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Gaining Speed and Ready to Take Off

mla hands web.jpgFor the past few years, the MLA Board, MLA leaders at all levels, and headquarters staff have been hard at work to advance the ambitious goals set forth in our three-year rolling strategic plan. Before we talk about next year, though, let’s take a moment to catch our breath and briefly review some highlights of what we have accomplished in the past year.

Since our last annual meeting in Toronto, we have improved our technology infrastructure, introduced a new online platform for our signature Journal of the Medical Library Association with Katherine Goold Akers as the recently appointed editor-in-chief, and converted our MLA News newsletter into an individualized online experience. We approved revised bylaws to give the councils and chapter and section units more flexibility and greater decision-making power, aimed at promoting a more inclusive environment for member participation. The Research Imperative Task Force is developing educational programs and toolkits to support evidence-based practice and demonstrate the value of our profession. We are in better financial shape, and our revamped institutional membership program is a success. At the beginning of 2017, in response to recent US government policies that threatened our fundamental beliefs and principles, the MLA Board affirmed our core values, including, among others, reliance on scientific evidence for health care decision making, promotion of open science and open access to information, and global community engagement and collaboration.

But much has also been happening behind the scenes to prepare for new or expanded initiatives that will greatly benefit our membership in the coming year. I will focus on three of the most important.

1. New strategic goal: emphasizing diversity and inclusion (D&I) as a core MLA value

As President Teresa L. Knott, AHIP, described in her Full Speed Ahead blog post in December 2016, the MLA Board had an in-depth facilitated discussion on diversity and inclusion (D&I) at its November meeting that identified three domains of interest: issues related to health care delivery and health disparities, D&I in our profession, and D&I in our association. At our upcoming meeting in Seattle, the board will approve a new D&I strategic goal as related to MLA activities, programs, publications, and membership. We will create a task force to lead the initiative and coordinate actions of all MLA components that are affected by the goal. The task force will reach out to the membership via committees, sections, special interest groups (SIGs), open forums, and other means, as they recommend action items. It is my hope that this will not be a “one-and-done” activity; that, instead, we will continue to consciously embed these values into our programs and activities as an ongoing effort.

2. Education, education, education…

In early 2015, the MLA Board approved a strategic goal to position MLA as the go-to education resource for health information professionals. This would be accomplished by revising the MLA competencies for success, strengthening our educational curriculum and offerings, introducing an online learning management system, and creating new content and a strong marketing plan. In November, the board approved an expanded committee structure, which will go into effect on June 1, 2017, to support this major initiative. The Education Steering Committee will serve as the coordinating body for MLA education, and the Annual Education Programming Committee will select and plan the course roster for the annual meeting, along with webinars and webcasts throughout the year. The Leadership Curriculum Committee is the first of what will be several operational committees to develop a curriculum and oversee course development in specific subject areas.

The final report of the Task Force to Review MLA’s Competencies for Lifelong Learning and Professional Success has been approved by the board. The report identifies six competencies necessary for professional success that will serve as the foundation for professional development, preprofessional academic preparation, and continuing education programs. The six competencies are Information Services, Information Management, Instruction & Instructional Design, Leadership & Management, Evidence-Based Practice & Research, and Health Information Professionalism. Each competency is accompanied by three to ten performance indicators and definitions of basic and expert levels of proficiency for each indicator. While no one will be expert at everything, these competencies will offer a measuring stick and roadmap for each of us to develop our personal goals for professional development.

And to tie these disparate efforts together, our new learning management system, MEDLIB-ED, will debut in May. MEDLIB-ED will provide one-stop shopping for course offerings from MLA, the National Library of Medicine (NLM), the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM), and others. There will be robust information pages on MLA’s education-related programs, the new competencies, and other areas of interest. All MLA members will be invited to complete a periodic self-assessment course to structure their individual educational programs. Members and nonmembers will have a personal space to hold their certificates of completion and MLA continuing education (CE) credits going forward. MEDLIB-ED will also be available to host course listings, evaluations, and CE tracking for MLA chapters. I salute MLA staff members Barry Grant, Debra Cavanaugh, Kate Corcoran, and Martha Lara, who have worked many long hours to implement MEDLIB-ED.

3. Our organizational communities

MLA sections and SIGs are the main areas where members coalesce around topics of importance to the profession and communities of practice. Our strategic goal relating to communities aims to strengthen these groups to increase their relevance, effectiveness, and value to members to empower MLA members at the grassroots level and to reduce administrative complexity. The Communities Strategic Goal Task Force is meeting regularly, and we expect to have their recommendations in the coming year.

As you can see, we are indeed gaining speed and altitude as a professional association. These are only a few of many ongoing initiatives and projects. Stay tuned for more announcements in the year ahead.

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