Highlights from the Medical Library Association Annual Conference

By Sue Espe

Imagine the energy generated with the convergence of health science librarians from around the world to the bustling city of Toronto! The city was host to the joint meeting of the Medical Library Association (MLA), the Canadian Health Libraries Association/Association des bibliothèques de la santé du Canada (CHLA/ABSC), and the International Clinical Librarian Conference (ICLC), held May 13-18. With a continuing education scholarship from the State of Arizona Library Services and Technology Act funds, I had the privilege of attending the conference. It was the ideal setting where innovations, best practices, expertise and inspiration was shared.

It becomes necessary for libraries to remain relevant and innovation and optimization seemed to be interwoven, recurring messages that I heard. A course titled, “Librarian and Active Learning Models: Team-Based Learning (TBL), Problem-Based Learning (PBL), and Case-Based Learning,” explored the three learning strategies used in academic institutions with an instructional presentation along with role-play that involved all the participants to aid each in the understanding and actual use of the techniques. The methods have become an integral part of teaching as the trend moves towards it and further away from the didactic instruction method. Each method, as the titles indicate, is unique and the librarian can learn to apply the methods to teach information literacy. Another session, titled “The Argument for Innovation: Powering Transformation by Putting Ideas to Work,” presented by Thomas Graham M.D., author of Innovation the Cleveland Way, delved into his influence, experience, insights and success implementing innovative strategies at the Cleveland Clinic. He emphasized innovative ideas, strategies and techniques that support innovative environments to improve health outcomes. The session, “Enhancing the Value of the Medical Librarian in Today’s Changing Clinical Decision Support World,” presented by Dr. Peter Edelstein MD, emphasized the role that librarians take part in the delivery of information and how libraries must evolve to avoid becoming defunct as has so many products along with their organizations in the past. He emphasized creative approaches to service delivery and approaches to become involved.

Annually, a renowned guest, at the invitation of the John P. McGovern Award Lectureship, speaks to the larger audience at the conference. This year’s guest was Ben Goldacre, who is a physician, scientific writer of suspicious medical claims and author of Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks and Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients. Dr. Goldacre captivated the audience with his verbose, animated style as well as his quick wit and scientific knowledge. The focus of his presentation was about misrepresented science, false medical claims, corrupt or missing scientific data, misleading published manuscripts and what he labels “bad science” or “tabloid science,” which undermines the credibility of publishers and damages evidence-based medicine. Besides enlightening the audience, Dr. Goldacre suggested delivering proper evidence, increasing transparency, requiring clinical trials registry and elevating publishing standards.

The annual MLA conference provided many relevant updates and much insight into upcoming developments. Vendors on the exhibit floors offered new product demonstrations and talked about enhancements to product features. The posters that were displayed, showed key points on various topics undertaken as projects by librarians at their organizations, such as new service models or roles. One of the many announcements was that made by the largest medical library in the world, National Library of Medicine (NLM) of the newly appointed Director, Patricia Brennan, who will lead it through future years. Overall, the conference lived up to its naming, Mosaic, and I am grateful to have attended to “be part of the big picture,” as was noted in the Mosaic tagline.

Sue Espe is Health Science Librarian, Merril W. Brown Health Sciences Library, Banner Health – University Medical Center.

Leave a Reply