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Librarians without Borders® Research4Life Workshop Lao People's Republic Workshop Report: December 13-16, 2016

Vientiane, Lao People's Democratic Republic (December 13-16,  2016)

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This ‘hybrid’ HINARI and AGORA workshop was conducted at the Datacom Training Centre. It was supported by the World Health Organization/Western Pacific Region (WPRO), the Food and Agriculture Organization Lao Country Office and the Librarians Without Borders®/Medical Library Association (LWB). The instructors were Professor Lenny Rhine (LWB), Marie Villemin Partow (WPRO) and Gerard Sylvester (FAO/Thailand Regional Office).   

Significant organizational support came from Irene Tan, WHO/Lao PDR Country Office who was responsible for the selection of participants and all the local logistics including the selection of the Datacom Training Centre, a modern training facility with reliable Internet access. Also contributing to the success of the workshop was Bouaphanh Khamphaphongphane (Lao PDR Ministry of Health). She officially was listed as the translator but also became one of the trainers thanks to her understanding of the training material and the value of this workshop for the participants.

As noted above, this was ‘hybrid' Hinari and AGORA training program. The objectives were to have the participants learn the critical skills of Hinari and AGORA and related Internet resources that would be applied to their scientific information needs. The total number of participants was thirty-one for Hinari from the Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Public Health, National University of Laos, National Library of Laos and four hospitals. An additional fourteen participants focused on AGORA – from the Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, National University of Laos, National Library of Laos and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. Also participating were three Lao PDR based staff from the Asia Foundation. The Foundation is interested in collaborating with the R4L programs in Lao PDR and other eligible countries.

The first two days were a joint workshop for the participants from both programs. The training modules covered included Research4Life (R4L) Overview & Internet Searching, Information on the Internet, Using the Hinari & AGORA portals, Summon Search tool for Hinari & AGORA, E-resources for R4L Users and Overview of R4L training material. 

On the third day, the two groups split into separate training rooms with Gerard Sylvester conducting the AGORA training. The morning of the fourth day, the two groups rejoined to complete the ‘way forward’ group exercises. 

Additionally, approximately 15 ‘new’ participants joined the Hinari workshop on the third day. The morning session of the third day became a review for the original group and a briefer overview of the initial modules for the new participants. The afternoon of the third day and half of the fourth was devoted to new Hinari oriented material including four PubMed, evidence based medicine and e-book resources modules plus, for all participants, the group exercise to develop the curriculum for training at their institutions.

All presentations had hands on/practical activities with several being group projects. All the Hinari exercises had been translated into Lao which enabled the participants to successfully complete the material in a timely fashion. For the dual program modules, the AGORA participants used a separate set of exercises that focused on their subject material. These were not translated into Lao.

At the end of the workshop, the Hinari & AGORA participants completed post-training surveys. Overall, a solid majority the participants ‘agreed’ that the workshop was well organized, had relevant material with useful ‘hands-on’ exercises, that the trainers were knowledgeable/organized, effective presenter and responsive to questions and that the workshop resulted in their obtaining useful knowledge and skills. According to the participants, major strengths of the workshop included Demos/Hands on, Information Gained and Support Material. 

There were a significantly broader reply to the ‘length was appropriate for course content’ question. The responses were 50% replying ‘agree’ and the remaining 50% noting ‘somewhat agree’ or ‘somewhat disagree’ or one ‘disagree’. 

These wider ranges can be attributed to the complexity of training the two programs’ groups, that several of the participants were from disciplines outside the scope of the Research4Life programs and the addition of a significant number of Hinari orientated participants after the initial two days. In hindsight, more discussion by the trainers about the two programs’ content and common modules, the schedule plus a clearer focus for the selection process would have been beneficial.

In the survey comments, several participants noted that the workshop should have devoted more time to the Zotero reference management software module. Due to time constraints and the fact that participants did not bring laptops, this software was not downloaded onto personal computers nor were the hands-on exercises completed. The follow-up recommendation is that the text of this module be translated into Lao and both versions sent to the participants. They would be have the details to download the software and complete the hands-on exercises.


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