November is…

Quite a lot of things, actually. From HealthFinder.gov:

On a lighter note, from Wikipedia, it’s also:

  • National Pomegranate Month (no links better than the eHow site were popping up, but you get the idea!)

    Pomegranate with seeds
    photo by JOE MARINARO, available under a Creative Commons Attribution license.
  • Movember (perhaps of interest to health sciences librarians: it is a month where men grow moustaches as a promotional and fundraising activity for men’s health issues!)

So what do all these causes have in common?  The same thing any cause that picks a month/week/day to celebrate and raise awareness: they’re promoting and advocating for their issues.  Unfortunately, National Medical Librarians’ Month in October had to give way to all these other important groups, but November is worth calling out for one BIG reason: elections!

Here in the Midwest, the midterm election brought a lot of change, and what that means for us in both our professional and personal lives is for the pundits to discuss.  I would just like to point out that with the changing of the guard, there are going to be a lot of new people who need to hear about the issues close to our hearts in the medical and health sciences information arena!  Consider this my call for us all to use the wonderful resources below to contact our state and national government representatives, or to write letters to local newspapers (you could also promote some of the causes above, maybe earning some brownie points…):

You can write a letter at any time of the year, but November, with its important disease awareness raising, pomegranates and moustaches, not to mention its election, seems like a particularly opportune time, don’t you think?

If you do write a letter or otherwise forward the medical librarian cause, we’d love to hear about it in the comments!

(and one last thing: MLA’s elections are happening right now!  be part of the process, and vote!  –note, this is the electronic ballot link and requires your login credentials.)

Library Advocacy: a Wisconsin example

Session 17 – Eileen Severson, Mary Bayorgeon

I have to admit, I was inspired by this session.  Next week I’ll be doing some advocacy for my senator before the November election, but I’m really considering it practice for sticking up for medical & hospital libraries for the rest of my life.

Eileen and Mary gave an excellent presentation that began with some background info on the requirement for hospital libraries: at one point, New York State threw out the library requirement for hospitals, but as a result, the famous Rochester Study came out.  On the other hand, we’re fortunate here, as there is a Wisconsin Administrative Code for regulating hospitals that requires a health sciences library: DHS 124.09.  Sadly, it hasn’t been enforced.

Some additional info: Wisconin’s COLAND (Library council) advises the state superintendent of public instruction on library issues affecting all types of state libraries.  When hospital library closures prompted Mary to do something, this was the body she was able to approach (she is, in fact, a current member).  In order to be the most persuasive when approaching the superintendent, it was decided that a survey should be sent out.  And while Code 124.09 specified only a requirement for a library and not for staff (124 as a whole deals with all hospital services), the survey asked hospital libraries for information on both.  The survey showed that, I believe, 6 libraries had been closed since 2005.

The survey results were used at a meeting with the relevant administrative bodies last year; attendees also included WHSLA and COLAND representatives along with other various health agencies Mary organized.  In addition to the survey, the meeting preparation included a prepared letter to director of the bureau of health services, division of quality assurance, statements of concern about closures, and references to studies that showed the impact of hospital libraries.  They emphasized how the services provided by a professional librarian save money and argued that hospitals with closed libraries lacked important patient services.

The response was positive and certainly raised awareness…but they found out that the agency enforces federal regulations, and is paid by the federal government.  In addition, it’s a complaint based department, and there had been no complaints, so they hadn’t heard of closures.  They also learned that Code 124 is under revision and was accepting comments.  The trend is less prescriptive in favor of outcome-based requirements

The main outcome of meeting was that the closings were officially recorded as complaints.  And now there is lots of work to do!  They are currently promoting revisions for the code that include a hospital library staffed by a professional librarian.  But the success of this is questionable, especially since the requirements won’t be prescriptive.  What’s needed is an outcome-based requirement that shows a library role.  The public hearing hasn’t happened yet, and Mary/COLAND will get a draft of the proposal beforehand which they’ll use to develop a response.

And so sounds the call for advocacy!  This was a common theme of this meeting, which I’m excited about!

(I apologize for the choppiness of this entry; I think I’m missing some key details about the bodies involved.  Please add any knowledge you might have in the comments!  I’d also love to see Mary’s slides posted…)