I have time for one last post before I get kicked out of here. I apologize for the long delay since my last post, but this last month was very crazy in getting ready for the MLA annual meeting. There was the presidential address to write, illustrate, and rehearse; the board meeting to run; the business meetings to run; the awards luncheon to host; and the Wednesday plenary session to emcee. With all of that plus my regular job, blogging was one of my last concerns.

I have been getting lots of compliments about the meeting. But really, about the only thing the president can take responsibility for is his or her speeches. If my speeches resonated with people, I think it was because what I said was what many people wanted to hear. As Scott points out, many people work very hard to put a meeting together. It just happened that this time, topics, technology, and our energy all came together for one helluva meeting. In case you couldn’t attend, MLA had 10 official bloggers reporting the meeting, so you can check out all of their postings in one convenient place. The meeting was well photographed. Here are my pictures, and you can also check out the MLA 2008 photo pool.

The big difference for me with this meeting was the prominence of our younger members. Intellectually, I know they’ve been at previous meetings, but at this meeting they were more visible — presenting papers, posters, and participating in panel discussions. I held a special reception in my suite for new MLA members who have already been on committees, task forces or juries — our future leaders. They seem eager for the challenge. The question is — how eager are our “seasoned” members ready to hand over the reins? Demographically, MLA has the potential for many members retiring in the next few years. We won’t have the luxury of letting our younger members learn the MLA ropes by watching on the sidelines for years, until they’ve “paid their dues.” They need, and want, to participate now. Both Mary Ryan and I worked hard to appoint new members to the available positions on committees, task forces, and juries. But as I pointed out in my presidential address, there aren’t that many positions available. We need to adapt our current governing tradition by opening up participation to more members. And a 30 member committee isn’t the way to do it.

MLA’s units — our sections, chapters, committees, task forces, and yes, even the board, need to start using Web 2.0 tools such as blogs to open up our governance. Allow more members to participate in our governance. Open the windows and doors, and allow our members to see both how and why decisions are made. Allow them to question and comment during the process. Allow them to gain in a few years the kind of MLA experience that took people of my generation 20 or more years to gain.

This isn’t heresy, this really isn’t that radical. It’s just different, and this new technology allows us to do it rather easily. Remember that “We have always done it that way” isn’t an answer, it’s an excuse. Boomers didn’t like that response in the 1960s, and we shouldn’t like it now. And as long as I’m talkin’ ’bout my generation, I can assure them that the kids are alright.

…until we meet again.

April 7 is fast approaching, the deadline when all newly accepted publications based on NIH funding must be submitted to PubMed Central. It’s new, it’s confusing, and a lot of librarians are scrambling around trying to educate their researchers. The April 2 issue of the SPARC Open Access Newsletter has a nice list of very helpful links, including some from medical libraries. I particularly like the NIH compliance flowchart from Becker Medical Library at Washington University in St. Louis.

We have hundreds of MLA members taking the Web 2.0 101 CE course. Comments are very positive, and people are enjoying learning about these useful new tools. If you would like to know more about how Web 2.0 actually works, this video explains the machinery in the background that makes it all come together.

For some reason I had never been to Las Vegas before, so I jumped at the invitation to attend this joint meeting of the Northern California/Nevada Medical Library Group and the Medical Library Group of Southern California & Arizona. I arrived a few days early at the Flamingo, the meeting hotel, in order to partake of the experience that is Las Vegas. I’m not a gambling man, so the casinos themselves didn’t offer much more than gawking, but that was…interesting. We spent days just going from casino to casino, enjoying some great food, window shopping at very expensive stores, and more gawking. Carolyn and I have seen Cirque du Soleil several times in New York, so we got tickets to “O” at the Bellagio, which was very entertaining. While walking around, we had seen several signs about the “Big Elvis” show, so we had to see that, especially since it was free. Big Elvis is fortunately not as big as he used to be, since he’s lost over 500 pounds in the last three years, but he’s still quite large. Appearing with Big Elvis was Morgan White Jr., a trivia expert with lots of audience interaction. Carolyn and I won several prizes during his show, since librarians are usually pretty good at trivia. He would be a great entertainer at a library meeting, where he might meet his match.

The meeting started with a rocking welcome reception featuring yet another Elvis, this one younger and thinner. He was quite a hit, as everybody wanted to have their picture taken with Elvis. I tried to comply. Things got more serious Thursday morning, with keynote Dr. James Cimino speaking on “Infobuttons LITE: the Librarian Infobutton Tailoring Environment.” This was followed by some excellent contributed papers. I gave the MLA update during lunch (I sympathize with every lunchtime speaker). Friday morning started with Tom Basler, Ph.D., FMLA, speaking on how he has repurposed the library’s vision at the Medical University of South Carolina. Tom will give the Janet Doe lecture at the annual meeting in Chicago, and I’m really looking forward to it. More great contributed papers followed, and I’ll give a shoutout to fellow blogger Marcus Banks who spoke on the health sciences biblioblogosphere. The meeting ended with a panel discussion on why excellent hospitals need librarians and libraries and library services. It featured Dr. Robert Wise, VP of the Division of Standards and Survey Methods at The Joint Commission. Many of the presentations from the meeting are available.

This was the last of my Great Chapter Meeting Marathon as president of MLA. I very much appreciate the kindness and support that was given to me at every single one of these meetings. I come away from them in awe of how chapter members can consistently put together provocative and intelligent meetings, all while continuing to do their regular jobs. I hope Mary has as much fun this fall as I did.

Mashable specializes in social networking news. A recent post covers 12 screencasting tools that one can use to create video tutorials. Most of us are probably familiar with Camtasia, which is relatively expensive, and currently works only on Windows. It’s also overkill for a lot of things we want to do. Take a look at the Mashable posting and see some other tools that are available. Many are free. I’m partial to Jing, which is free, works on Macs and Windows, and can also record audio. It takes seconds to record a video, then create a url that can be sent for viewing. The video is instantly uploaded (also free), and the url can be sent via e-mail, IM, or a blog. I can imagine this being very useful at the reference desk. Rather than trying to explain to someone on the phone on how to change a computer setting or use a feature of some software, just create a quick video and send the url. Static screenshots can also be done, and annotated as well.

Got any favorite tools you’d like to share?

As easy as most web 2.0 applications are to use, sometimes it’s the concept of a tool that’s hard to describe to somebody. “Why exactly would I use social bookmarking? Why aren’t my regular bookmarks good enough?” Fortunately, the geniuses at Common Craft work hard to explain these concepts in plain English. They are a consulting company based in Seattle, who make short videos in a format they call Paperworks. These short videos use simple, hand-drawn illustrations that are moved on and off the screen by hands, while the narrator explains things to you. They’re light, humorous, and they really make complex ideas easier to understand. Go check out their popular videos on blogs, RSS, wikis, social bookmarking, online photo sharing, and social networking. Their product is explanation.

In an earlier post I presented some findings from the survey done by the Task Force on Social Networking Software. They found that many librarians are having access to various social networking web sites and applications blocked by their IT departments. I asked for some success stories on getting these sites unblocked, but I didn’t receive any. I’m asking again for you to send me not only success stories, but failure stories as well.

I’m working on an article that I hope to get published in a magazine that’s read by organization leaders. In it, I want to include examples or techniques that made TPTB unblock sites. If I could include horror stories of necessary access that was denied, that will also help. Please share.

Very nice place, Oxford, I should think, for people that like that sort of place.
George Bernard Shaw

I serve on several publishers’ library advisory boards, and I attended the fall meeting of a major publisher in Oxford, England this November. Other than spending several hours at Heathrow Airport, this was my first visit to England. While half of my time was spent in a windowless room discussing publishing trends, library budgets, and Open Access, Carolyn and I did get two days to explore the city.

After the meeting ended Friday afternoon, we had dinner with Dr. Sarah Thomas, previously the director of Cornell University Libraries in Ithaca, and now the Bodley’s Librarian at Oxford University. Dr. Thomas is the 24th Bodley’s Librarian, the first woman to hold the title, and the first non-British Bodley’s Librarian. Yes, she’s that impressive. The Bodley’s Librarian position goes back to 1600.

And while I live in New York City, which started as a Dutch fur trading settlement in 1625, Oxford makes New York seem, well, new. There is almost nothing still standing in New York City that pre-dates the Revolutionary War. Some of the buildings at Oxford University were built in the 13th century, and they’re still being used today.

The weather was cool, and it was mostly overcast with occasional showers, but I was able to take lots of photos. Over the days I was editing my photos and processing them in Photoshop, I was also reading P.D. James’ “The Children of Men.” I had recently caught the movie on cable, and wanted to read the original. The loose film adaption adds a lot of chase and war scenes that are not in the book, which is far more moody and melancholy. Also, most of the book takes place in Oxford. It was fascinating to read descriptions (and James writes excellent descriptions) of streets and places I had just seen.

James calls Oxford “…this grey city, where even the stones bear witness to the transience of youth, of learning, of love.” I tried to capture some of this feeling in some Photoshop manipulations. Hope you like them.

Thanks to Stephanie Holmgren for posting on medlib-l a few days ago the link to the US News & World Report article on Best Careers for 2008. The author, Marty Nemko, is a veteran career coach, and is also the author of “Cool Careers for Dummies.” The article highlights 31 careers that offer outstanding opportunities based on job satisfaction, training difficulty, prestige, job market outlook, and pay.

Librarianship made the best careers list, and Nemko further calls it an “underrated career.” He also put together a list of “overrated careers,” those occupations with “a mystique that exceeds reality.” New to the list this year is medical scientist. He contrasts the appeal of helping humankind, doing fascinating experiments, and high prestige to the reality of the less-than-lottery-winning-chances of actually making a significant discovery, the superlative grades required, the poor quality of life for medical researchers, and the relatively low pay given the hours worked. This probably isn’t news to most of us. But what really surprised and pleased me is that Nemko offers medical librarianship as an alternative career. He says our chances of actually solving scientific puzzles is greater because we solve lots of people’s problems by finding the information resources they need. He adds that our training is shorter and easier, and requires only a master’s degree in librarianship. He ends up by declaring medical librarianship an “under-the-radar” career, with less competition for jobs. Wow.

One of my presidential priorities is to expand our recruitment efforts by concentrating on college students in the popular new health sciences major, and to work with schools of library and information science in reaching out to these programs. Nemko’s remarks are powerful ammunition in these recruiting efforts.

This meeting was another twofer: my first time at the Southern Chapter and my first time in Charleston, SC. I was delighted by both. Stepping off the plane was my first delight: a warm, pleasant climate (in November!) with palm trees. I’m a transplanted Midwesterner living in New York City, so palm trees have always seemed exotic to me, and they usually mean I’m somewhere very pleasant. Carolyn and I checked into the conference hotel, the Francis Marion, where we had a room with two bathrooms (we found out that many of the smaller rooms had been combined, and the bathrooms were left). We quickly unpacked and went out to lunch at Jestine’s Kitchen, then to explore the Charleston City Market.

There was a welcome reception in the exhibits that evening, where we re-acquainted ourselves with many old friends. The meeting started on Wednesday with a terrific keynote by George M. Needham, Vice President of Member Services at OCLC. His presentation was titled “Perceptions and Realities: Some Thoughts on Library Futures.” He highlighted findings from an OCLC report called “Sharing, Privacy and Trust in Our Networked World.” This report explores social participation and cooperation on the Internet, and how they can impact the library’s role. Two members of MLA’s Task Force on Social Networking Software, Michelle Kraft and Gabriel Rios, gave reactions. I attended several excellent contributed papers, and I hope that some of these may be published. After a poster session, Carolyn and I went on the homes and garden tour. A combination walk and bus took us to three incredible homes that have been lovingly restored over the years. It was hard to believe that they had been several feet under water after Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

Thursday started with a general session called “Medical Librarians ‘In Context’: In the Hospital, In the Classroom, & Virtually Everywhere.” Moderated by Laura Cousineau from the Medical University of South Carolina, the panelists (two physicians and a nurse) urged us to “market, market, market.” Some of the notes I took: Personal connections are vital – start with one, and build on your success. Think outside the silo – be a silo buster. Librarians must enter the “field,” where the animals are. (I think that’s a metaphor…) More contributed papers that afternoon, then a lovely banquet featuring Betty Chavis Jones, a Gullah storyteller and the Adande Drum and Dance Company.

The meeting ended Friday with Betsey Humphreys talking about NLM’s Long Range Plan, 2006-2016, followed by a distinguished reaction panel; the MLA update; and the NLM/RML update. This was yet another excellent chapter meeting, and I am very glad I was invited. This group meets next year in Birmingham, where my parents live, and I hope to be able to attend that meeting as well.

You know I have pictures.

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