Follow-Up to MLA ’17: Dare Dream Do: Focus on Diversity in Medical Librarianship

Editor’s note: Recent issues of the MLA News have featured recaps of some of the content and sessions presented at MLA ’17: Dream Dare Do, held in Seattle, WA. Our hope is that a brief overview of some of these sessions, technology showcases, posters, lightning talks, and more might continue some dialogue in this space, raise questions, or at least help you decipher those notes you scribbled during a presentation.

This recap focuses on the broad content topic of diversity in medical librarianship. Karen Gutzman, organizer of the special content session on Sunday, May 28, provides these notes from the session.


James Anderson, Gerald J. Perry, AHIP, Hannah Norton, AHIP, Annabelle V. Nuñez

Our profession is broadly impacted by current events as we seek to move toward a more diverse and inclusive profession for our members and a more equitable society for all. There were several events at MLA ’17 that highlighted the topics of diversity and inclusion, including the special content session, “Call to Action for Diversity and Inclusion: Perspectives for Our Patrons and Our Profession” (special content session slide deck, and notes) led by the Latino Special Interest Group (SIG), cosponsored by six additional SIGs and sections, and moderated by Bredny Rodriguez, AHIP, Health Sciences Library, University of Nevada–Las Vegas, and Carolyn Martin, AHIP, Health Sciences Library, University of Washington–Seattle. The panel for the session was:

James Anderson, Evergreen Treatment Services, Seattle, WA, and chair of the MLA Relevant Issues Section, spoke on identifying implicit biases and their impact on health disparities. He discussed the challenges to overcoming bias and shared the Project Implicit tool to learn about our biases.


James Anderson leads small group discussion



Hannah Norton leads small group discussion


Hannah Norton, AHIP, Health Science Center Library, University of Florida–Gainesville, spoke on sex and gender inclusivity in biomedical research. She explained how male gender was considered the baseline in preclinical research until 2016, when the National Institutes of Health (NIH) required new grant proposals to account for sex as a biological variable. She asked attendees to consider how libraries can highlight the need for sex and gender differences in research.
Annabelle V. Nuñez, Health Sciences Library, University of Arizona–Tucson, spoke on incorporating inclusivity in library service models. She impressed upon attendees the importance of developing cultural competencies (i.e., our capacity to recognize beliefs and values other than our own) so that we communicate and interact respectfully with each other.


Annabelle Nuñez leads small group discussion



Gerald Perry leads small group discussion

Gerald J. Perry, AHIP, Libraries, University of Arizona–Tucson, discussed how the efforts of library-related national organizations are deeply tied to the diversity imperative, such as the National Library of Medicine funding initiatives related to underserved communities. He encouraged attendees to think about our own “super powers” to diversify our profession.

Also at MLA ’17 was a much-welcomed announcement that MLA would form the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force. There are good expectations that this task force will evaluate current MLA practices in hopes of improving inclusion, equality, and representation of special populations and marginalized groups in the profession and in the association.

Did you attend any other sessions or lighting talks related to diversity in librarianship? For example:

  • “Coming out [of the Stacks]: Reducing Informational Barriers to Care through Community Engagement at a Local Pride Festival” (lightning talk on Sunday, May 28)
  • “Horsing Around: Creating an Exhibit on Equine Anatomy from a Historical Veterinary Medicine Collection” (presentation on Monday May 29)
  • “Daring to Serve All: Medical Librarian Engagement with Diverse Populations” (program session on Tuesday, May 30)

Did you view any posters on the topic? For example:

  • #22 “Culinary Medicine: Health Professionals Collaborating to Bring Health and Nutrition to the Community,” Trey Lemley, AHIP, Margaret Sullivan, Austin Cadden, and Rachel Fenske
  • #29 “Health Education for South Florida Transgender Women: The Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine Medical Library Outreach Project,” Francisco J. Fajardo, Hector R. Perez-Gilbe, AHIP, and Jorge E. Perez
  • #123 “Voices in the Choir: Librarians Helping to Move Osteopathic Research Forward,” Lori Fitterling and Jean L. Sidwell
  • #133 “Creating Community: How Our Library Dreamed Big, Dared to Take Chances, and Did Something New,” Melanie J. Norton and Melissa Funaro
  • #140 “Incorporating Active Learning Library Sessions for Dental Students,” Rebecca Davis

Click on the thought bubble icon on the left to provide your feedback and comments. If you don’t see the icon, please use the [Link removed (blog link)] and go to this article. Watch upcoming issues of the MLA News for more MLA ’17 topical summaries.