Interesting Times: a library school project with real-life implications

Sadly, I didn’t get a picture of this group, but I did really enjoy their presentation!  So I’ll attempt to share some of what I learned here with the greater Midwest Chapter.

Dr. Catherine Arnott Smith together with Ms. Anan, Ms. Hellwig, Ms. Huggins, Ms. Townsend and Ms. Westby (all currently enrolled graduate students in SLIS’ LIS degree program) presented on their involvement with the American Family Children’s Hospital Family Resource Center (FRC).  The FRC is known as “a consumer health info resource, reading room, and business center.”  It does not, as Dr. Smith originally thought it might, have any connection with the University of Wisconsin’s Ebling Library.

The FRC has a strong mission and an up-to-date collection, thanks to one-time donations, but it also has to contend with poor location and no staff member/librarian to advocate on its behalf.

And, it turns out, the above sentences should be written in the past tense, because (perhaps partially due to the lack of advocate), the FRC has been shut down.

But the students’ project began before the shut-down, and now continues in new directions; they were originally working towards answering the question of “how can the FRC collection remain responsive to its users?”

The first part of the project was a collection analysis, where the students found inconsistencies and which led to a catalog project.  They began to use CIP data to catalog the materials, and to assign MedlinePlus topic headings to help organize the collection into useful lists.  Unfortunately, with the closure, the collection has been dispersed, but the work the students did is a valuable way to think of dealing with small, non-staffed collections.

The students also created and sent out a survey; they spoke in depth about the survey design.  In the end, there were 12 respondents, mostly parents of patients at the American Family Children’s Hospital.  Although it’s not a large sample, some of the interesting findings include the fact that respondents go to doctors and nurses for assistance with health information; very few go to librarians.  Which is not necessarily surprising, but definitely still good to know, and provides a basis from which to move forward.

So the group ended with a challenge for the audience: where do they go from here, and how might they get the FRC back on its feet?  I think they have some of their own plans, but the audience contributed some thoughts, including continued advocacy and outreach through other area health sciences libraries.

Do you, dear readers, have any other suggestions for them?