Submitted by Gary M. Childs, Francis Harvey Green Library, West Chester University, West Chester, PA, and Amanda Adams, CMSRU Library, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, Camden, NJ
The Philadelphia Regional Chapter of MLA held their annual meeting on August 6 and 7, 2020. The global pandemic caused the planning committee to pivot, which resulted in developing an online event spread over two days versus meeting in-person. The board realized it would not be possible to meet in-person during the previously selected date in August. The planned programming had to be adapted as much as possible so that it could occur in a virtual environment. The board addressed these changes in planning during the month of June. Prior to this, members of the planning committee were adjusting to a variety of changes that affected their institutions.
Due to these major changes in planning, along with the number of potential uncertainties that could be affecting members, the meeting was offered free of charge for the chapter. This courtesy was also extended to members of the nearby New York-New Jersey Chapter.
Lisa K. Traditi, AHIP, MLA president, graciously provided the MLA Update. President Traditi discussed a number of developments including the MLA ’20 vConference; the recently approved Statement of Appropriate Conduct; changes to MLA caucuses; the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee; the online Research Training Institute; and a wide array of other national-level programs and initiatives.
Kelsey Crowles, from the Network of the National Library of Medicine (NNLM), Mid-Atlantic Region (MAR), provided a presentation that opened with an explanation for the formal name change of the organization (previously known as the National Network of Libraries of Medicine). New PubMed updates were described along with how to locate training events and “tool kit” material. COVID-19 related resources were shared, and many professional educational opportunities were detailed including, Identifying & Combating Health Misinformation, the Research Data Management webinar series, and the #CiteNLM fall edit-a-thon*.
Two panel discussions were also offered. Shilpa Rele, Rowan University; Sarah Wipperman, Villanova University; and Annie Johnson, Temple University, described initiatives at their institutions that support open access publishing. The Makers Spaces in Health Science Libraries panel members were Alicia Curran, New York University; Benjamin Hoover, Penn State College of Medicine; Alicia Lillich, National Institutes of Health; and Brian Zelip, University of Maryland.
The chapter also provided a showcase for poster presentations. The planning committee was aware of meeting cancellations that had recently occurred. We collectively wanted to ensure that our members could share their scholarship and ideas. Poster presentations were offered during the second day of the meeting. Crowles shared a deeper exploration of the #CiteNLM initiative that deals with improving health information on Wikipedia. Amanpreet Kaur, University of Pennsylvania, discussed weekly themed wellness walks that had been impacted by emergence of COVID-19. Jenny Pierce, Temple University, described a research project dealing with medical student mentors and empathy. Lastly, Hannah Rutledge, AHIP, University of Pennsylvania, explained remote onboarding procedures for new hires that was utilized during the pandemic. All submitted posters are viewable online.
The annual meeting closed with a short social event. Members who participated in this portion of the program discussed how their libraries and institutions were planning, organizing, and adapting. The individuals who attended this portion of the event discussed ideas for reentering their institutional libraries, with safety being the primary concern. Admittedly, this section of the event was difficult to conduct in an online environment. Going forward using breakout rooms with different themes and topics might work better than one large room. Recreating a way to socialize and mingle to simulate an in-person event remains elusive at present.
Regardless, the annual meeting was a large success. The planning committee adapted and attracted highly engaging speakers, panels, and poster presentations. Attendance data showed something interesting. Since 2017, attendance has remained at approximately thirty-five chapter participants. While this remained true in 2020, twenty-one members from the New York-New Jersey Chapter attended the event, bringing the total number of attendance to sixty-seven registrants!
As the chapter collectively looks toward 2021, new ideas for and approaches to the next annual meeting are being formulated. While the present remains challenging and socially distant, there is hope for what the future holds.
* The November 19 MLAConnect Consumer Health column has more information about #CiteNLM edit-a-thons.