was particularly interested in getting to attend the MLA Midwest Chapter meeting because of the regional nature. While the web has brought the world just to the touch of a keyboard or screen, having a personal connection with professional friends and colleagues who are just down the street or the next state is very special.
The structure of this meeting is rather different from other conferences that I have attended: it included more updates and business in the actual meeting rather than that information being presented only in online format, or only to a small committee, or presented outside of the meeting itself. By opening with the information session with updates from the National Library of Medicine, Greater Midwest Region Office, and the Medical Library Association, everyone attending got a snapshot of current affairs both on the regional and national level. I appreciated this transparency and inclusiveness. Similarly the open forum of the business meeting on Monday afternoon brought the details of what is happening with the chapter out of the potential murkiness of committee meetings and made it very accessible to the entire community. I got a much better sense of the work being done, where and how money was being spent, and both history and goals of the group.
Due to presenting a paper with one my coworker Rebecca Raszewski, I was unfortunately a little limited in sessions I could attend. Fortunately, the two other papers in my session on Sunday were very interesting and I got to learn not only of the NIH informationist grant success of Beth Whipple and her partners at Indiana University but also got a clear and incredibly useful summary of applying Six Sigma techniques in a library setting by Elizabeth Moreton at Southern Illinois University.
I particularly enjoyed the invited speakers for the meeting. It was exciting to see Michelle Kraft giving our keynote speech, calling for us to review our Sacred Cows and to be considered Heretical Librarians. Pointing to disruptive technologies that have come before, particularly the light bulb, she challenged us to find the opportunities in the disruption, swap out parts of our work that no longer are as relevant, and stop making things easier only for librarians—rather than for our users. She wrote up much of her speech and made it available on her blog if you weren’t able to attend the meeting.
Monday morning, Sarah Houghton then brought us a dynamic plenary, also looking at digital libraries and where they are taking us. One of the most powerful points was Houghton’s acknowledgement that not everyone can do everything, that not every technology is right for every situation. She pointed frequently to her own library and what she is and is not able to do with her current funding and the needs of her community. A story she shared was visiting grocery stores in her community and asking the open ended question “What would make your life easier today” in order to discover general needs and information needs and connections that the library might be able to make.
Two of the best aspects of the conference for me though were the networking opportunities that I had and the amazing food that the Peoria Conference Center put out for us. We ate and ate well through the entire conference and I was not alone in using the midday break snacks to find new ways to turn ingredients into marshmallow delivery devices. And over those endless cups of coffee I got to meet Diane Giebink-Skoglind, a student at UW-Madison who won the GMR student award and quite a few librarians local to me or just a couple of hours away whose phones I feel ready to call and with whom I look forward to partnering.
I very much look forward to working with the MLA Midwest Chapter in the future and hope for the opportunity to join everyone in North Dakota next year!
First-Time Attendee Annual Meeting Grant Awardee: Kelly O’Brien, Crawford Library of the Health Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago
First-Time Attendee Annual Meeting Grant Awardee, Kelly O’Brien
I am happy to start this article by expressing my gratitude for being awarded the MLA/Midwest Chapter First Time Attendee Annual Meeting Grant. This grant made it possible for me to attend the conference at a very small expense, allowing me to continue exploring other research opportunities I am interested in with my limited institutionally gifted research money.
As a new librarian, I had a lot to gain from my first chapter meeting. This was the second professional conference I have attended, the first being MLA in Boston this past May. I appreciate that the Midwest Chapter meeting was more intimate, affording me opportunities to become more involved in the conference.
One such opportunity was presenting a research poster to my peers for the first time. I am grateful for both the supportive feedback I received, and also for the insightful questions asked by fellow conference attendees. This inspired me to look more closely at my results and explore additional possible conclusions. It also provided me with ideas for analyzing my research’s relevance in a broader context.
Another way I was able to participate in the conference was by co-hosting the Health Information Practice Summit with my UIC colleagues. Hosting the summit was a great way for me to become familiar with my colleagues and their research – especially those who presented at the summit. Gaining understanding of all that goes into planning a conference event will allow me to fully appreciate future events and give me some know-how for any event planning I do in the future.
I also gained a lot from learning about the research of my colleagues in the poster and paper sessions. I enjoyed Belinda Yff’s poster about embedded librarians in a nursing curriculum. I found it interesting and helpful that she identified the strong and weak areas of her students’ information literacy. I also enjoyed Elizabeth Moreton’s paper presentation about the use of Six Sigma to improve effectiveness in her library. Both of these presentations, among others, were inspiring and provided me with concrete ideas about what I can do to improve my library’s resources and services.
With that said, I must admit that what I was most looking forward to about the conference was the opportunity to meet my colleagues in the Midwest. I eagerly participated in the Mentor/Mentee program, and the first event I attended at the conference was the Mentor/Mentee Meet and Greet. I am very grateful that I was paired with Bette Sydelko, whose capability as a mentor was certainly affirmed when she won the 2013 Distinguished Librarian of the Year Award. It was so helpful to have time set aside to talk to her about her experience as a librarian and compare with her some of the practices and resources of our respective libraries. Most of all, it is reassuring to know that I now have someone new to seek career and library advice from.
In addition to the Mentor/Mentee program, I found plentiful opportunities to network with my colleagues. I spoke with librarians from many different types of libraries and learned about the varying practices in these distinct environments with their own unique communities. By the end of the conference I was brimming with new ideas.
Thank you again to all who contributed to providing me with this opportunity. It was an invaluable experience and I am already excited to come back.