UNYOC MLA Scholarship Blog Post
May 31, 2016
The MLA conference in Toronto took place during a unique time for me. On the same weekend as the meeting, I completed my MLIS degree, and was two weeks away from beginning my first librarian position. I had spent the last year and a half as a research assistant and library intern at a medical school, and prior to that I was a medical book editor for a major publisher for many years. Armed with these varied experiences, I began the conference excited to spend time with new colleagues and to learn more about the field.
Throughout the sessions, plenary talks, and posters at MLA, presenters continually described the value of face-to-face, collaborative services in their libraries. By the end of the meeting I felt a newfound appreciation for proactive efforts to build partnerships between clinicians, researchers and students across disciplines.
One presenter discussed the importance of growing your own network within your institution. When a team of researchers that she was working with expressed interest in bringing a clinical psychologist into their group, she suggested someone from the psychology department who she knew through assisting them at the library. The psychologist’s expertise filled the knowledge gap in the research team, and she had demonstrated the value of working with a librarian in the process. “Librarians can drive collaboration in team science by making the first move,” she said.
The importance of in-person service was also stressed in sessions and posters covering systematic reviews. Many librarians talked about the benefits of in-person meetings to develop a search strategy and methodology with a systematic review team. More face time leads to richer service opportunities and a potential to act as a co-investigator on the study. “Introduce yourself as a project manager,” one presenter suggested, “and you’ll promote the idea of librarian-as-collaborator.”
On the last day of MLA I asked an experienced librarian what advice she has for me as I start my work as a library liaison to several departments at a large university.
“Set up coffee and lunch meetings with as many faculty members as you can,” she said. “When you ask to attend a faculty meeting or suggest new library services, you might hear 10 ‘no’s before you get a ‘yes’ but just keep asking.”
As I settle into my new job and begin making contacts, I’ll do all I can to become a familiar face in my liaison departments. Attending MLA has underscored the value of in-person collaboration, and when my suggestions are not well received, I’ll rethink and rework them, and then keep asking.