Our inaugral post was submitted by Siobhan Champ-Blackwell, Community Outreach Liaison for the National Network of Libraries of Medicine MidContinental Region (NN/LM MCR) and REFORMA Secretary, from Omaha, Nebraska:
When asked to explain the position of Community Outreach Liaison for the National Network of Libraries of Medicine MidContinental Region (NN/LM MCR), I feel the need to sit down and get ready for a long chat. So, pull up a chair, a cup of tea or a glass of wine, and join me as we explore the world of regional medical libraries, outreach and networking.
First, the NN/LM. There are eight regional medical libraries (RML) in the United States. You can find your RML at http://nnlm.gov/ . Just click on the map for your state and you are there. I work for the MidContinental Region, the big purple section in the middle of the country. http://nnlm.gov/mcr/
“The mission of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM) is to advance the progress of medicine and improve the public health by providing all U.S. health professionals with equal access to biomedical information and improving the public's access to information to enable them to make informed decisions about their health. The Program is coordinated by the National Library of Medicine and carried out through a nationwide network of health science libraries and information centers.” This is a pretty broad mission, and each RML carries it out in slightly different ways, depending on the geography of the region, the make-up of the population, etc.
At the NN/LM MCR, we use what we call the “distributed model”. The University of Utah holds the contract for the Regional Medical Library and subcontracts positions and special projects to seven libraries in the region. I work for Creighton University’s Health Sciences Library/Learning Resources Center through its subcontract with the University of Utah. Creighton’s HSL/LRC carries out the work of community outreach in the region through my office. Community Outreach focuses on improving access to health information around health disparities issues, especially in terms of minority health status. The other RMLs have a centralized model, where the NN/LM staff work mainly out of one medical library. For the NN/LM MCR the distributed model helps us to reach our frontier and rural geographic communities more efficiently.
You can see that this is a job that is bigger than one person or one office. In the NN/LM, we strive to assist libraries and community organizations to help us carry out our mission. We do this by providing classes, exhibiting at conferences, funding projects so they can reach their communities. Another successful strategy that I have used is to keep a blog “Bringing Health Information to the Community” http://nnlm.gov/mcr/bhic/ This blog is read daily by hundreds of national and international readers, made up of librarians and staff at public health departments and community organizations. And the readers of the BHIC blog forward postings onto others that they know would benefit from specific items, and so the word spreads.
It’s hard to describe a day in the life of an NN/LM librarian, because every day is different for all of us. I might be headed out for a three day trip to Denver to teach 12 hours of Continuing Education to public librarians, or driving to Kansas City to lead a “Café to Go” session, which brings librarians and community organizations together to find ways to partner with each other on health information projects. I may be teaching future healthcare providers at health sciences schools across the region on cultural competency resourcez. I may be in my office, blogging, answering email, developing classes. Or I might be taking notes at a REFORMA Board of Directors Meeting, fulfilling my role as Secretary of REFORMA. Networking, teaching, getting outside the library to where people are is a fun, exhausting and worthwhile way to spend time.
If you want to know more about being a medical librarian, see the resources the Medical Library Association has put together at http://mlanet.org/students/ I hope you consider this field. There is huge variety in what a medical librarian does and where s/he will end up – hospitals, corporations, non profits and public libraries are just some of the places that hire medical librarians. Feel free to contact me with any questions you might have, and be sure and contact your RML!