Grants and Scholarships
2010 Cunningham Fellow
Petros Demilew Miskir
Report on 2010 Cunningham Fellowship Program from 3rd May to 26 May 2010 by
Petros D. Miskir, Head of Central Medical Library ,Addis Ababa University ,Ethiopia
I am Petros Demilew Miskir Head of Central medical Library at the School of
Medicine of Addis Ababa University , Ethiopia. I was applying for 2010 for the
Cunningham Fellowship program in the year of 2009. On Same year the board of
directors of MLA informed me that I was the winner of the 2010 medical Library
First and foremost, I would like to express my deepest gratitude for Medical
Library Association International programs award committee for selecting my
application as a winner of 2010 Cunningham Fellowship program. One of the interesting
parts of this program is that the board of directors informed within a month
after the dead line of the application process. This was giving me enough time
to prepare myself one year before for my trip to United States of America. Throughout
all communications, arrangements and coordination, the hard works of Lisa C.
Fried, International professional development programs coordinator, credentialing,
professional recognition and career services shall be appreciated.
Components of fellowship program
The program has three parts.
Part one is a visit to George Washington University Himmelfarb Medical Library
from May 3 to May 12 , 2010 . In this part of my first program a visit to other
libraries were also included such as Washington Hospital center, children's
hospital , National Library of Medicine, Gelman George Washington University
main Library. Anne Linton the director of Himmelfarb Medical library was my
host and contact person. Her job in scheduling and arranging all necessary things
to all libraries visited in the first part of my program was very impressive.
The second part of the program was a visit to Yale University Cushing/Harbey
Medical library from May 14 to May 19, 2010. The contact person and host was
Daniel Dollar. He was working hard to end of the program for the success of
my second part visit. In addition to Cushing/harbey medical library , Daniel
was arranging other libraries such as Quinnipiac University health library and
Main Yale university library. Daniel's effort to cover in the visit schedule
all functions and services of these libraries was very appreciated.
The last and third part of the program is attending annual MLA meeting at Washington
Hilton held from May 21 to May 26, 2010. Besides my attendance of different
programs and events an shared new innovative ideas with many medical librarians,
I was attending two continuing educational courses namely effective training
design: a short course for trainee of trainees HINARI resources .
Observation and expectations
From all these libraries I have observed that the medical libraries role and
integration to their institutions they are in is very high. Even though, there
a slight difference according to the nature of the activities, library and information
services delivered by these libraries are more or less similar. All of them
applies and utilizes the fruits of information technology. Particularly libraries
in the hospital environment, they are changing themselves into electronic virtual
library. Most of their serials collection is electronically accessible; the
physical size of the four-wall library has been diminished. The other important
observation from this visit particularly in GWU himmelfarb Medical library is
that all professional librarians are involved in providing classes to their
medical students on problem base /case based learning's.
When I was applying to the program I was intended to achieve the following.
· To have a clear picture on the practice of evidence based library practice
· To acquire basic and advanced techniques of electronic resources management
· To see the practice of clinical librarianship in hospitals or health
· To know more on the importance of associations of medical libraries
· To get knowledge o n the settings of libraries in the 21st century
· To exchange ideas and experiences among medical librarians
One of the important points on the success of my fellowship programs is the
question of meeting the objectives it sets. After completing my visit and attending
the annual meeting I am realizing that I have achieved my goals set before despite
the shortage of time for comprehending all at a time. It gives me an initial
spring point for establishing and improving the overall activities of the libraries
in medical schools and hospital environment. It provides me practical exposure
on how to manage all the functions of and services of biomedical and health
libraries. Some of the major issues that attracts my attention and gives impression
which are completely new experiences are:
· In all libraries serials collections and services moving to more and
· Monograph collections in print format has been decreased and some hospital
libraries started to get rid of .
· The physical library is getting smaller and smaller particularly hospital
libraries are changing themselves in to virtual. A good example is children's
library at national hospital center , Nursing and public health library in Yale
university are only accessible electronically and their physical space is changed
or taken for other offices . however these libraries have access to unlimited
resources electronically for the library users.
· Problem based or case based learning (PCL or PBL) practiced by Himmelfarb
medical library of GWU is one of the new way of delivering instructions to medical
students as one part of reference services in the library. The interesting part
of this program is it involves all professional librarians and incorporated
in the curriculum of the medical schools. I found that such programs increases
the visibility, the value and recognition of the library both to the faculty
· During my visit to the national library of medicine (NLM), I observed
that their works is very huge and contributes a lot to all other medical and
health libraries throughout the world. They are always improving the searching
strategies and techniques of PUBMED and other freely available databases
· The other important services I have observed in Yale university Cushing/Harbey
Medical library is that of personal librarian and liaison librarian. Personal
librarian is responsible for about 20 medical students for every question and
assistance the students need through out their stay in the university with related
to library and information services including technology support. The liaison
librarian is responsible for one or two departments in school of medicine serving
as an instructor and contact person with related to library/information services,
use of library resources, and information literacy programs. These services
helps the library to strengthening its relationship with departments and faculties.
The library uses these services as meeting points with faculties and students
· The Cushing/Whitney Medical Library plays a role of intermediaries
between the information technology and students or medical school community
· In all libraries the organizational settings are frequently changing
and various from libraries to libraries. I have concluded that any library shall
be setting according to the connivance of management and use by patrons
After all these observations, I have concluded that the roles of libraries have
been changed. They are considered as one of the places where instructions and
research has been conducted. Libraries are partners in the healthcare system.
It is a good signal for libraries in developing countries for evaluating themselves
where they are and where to go. Being a Cunningham Fellow enables me to refresh
myself to the profession of medical librarianship and encourages me to work
hard for the development and improvement of the library service in general and
medical library services in particular.
From MLA annual meeting I have got good inputs on how to strengthening libraries
associations in which we are under the process of establishment. My attendance
to this meeting becomes a source of strength for the realization of Ethio-AHILA
chapter which is becoming one of the chapter of African health information and
libraries association. Even though, we librarians living in the developing countries
have faced scarcity of resources , we can do more better by optimally utilizes
the available resources at hand. I have learned that if there is commitment
and dedication, we can bring many changes towards the developments of medical
librarianship in the continent.
I have noticed that libraries like other sectors of the society they are in
a very rapid continuous change. They are shifting from ownership of physical
collections to licensing and sharing or accessing content of electronic medical
and science information resources. Medical libraries have quickly recognized
the enormous potential of electronic resources to transform research and patient
care. I am fully convinced that my library should be changed and transformed
to become part and parcel of the 21 century library and information services.
It is of my strong belief that a lot of work is expecting ahead of me otherwise
my skill and knowledge is becoming out of the train it goes to age of information
Challenges and/ or Problems and Recommendations
Despite all these success story of my Cunningham fellowship program there were
challenges and problems that needs the attention of Medial library association.
I have mentioned these challenges and problems with the positive spirit and
seek of improvement and development of international Cunningham Fellowship programs
in the future.
A. The first challenge is in the process of application. The process of collecting
application is not convenient. One of the area is that of all printed documents
and audio copies of same document with nine copies is difficult to send using
ordinary postal system. Other means shall be devised because most developing
countries surface postal carriers are not efficient and able to deliver timely
and with good conditions. Electronic document delivery systems could be one
of the solutions for this challenge. Many librarians are encouraged to compete
for the fellowship program.
B. The other important and critically needed issue is the shortage of time for
the program. It is very difficult to cover all areas of a library which is totally
changing from the works of traditionally libraries. In order to give better
knowledge and skills to the fellow in the program, could I suggest that at least
four months is needed. Because so much of the items introduced to me were brand
new, then without asking some basic questions and clear ambiguities a one hour
allotment per library tour is very small. One hour is really but a very fast
tour within the library. What supports for the success of my visit is that I
am an instructor, I have read many good books and articles about medial libraries
operations and services otherwise time allotted for the program is very very
C. One of the important components of this program is to introduce the culture
of USA for the fellows and exchange the fellow's culture. But such activities
are not addressed from the schedule. The fellow should see tourist areas, places
and historical famous cultural activities. The other area with related to these
issue is also entertainment activities are out of the program. I can say that
I was too busy to complete my schedules and then I was unable to take advantage
of the wealth of available sites in Washington. In order to make the program
more global host cultural activities shall be considered.
D. The other area that needs improvement is the scope of coverage of funding
the fellow. It would have been better at least to cover minimum costs of fellows
expenses such as round trip air ticket expenses. For instance it was big challenge
for me to pay $1500 for my round air ticket from my pocket or institution. Most
of developing countries cannot support such expenses due to shortage of foreign
currency and shortage of money. Thanks INASP ( International Network for the
availability of scientific publications) for providing me the grant to cover
my round trip expenses.
E. The number of awards is very few. For instance from Africa I am the only
one. But developing countries are many and needs to find such programs . A lot
of medial librarians are awaiting for MLA for its expansion of the international
programs like this.
Last but not least , I want conclude my report by saying Cunningham fellowship
programs is very good program and that should be supported. I would like also
to explain my deepest appreciation to all involved in this program. I do hope
any of my concerns are viewed as constructive and in no way would I have missed
this once in a life time opportunity.
May 26, 2010 , Hilton Washington DC,