Submitted by Priya Arora, Wolters Kluwer; John Gallagher, Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library, Yale University, New Haven, CT; Tracy Gardner, Renew Publishing Consultants; Susan Haering, NEJM Group, Waltham, MA; Eve Melton, AHIP, Library Services, Kaiser Permanente, Stockton, CA; Jeff D. Williams, AHIP, NYU Health Sciences Library, New York University–New York; and Rich Lampert, Doody Consulting, Philadelphia, PA
The MLA InSight program was developed to create a forum in which librarians and vendors can discuss topics of mutual interest in a collegial environment. Much of the time at InSight Summit 2, held in late September, was devoted to small-group discussions of issues that both librarians and vendors regard as challenging, with each group consisting of equal numbers of medical librarians and vendor representatives. This is the first of two articles that synthesize key points from the discussions.
The theme for the second MLA InSight Summit was “Meeting the Evolving Information Needs of Library Stakeholders,” following closely on observations at the first InSight Summit that both librarians and information providers needed to focus more intently on users. After keynote presentations on quantitative and qualitative approaches to understanding the user, attendees split into seven small groups to attack the challenge of how information providers and librarians can collaborate to meet user needs.
This is a large topic because the term “users” encompasses so many types of people, from students through early and late stages of both clinical and research careers, and these users have such diverse needs. Some discussion groups focused on developing information literacy, presumably in students and young clinicians, while others focused on information and publishing needs of researchers. Inevitably, the boundaries among these groups blurred, and the collective outcome was a mix of defining the issues, broad strategies, and specific tactics.
Multiple discussion groups identified an overriding need: for information providers and librarians to have discussions that go well beyond sales (and pricing) considerations. In other words, participants wanted the kinds of discussions that took place during this event to become a more widespread phenomenon whenever librarians and information providers talk.
As one group reported, “Google is the elephant in the room.” Google returns potentially thousands of answers to a query in under a second, is accessible on any device with Internet access, and is intuitive for new users. Librarians and publishers understand why many licensed resources are more appropriate than Google in health sciences situations, but they need to treat the Google user experience as a benchmark. At the same time, Google Scholar is sometimes underappreciated by users. One important advantage is that it sometimes links to institutional or subject repositories that may be more accessible than content from publishers. And, a number of groups suggested, perhaps MLA and medical publishers can induce Google to develop tools in the platform to better meet this community’s specific needs.
A common theme among the discussion groups was the need for librarians to have direct connections with users at multiple phases of their education and clinical training—for everything from class projects to clinical rounds to literature surveys. Librarians should seek ways to become embedded in teaching, research projects, and the like. Just one significant interaction can convince a user of the value of the library as a practical resource. Different types of users are more or less receptive to librarian interactions. For instance, bench scientists generally believe that they have all the information resources that they need and that they know how to use them. It is probably worth developing unique tools and strategies to generate some dedicated library users among this group.
Perhaps unfortunately, librarians are not dealing with blank slates. Users who come to them for the first time usually have some established habits for finding and using information, which in many cases need to be “unlearned” before librarians can have an impact on their attitudes and practices.
Looking beyond Google, access to licensed content—particularly on mobile devices—is a pain point. Both publishers and librarians have a responsibility to keep up with modifications in institutional Internet protocol (IP) ranges. In addition, publishers need to help libraries overcome copyright barriers that impede common uses such as embedding illustrations in PowerPoint slides for teaching purposes or simply collecting teaching materials for a curriculum in a unified portal for student use.
Publishers need to make user-focused videos on how to use their specialized resources. Ideally, content development people from publishers should ask their library clients what they need, involve them in the development or review of the videos before they are released, and keep lengths under three minutes. A complementary approach is to “train the trainer”: publishers provide in-depth understanding to librarians so that they can provide explanations to their users on an as-needed basis.
Participants believed that both publishers and librarians can introduce early career researchers and writers to key ethical issues, including what the value of legitimate peer review is, what constitutes scientific fraud, and so on. (Image manipulation is an increasingly frequent form of scientific fraud, one group noted.) In general, residents and junior faculty need tools to help them get started with their early papers, and perhaps publishers can draw on their wealth of experience with expert editorial boards to create these.
At many institutions, librarians provide specific advice on how to get a paper published: how to choose an appropriate journal, what the submission process is, what peer review is and how to respond to it, and even what to do when a paper is rejected by a particular journal. This area is another one where three-minute videos produced by publishers (with librarian input) could be valuable tools.
Information to dispel myths about open access is another identified need. Both publishers and librarians have an interest in increasing understanding of this model.
The broadest outcome of this discussion is the realization that publishers and librarians are in a relationship that is much broader than buyer and seller. Libraries and publishers have mutual opportunities, mutual barriers, and mutual concerns. There are many opportunities for collaborations to serve users at many phases of their careers, whether ambitious or modest, as long as both groups make time for thoughtful conversations.
MLA’s InSight Initiative is supported by the following organizations: Annual Reviews, American Psychiatric Association Publishing, American Psychological Association, BMJ, Elsevier, F1000, The JAMA Network, McGraw-Hill Education, NEJM Group, Oxford University Press, ProQuest, Rockefeller University Press, SpringerNature, and Wolters Kluwer