MLA President 2003/04
Seizing Our Power: Update from the President
I cannot believe how quickly this year has passed. It seems like we were just in San Diego, yet I will soon see many of you in DC at MLA ‘04.
It has been a busy spring.
We have continued to talk to the media about the role and importance of libraries and librarians. When NBC aired a report on commercial search services, we contacted reporter George Lewis and talked to him about the various services available from librarians usually for no fee. With the assistance of PCI, several additional story lines involving librarians were identified and sent to him. We will have to see if any of these stories are picked up for a future news segment.
There are many exciting programs that have been put together for the MLA annual meeting. Of course we have great plenary speakers with powerful and energizing ideas. “Power Surges” will provide more informal sessions that focus on a topic or issue—watch for the one on the Iraqi library situation. The “Morning of Innovation” programs offer insights into recruitment and retention, open access issues, and the role of the librarian in filtering knowledge. One of the open forums will highlight recipients of the IMLS grants to enhance recruitment of professional librarians, in addition sessions will be held on the information specialist in context, and information technology in hospital libraries.
A special forum will be held to discuss the need for the proposed due increases and help members prepare for the vote at the business meeting. The decision to increase dues was not made lightly or quickly. After two or more years of trying to balance the budget, analyzing MLA’s expenses, revenues and programs, and comparing MLA’s finances to other associations, the Board decided it was time to recommend higher dues. I hope that you take the time to review the articles in the last two issues of MLA News and the additional information on MLANET. This dues increase is important for the future financial health of MLA and its ability to deliver the services and pursue the initiatives that are important to you. If you are attending MLA ‘04, please be sure to attend the business meetings and lend your support to the Board’s motion.
Fall is a busy time for MLA members! And mine was no exception. Chapter meetings provide an opportunity for the MLA officers, Board members, and MLA headquarters staff (who staff the exhibit booth) to meet with colleagues across the country and listen to the issues within each region. It is also an exciting experience to be able to visit the different chapters and sample their hospitality and meeting style.
The fall flew by so quickly that I forgot to stop and write my usual monthly updates, so I have created a longer fall update on my adventures.
Here's a quick overview of the content:
The Southern Chapter was the next meeting on the schedule and the chapter lived up to its reputation of being generous hosts and having a lot of fun! The meeting was set in lovely Coral Gables and the conference planners offered local tours, including an evening in SoBe (South Miami Beach). This year's theme "Coming About: Designs for the Future, Reflections From the Past" provided lots of opportunities for exploring library issues using clever nautical metaphors. The meeting also offered many opportunities for members to contribute papers and posters. The poolside chats under the hot Florida sun provided members with an opportunity to talk about some hot topics. The poolside chat on e-resources covered interlibrary loans, copyright, e-journal management, cataloging, and, of course, price increases for e-journals. The big conference event was a totally charming evening at the beautiful Vizcaya estate, with dinner served under a tent overlooking the bay. At the end of the conference, Dr. Steven Ullman gave a bleak but excellent talk about the costs and future of health care. But my favorite presentation was by Raymond Santiago, director of the Miami Dade Library System. This charismatic speaker gave participants insight into the continual politics of libraries and shared his advice for librarians in how to work within the politics of their environment.
The chapter meeting schedule was broken up with a trip to Washington, DC, for the MLA/AAHSL Joint Legislative Task Force meeting on October 22 and 23. This was my first meeting with the group and I was impressed with the background work done by our committee members along with our Health and Medicine Council of Washington representatives, Dale Dirks and Gavin Lindberg, who track health care and library-related legislation. We reviewed the various bills before Congress including the appropriations bill for NIH and NLM and changes to the DCMA. We also discussed the Sabo bill, which called for open access to federally funded research. Our visits to Capitol Hill were excellent.
The congressmen whom we visited were supportive of the funding for the National Library of Medicine, listened to our concerns about copyright and database bills, and were interested in learning more about the publishing issues and the implications of the Sabo bill. It was clear that MLA and its members are highly regarded by our legislators and they view us as reliable resources on legislative issues.
The month of October ended with two more chapter meetings. Sturbridge Inn, in Sturbridge, MA, was the site for the North Atlantic Health Sciences Libraries annual meeting. I had a chance to meet with the resource libraries in the New England region to discuss scholarly publishing initiatives within MLA. David Ginn from AAHSL talked about their activities as well. In addition to concerns about e-journal costs and ILL restrictions, there were deep concerns over the future of libraries and librarians in the electronic world, especially with hospital library closings in the region. The Halloween and costume party was a fun beginning to the meeting. Feather masks sold at the scholarship booth provided a colorful and exotic flair to those without a more formal costume. The next day Dr. John Halamka from Harvard talked about the importance of librarians in working with the teams implementing clinical systems. Judy Foreman from the Boston Globe gave a fascinating overview of how exercise, good nutrition and healthy habits could prolong our lives and ensure vitality in our old age. It was a very inspirational talk and there was a high level of guilt as we thought about all the food we have already consumed. The scholarly publishing forum held during the conference echoed many of the same challenges and problems coping with e-journals expressed in the resource library meeting. Kent Smith provided an update on National Library of Medicine services. One interesting statistic was that 30% of the users of MEDLINEplus are health professionals and researchers!
I had to leave the NAHSL meeting early to catch up with the QUINT meeting in Philadelphia. From all the glowing comments I heard, the QuintEssential Conference was a wonderful opportunity for networking among the members of the Mid-Atlantic, New YorkNew Jersey, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia chapters of MLA, along with the local SLA chapter. Due to my short time at the meeting, I did not have a chance to hear much of the program, but the session on "Moving from Paper to Electronic Publishing of Journals" provided diverse perspectives on publishing. An editor of a medical journal talked about the business of operating a society journal and the decisions they faced in moving to an electronic publication. The Wolters-Kluwer representative focused on the perspectives that a commercial publisher and database vendor (Ovid) bring to the equation. My favorite comment was that the paper journal was still the best formatvery portable, readable format, and no archiving issues!
I then had the great pleasure and honor of sharing the podium during lunch with the SLA President Cindy Hill. The Quint program planners had asked us to talk about our associations in context of the functions of professional associations and how they will stay vital and meet the challenges of the future. While our associations are somewhat different, the concerns and issues facing both professional groups are the sameadvocacy, journal publishing woes, recruitment and retention, and professional development. Cindy and I enjoyed the chance to talk about what makes our associations strong and responsive to members' need.
The AAHSL annual meeting, at the conference of the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), immediately followed the NLM symposium in DC. AAHSL invited Clifford Lynch and others to participate in "Digital Scholarship: A Workshop on Institutional Repositories" and share their experiences and challenges in building repositories of papers and teaching materials. Lynch emphasized that this was not just a library project, but required an institutional long-term commitment to budget and resources. All the speakers underscored the need for the institution to develop policies regarding materials, formats, and intellectual property management as part of the planning process. Dr. Drummond Ronnie, deputy editor of JAMA, delivered the Nina Matheson Lecture. He mesmerized the audience with his discussion of ethics and bias in scholarly publishing, relating to his own experiences as author and editor. In another session, AAHSL focused on "Charting the Future: The Final Report," giving members a chance to think about how the new strategic document relates to their libraries and institutions.
Even though the meetings ended, my schedule remained busy as I focused on avoiding further budget cuts within my own library. After two years of fairly deep funding cuts, it was obvious that additional cuts next year would truly impact the resources and services available to support our faculty, researchers, and students, and ultimately our institutional priorities. Fortunately, the Vice Dean to whom I report listened to my arguments, realized what was at stake for Duke, and, armed with my data, went back to the top administrators and pleaded our case one more time. The administrators quickly acknowledged that further cuts would damage the library and overturned their earlier decision about further budget reductions. We are not completely in the clear due to the escalating costs of e-resources, but at least we can make some sound decisions that will protect our collections and services into the future. It was also a wonderful holiday gift to the Duke Medical Center Library staff who have been making difficult decisions and coping with reduced resources for the past two years.
Ironically, the scholarly publishing crisis has provided MLA with an advocacy opportunity and a chance to break into the media and publications focused on administrators and clinicians. Carla Funk and I worked on several draft articles, including one for the new PLoS Medicine, and I talked to reporters from Lancet and the Chronicle of Higher Education, as did other MLA members. Throughout the fall I also worked with our communications firm PCI on media contacts and talked to reporters from Modern Physician (Websites for clinicians), US News & World Report (finding health information on the Web), Medicine on the Net (open access and publishing issues), and Information World Review (the future of information professionals). My media training as a board member was definitely put to good use this fall!
The MLA board has been discussing the development of a task force to address scholarly publishing issues and will review and approve the formal charge at its February meeting. In the meantime, the Board is monitoring trends in the publishing industry and closely watching contract negotiations.
The board is also working on the "Morning of Innovations" program for the annual meeting (Plenary Session 3). The "Filtering without Fear: the Librarian's Role in Distilling Knowledge" program is a joint venture among several MLA units including the Task Force on Expert Searching, the Task Force on the Information Specialist in Context, the Health Information Literacy Task Force, and the Evidence-based Health Care and Clinical Librarians Special Interest Group (SIG). "Filtering without Fear" will feature posters and a panel presentation that showcase models for filtering services as well as other activities that relate to or support filtering activities. The audience will have a chance to ask questions, share their own experiences, and identify the skills, knowledge, and professional development needed to deliver such services. Watch for more information in press releases about the conference.
The Fall Board meeting was in early September and chairing my first meeting initially seemed daunting. There was a long agenda and many issues to discuss. My predecessors Carol and Linda were so organized and ran such good and productive meetings that I wanted to make sure to follow their example. Fortunately, Carla and MLA HQ staff provided great support in preparing for the meeting and the Board's Executive Committee helped sort out priorities for discussions, identified missing agenda items, and determined which issues might require more time. Once the Fall meeting started, MLA staff and Board members kept the discussion on target while not losing sight of the need to explore and openly discuss concerns and challenges faced by MLA members. A great sense of humor rippled through the meeting as well, and kept us energized and strengthened as a team. I am always amazed and proud of how well such a diverse Board pulls together with HQ staff to address MLA's ongoing business and new initiatives. Look for highlights of the MLA Board meeting in the MLA News.
The Fall meeting is also a planning meeting. The HQ staff put together a draft of the business plan for 2004. Ray, Carla and their colleagues at MLA HQ scan the environment, identify financial issues, and review current programs and initiatives, and develop an initial plan to support the priorities for the coming year. The Board then reviews it and makes changes as needed. After the meeting, the MLA staff builds the budget for the coming year and it is approved by the Board.
The Board also spent time prioritizing the recommendations from two task forces. Both the Task Force to Recruit the 21st Century Workforce and the Online Education Task Force had completed their charges to review the issues and present their recommendations to the Board. Both reports presented many activities and initiatives that could be pursued. The challenge for the Board was to balance what we could achieve in light of MLA's resources, our ongoing programs, and the importance of the issues to members. By the end of the meeting, priorities were identified that would go to existing MLA units, such as the CE and Membership Committees, as well as to the new Professional Recruitment and Retention Committee (ad hoc).
Fear of Filtering
The Midwest Chapter was fun and informative and a great way to start my Chapter meeting schedule.
Responding to the Publishing Crisis
MLA is limited in how it can respond to market issues. As a non-profit, tax-exempt organization, we are prohibited from influencing members' decisions dealing with pricing structures and are not allowed to publish detailed information about contract terms and pricing. We checked with legal counsel about conducting a survey on contract terms and costs, but the data would have been fairly useless since it could only be presented at the aggregate level (not by each publisher) and could not be current prices (data would have to be released months after the survey).
So what can MLA do? We may let publishers and others know that our members have concerns and try to educate publishers as well as faculty and administrators.
August provided me with a wonderful opportunity - attendance at the IFLA meeting in Berlin, Germany. Located in the architecturally interesting International Conference Center, the conference was packed with diverse presentations, numerous Library tours, a tour of Berlin, special events, standing committee meetings, and exhibits.
Of course, I did not spend all my time at the conference. Berlin was a great place to visit even during the heat wave. The city is a living monument to WWII and the impact of the division between East and West Germany. Over 70% of the city was destroyed by bombing, so it is a fairly new city. And East Berlin is now in the throes of catching up with its Western half. The wall is almost completely gone, but there are reminders imbedded in the street behind the Brandenberg Gate, in the concrete walkway behind the Reichstag, as well as a block long portion along Niederkirchner Strasse. Pieces of the wall are sold everywhere and large sections have found new homes near stores, restaurants, and the convention center. But Berlin is not only famous for the wall; its symbol of the Berlin Bear is everywhere. A special international initiative has placed over 2,000 brightly painted "buddy bears" throughout the city. But for me the Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche, a church on Kurfurstendam Strasse, became the symbol of Berlin - the beautiful remnants of an old cathedral bombed during the war, next to a modern tower of blue, red and yellow glass as a memory of the war. Old and new standing side by side!
Once back home a number of initiatives were underway and reached completion.
Libraries Association Annual Conference, June 9-11,
SLA is a very large meeting compared to MLA 7,000 attendees and a lot more vendors. Not surprisingly, we share many of the same issuesour value as a profession, coping with change, leadership needs, recruitment, e-journals issues, impact and use of technology, and future directions for libraries and librariansprograms addressing these issues ran from the very basic to highly technical presentations about knowledge technology, genomics and proteomics. A very rich and complex program: there were any where from a dozen to over 20 simultaneous sessions and I often marked 3 or 4 per each time slot as hot issues that I should attend. (I will never complain about the conflicts at MLA again!)
At the Division of Biological and Life Sciences (DBIO) business meeting, I saw a number of our MLA members including David Duggar, Bonnie Snow, and Fred Roper, as well as colleagues from North Carolina. I also met Nancy Simpson, the new DBIO chair (David was the outgoing chair.) I gave an impromptu update on MLA and focused on the similarity of issues for both groups, quickly reviewing our priorities for the year. An unexpected moment came when they called me up to receive my 25-year service certificate for DBIO!
Futurist Stewart Brand challenged librarians to be active participants in their role of preserving knowledge and data, so that we do not enter the "Digital Dark Ages" when data is not usable or lost entirely. Madeleine Albright was a phenomenal speaker touching upon politics, the changes in the role of women, and the some of the dangers our society faces in responding to terrorism. She saw information technology and politics as influenced by similar forcesglobalization and fragmentationand while both information and politics had the potential of pulling us together on the global level, both could as easily pull as apart. She also recognized librarians' long-term commitment to freedom of information and expression.
The BIG vote on the name change occurred on Wednesday morning right after Albright's talk. The name SLA, Inc. (the acronym) was voted down; the name "Information Professionals International, Inc." won by a majority vote. But when it came time to vote in a bylaws change for the new name, a 2/3 vote was required and the affirmative vote (to change the name in the bylaws) lost by 19 votes. It appeared that many of their members would be more comfortable with a gradual name change or to something less radical. But as one member summed it up at the end of the voting, it is what we doour value, service and contentand not what we are called that is important.
Another highpoint of the meeting was the town meeting on electronic journals. SLA's town meeting was a chance for librarians to ask those tough questions of publishers (Elsevier, Davies Menfee; Kluwer, Kerryn Simpson; ACS, Dean Smith) and subscription agents (Ebsco, Mark Williams; Swets Blackwell, Alan Hess). There were no presentations by the panel, just answers to librarians' questions.
Many of the questions were expected and it was clear from the questions and comments that library needs are very diverse, especially when you add corporate libraries to the mix of non-profit libraries. Not surprisingly the publishers responded to the questions of complexity and divergent approaches with the explanation that it was their attempt to customize contracts and deals to meet specific library or consortia needs.
There were some surprising issues brought up in the discussion:
of Association Executives, CEO Symposium, June 16 and
The symposium faculty also provided us with opportunities to critique how well our association runs. I am pleased to report that MLA meets the guidelines and criteria set forth by ASAE for well run and responsive associations!
This year the symposium included a session on how organizations can respond to the current economic downturn depending on the status of resources, volunteer time, level of participation, and member satisfaction. It was a new way of looking at which strategies could or should be pursued during difficult times.
We also learned more about the "Millenial Generation" and what they are looking for from association membership. Here are just a few of the expectations this generation may have of MLA.
of Rhode Island Health Sciences Libraries, June 18
The morning started off with an excellent CE program taught by Jeannine Cyr Gluck. "Running with Squirrels: Providing Library Services for Hospital Administrators" was a fast paced look at the various resource that libraries can tap into when providing information for administrative and financial decisions.
Ruth Holst was one of the invited speakers and her presentation "Survival of the Fittest: The Future of Hospital Librarians" covered a thought provoking list of the challenges that are facing hospital librarians. The second speaker was Terrie Fox Wetle, the Associate Dean of Medicine for Public Health and Public Policy, and she focused on the "The Changing Face of Public Health in the Information Age." She discussed various public health issues and the role information played in informing decisions, and deciding on responses and policies governing public health.
Health Information Infrastructure 03, Washington, DC,
June 30-July 2, 2003
It was an overwhelming meeting in terms of the amount of knowledge shared and the number of issues before any group trying to determine a successful path to NHII 03. While there was an element of frustration that there has been slow progress toward the goal of a true common infrastructure, Secretary Thompson's presentation set a new tone for the conference. It was clear that he understood the issues and wanted solutions, and that he was willing to have the government take more of a leadership role in some of the critical issues, such as standardization and common vocabularies. He has asked the Institute of Medicine and HL7 to develop standards for electronic health records. He also announced that SNOMED, a medical vocabulary set, would become freely available for use. The Secretary praised NLM's Dr. Donald Lindberg and Betsy Humphreys for their key role in the negotiations for this standard terminology.
The details of the proceedingspresentations and recommendationswill appear at Website above.
Scholarly publication remained a hot concern. Linda Watson, Mark Funk and Linda Walton pulled together a number of materials for a new scholarly publishing Website on MLANET.
Several new legislative bills were introduced and MLA's Government Relations Committee and the Joint Legislative Task Force began tracking and discussing them.
Work on the standards for the electronic health record sparked a discussion about the need to specify links to knowledge or evidence-based resources.
And I continued to work on establishing task forces and committees to continue work on important MLA initiatives.
The summer months of June and July flew by, but were filled with wonderful opportunities to learn about new ideas and developments, discuss issues with colleagues and experts, and to represent the ideas and concerns of the MLA community.
Seizing Our Power: May 2003
Like Linda, I came away from the San Diego very energized. I was amazed at the positive attitudes evident throughout the conference even though our profession is facing some tough issues. Meeting with the MLA student members was a wonderful experience. We talked about what initially drew them to the library field and how we could recruit additional students into health sciences. These discussions underscored the importance of recruiting and mentoring bright young professionals, who will be our future members and leaders. The mentoring program was another great opportunity for members to consider alternate pathways for career and personal development. Again, our newer members reminded us of the diversity of our membership and the need to develop innovative ways to keep everyone engaged within the association. I think we all caught the wave excitement at the San Diego meeting as we considered new possibilities and opportunities for libraries and librarians as well as identified some creative responses to the issues before us.
Scholarly publication is a crucial issue and not that MLA or we as libraries can easily resolve. A week after the annual meeting, I attended an excellent conference at the National Academies of Science on electronic publishing. The news was not great for libraries in terms of escalating prices. Both society and commercial publishers are experiencing real increases in costs due to e-formats and these are not offset by the savings in the elimination printing, paper, and mailing. Most of the costs of journals are still found in the editing and peer review process, and now publishers must implement IT structures to support the electronic world. Long-term archiving has additional costs that must be factored in as well. The overall message was that prices will not decrease and will probably continue to increase in the future. But several society and commercial publishers are challenging how costly e-journals need to be and are suggesting that publishers look closely at the IT industry for ways to share costs and implement more cost-effective publishing methods. The publishing industry is facing a major transformation that they must embrace to be successful in the future.
Those publishers present at the meeting did hear the message that our libraries and our institutions cannot keep pace with the price increases. Library budgets are flattening, if not decreasing. Libraries are also tired of the big deals and want selected collections, not just everything a publisher has to offer. As libraries are forced to drop subscriptions and expensive collections, some publishers and publications may seize to exist.
What can we do? As many suggested at the scholarly publishing forum, we need to educate the authors and editors in our institutions about the costs of e-journals. These are the true customers for publishers as they compete for the experts who write and review their content. And these are the customers who are demanding increased functionality and new electronic features that drive up development costs for publishers. We need to let our administrators and faculty know about the costs of e-journals and the crisis facing libraries, and make them aware of alternatives to traditional publishing.
MLA is already analyzing the suggestions from the open forum and will be considering methods for educating MLA members and providing you with tools for reaching out to authors and editors within our institutions.
Creative Commons is one of the many alternatives to the standard publishing paradigm and traditional copyright ownership. The MLA Board has already decided that we need to investigate how we can apply this new approach to all our association publications and have asked the Publications Committee to further investigate this. As members, we can also pursue this within our individual institutions. My library is currently considering how we can license our newsletter, online tutorials and other Web publications through Creative Commons. In addition to supporting this copyright alternative, we will promote this to our faculty. As I talk to educators, they are very excited about the possibility of freely sharing their work for non-profit uses while not losing control over or recognition of their intellectual property. Creative Commons seems to answer their concerns.
But scholarly publishing is one of many critical issues before us and we need to continue with our recruitment efforts, responsive educational programs, and effective use of MLANET as a valuable resource to members. So I am looking forward to a busy and exciting year, and working with our members on MLA's priorities and ongoing initiatives, which will address the tough issues facing us and continue to promote our value to the biomedical and health care communities.
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