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MLA InSight Initiative

An open circle partnership to advance thinking on health information

Librarians and publishers live uncomfortably in an era of disintermediation. Google, Amazon, ResearchGate, SciHub, and others interact directly with our readers and users in ways that diminish the value the information provider and the librarian deliver in the information chain.

MLA’s InSight Initiative is a thought-leadership initiative uniquely designed to address this problem by engaging health sciences librarians and information providers in high-level, high-value dialogue on issues that matter to both our communities. It aims to reinforce, expand, and communicate the value that we contribute in the chain of moving information from the author to the reader.

Since 2018, there have been three in-person summits for thirty-six to forty participants (equal representation of librarian leaders and participating organizations) featuring keynote speakers, panelists, and small group discussions on the thematic topics for each summit.

Participants of these summits have praised the open and collaborative atmosphere, and the opportunity to discuss big-picture issues and brainstorm potential solutions that impact both librarians and publishers.

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Summit 3 (Concluded) Summit 4 (November 18–19, 2019)

Bridge Bulding: What Bridges to Build and How

June 12–13, 2019, in Chicago, IL (concluded)

Librarians, publishers, and aggregators will collaborate and brainstorm concrete measures to address frustration, challenges, and opportunities in providing services to the full range of health sciences library users.

  • Panel discussions: one each for information providers, librarians, and users, followed by:
  • Focused small-group activities aimed at discovering actionable approaches to more effective deployment of information resources.
Anticipated Outcomes
  • Produce specific plans that can be adopted by publishers, aggregators, and librarians designed to better position the library at the core of student, clinician, and researcher workflows.
  • These plans will emerge from intense small-group discussions and real-time synthesis during the summit.
  • Two to three initiatives will be chosen for further development by volunteer work groups who will collaborate on specific tangible outcome initiatives in the aftermath of this Summit.
Learning Objectives
  • Develop an enhanced understanding of frustrations, challenges, and opportunities in providing services to health sciences library users on the part of senior representatives of publishers and aggregators
  • Develop an enhanced understanding of frustrations, challenges, and opportunities in providing services to health sciences library users on the part of senior librarians
  • Develop an enhanced understanding of library user frustrations and challenges as well as their perception of opportunities for libraries to better serve their needs
  • Devise a work plan template for developing tangible outcomes related to identified and prioritized actionable initiatives
Summit 3 Proceedings

User Behavior: A Collaborative Working Summit

November 18–19, 2019, in Chicago, IL

The fourth InSight Initiative Summit builds on the key outcome of the third, namely, that librarians and information providers should build trust through collaborative work to improve their joint understanding of how users discover and access information resources. Participants from the third summit will return to develop and report on projects that have been underway since early September:

  • A series of meetings with an End User Advisory Board (EUAB) designed to elicit key insights about user experiences and needs;
  • A survey of users to add quantitative weight behind observations from the EUAB;
  • An enduring resource that synthesizes ideas from the EUAB and the quantitative insights from the survey;
  • Development of an online forum to raise and discuss issues related to discovery and access concerns of users; and
  • Development of a formal curriculum to educate librarians and publishers about critical aspects of user behavior.
Anticipated Outcomes

The aim of this summit is to contribute a body of tangible intellectual property that is widely available to librarians and information providers. It is hoped that this material will enable people working in many facets of the information industry to better serve users.

Learning Objectives
  • Develop and document qualitative and quantitative insights into information user needs, concerns, and frustrations;
  • Define the key elements of a curriculum designed to provide a systematic introduction to understanding information user needs; and
  • Determine the scope and structure of an ongoing forum to discuss information user needs.


Summit 1 (Concluded) Summit 2 (Concluded)

Engaging Users in a Disruptive Era

March 6–7, 2018, in Chicago, IL (concluded)
Topics discussed
  • Leveraging specialized discovery tools to maximize user engagement
  • Security and the future of IP authentication
  • Lessons learned from pirate sites
  • Imagining the ideal social networking site for collaboration and sharing
Summit 1 Proceedings

Meeting the Evolving Information Needs of Library Stakeholders

September 27–-28, 2018, in Chicago, IL (concluded)
Topics discussed
  • How health sciences researchers and clinicians discover and consume information in their fields.
  • Strategies for helping users recognize the value of curated or peer-reviewed content obtained through institutional access channels
  • Existence of different user modes of information discovery and access
  • User reliance on professional societies and Twitter as information sources
  • The extent to which smartphones are used to find medical information
  • The importance of inducing disorienting dilemmas in library users that cause them to recognize librarians as true partners in information seeking and research, the dangers of depending on non-curated information
  • The need for publishers and librarians to work together to ease barriers to access and enrich the user experience
Summit 2 Proceedings

Anticipated Outcomes

  • White papers, professional guidelines, written standards to help advance responsible health information publishing
  • Articles in the academic literature about discoveries from the summits, press releases, social media campaign
  • Action plans to invest in or cocreate informational content
  • Development of educational programs for MLA members
  • Support from and interaction with key outside groups

Note: Outcomes will be made public and reflect the diversity of perspectives rather than seek consensus, without identifying a specific individual or organization unless mutually agreed to.


Librarian participants

Consider applying as a librarian participant if:

  • You have professional knowledge, expertise, and interest in the summit theme;
  • You will commit to:
    • attendance at the summit;
    • between three and five hours of preparatory work (pre-summit);
    • active participation and contribution to the work of the summit; and
    • up to ten hours of follow-up work (post-summit activities and products).

There is no registration fee for librarian participants. MLA will support the actual travel expenses of librarian participants (summit hotel, and transportation) up to $600. 

Applicant timeline:

  • Application deadline: April 18, 2019
  • Acceptance notification: April 24
  • Hotel reservation cut-off date: May 13
  • Summit: June 12–13

Participating organizations

  • 1-year commitment
    • $10,000 per year for corporations for two summits ($6,000 for 1 summit only).
    • $5,000 per year for nonprofits and small businesses for 2 summits ($3,000 for 1 summit only).
    • Fees cover cost of summits and outcomes; net proceeds help to cover cost of MLA’s journal and advocacy programs.
    • Pre-summit and post-summit participation in program development and production of published work or courses that result from each summit
  • Benefits:
    • Listed as an MLA InSight Initative participating organization on MLANET and in MLA publications
    • Invitation to special events and sessions including
      • an invitation-only event in the MLA presidential suite at the annual meeting, where representatives from participating organizations meet with task force members and other MLA leaders in an informal setting
      • an open forum at the MLA annual meeting, where representatives from participating organizations can meet informally with the membership at large
    • Unrivaled networking opportunities with senior-level medical librarians, the MLA membership at large, and commercial peers
    • Access to all initiative-related resources
    • Full participation for up to 2 representatives from participating organizations per summit; $1,200 fee for the second participant
    • Credit for your organization’s direct contribution to the development of the intellectual property that results from the summits
    • Proceedings available to public at no cost

More Information? Contact Dan Doody, responsible for participating organization recruitment for the MLA InSight Initiative; 312.239.6226.


These guidelines address confidentiality, rules around business intelligence and information sharing, recognition/attribution, and the nature of information to be shared after each event resulting from the summit.

Confidentiality and Rules around Business Intelligence and Information Sharing

When a meeting, or part thereof, is held (under the Chatham House Rule, as amended by the task force July 2017), direct attribution will not be disclosed. The substance of the discussion, including important details and nuance will be publically shared, as both substance and nuance are critical to having a meaningful, robust, and rich conversation of use to the community of practice. At no time and under no circumstance will participating organizations be asked or expected to share information that they consider to be confidential, they consider proprietary, or they perceive may harm them competitively if they disclosed it.

Vendor participants are encouraged to directly contact librarian participants on issues relating to the summit topic both during and after the summit and vice versa.


Vendors will be recognized in the following ways:

  • InSight Initiative web page: company logo and a link to the vendor’s website
  • MLA annual meeting: Official Program
  • MLA leadership: MLA presidential reception with participating organizations, InSight task force members, and MLA leaders
Information Sharing
  • Following each summit, the following information will be shared with the public/membership:
    • Program agenda
    • Participant list
    • Written highlights of the discussion in conformity with the above guidelines on information sharing (this will not include summit audio/visual recordings and transcription)
    • Tentative: open forum could be held at the MLA annual meeting where representatives from participating organizations informally meeting with the membership at large

Summit participants will have open access to intellectual property developed out of the event and be entitled to the use and consumption of it.

  • Each summit has its own program committee appointed by the InSight Initiative Task Force.
  • The summit theme is determined by the Insight Initiative Task Force in consultation with key participants and formal feedback from attendees of previous summits.
  • The program committee consists of three librarians, three representatives from the participating organizations, the program facilitator, and a liaison from the InSight Initiative Task Force.
  • The program facilitator is Dan Doody of Doody Consulting.
  • The program committee is responsible for developing the schedule and all program elements for its summit. The program committee is not responsible for logistics or preparation of program materials for summit.
  • Program elements must support the theme of the summit.
  • Program elements can include, but are not be limited to:
    • Keynote speeches
    • Panel presentations
    • Small-group exercises or discussions (including a summit-opening icebreaker)
    • Planning the intellectual property (i.e., white papers, social media campaigns) that will evolve from the summit
    • Program elements for a particular summit are determined by the program committee through five to six one-hour-long conference calls organized and chaired by the program facilitator. The program facilitator provides the call agenda and background material a few days before the call, followed by the compiled minutes of the call.
  • The program committee determines the mix and timing of the program elements and selects the invited speakers, panelists, and presenters within the limitation of the budget. Program committee members will volunteer to to invite the identified speakers, panelists, and presenters until all speakers, panelists, and presenters have been secured.
  • Following the summit they planned, the program committee convenes one final time to debrief on the success of the summit, lessons learned from the programming effort and output, and things that can be improved for the next summit. The program facilitator ensures these notes are passed along to the program committee of the next summit.
Rules for Selection

The InSight Initiative Task Force, with support from the MLA staff:

  • Recruits librarian and affiliate participants for the summit.
  • Ensures that each summit features a representative mix of librarians affiliated with the diverse organizations with whom vendors work, including academic medical centers, community hospitals, specialty schools (nursing, pharmacy, etc.), governmental agencies, corporations, nonprofit advocacy organizations, and community-based organizations.
  • Ensures that participants agree to their necessary level of involvement prior, during, and after the summit.
  • Uses an online application with defined criteria with which to evaluate interested librarians for selection of participants.
  • Selects librarian thought leaders with specific knowledge and expertise related to the particular summit being organized.
  • Invites individuals from trade associations, nonprofits, federal government agencies, and so on, who are subject experts on the summit theme.
  • Invites an equal number of individuals, based on the summit theme, to ensure the right balance of thought leaders.
Librarian Participants
  • For each summit, MLA will invite MLA members to express their interest to participate in the upcoming summit via a link to an application form.
  • Applicants are required to list their specific knowledge, skills, and expertise related to the specific theme of the summit, as participants are actively engaged in the discussions and outcomes of the summit.
  • Applicants commit to the required summit attendance, active engagement in and contribution to the discussion, and time commitment for pre- and post-summit activities.
  • Cost
    • There is no registration fee for MLA members participating as librarians.
    • Food is provided during the summit.
    • Travel and hotel is reimbursed based on actual expenses and MLA’s travel reimbursement policy, up to an $800 maximum.
Affiliate Participants

The InSight Initiative Task Force may identify and select a limited number of representatives from affiliate organizations to participate based on their engagement in the issues being addressed at and their ability to provide meaningful contributions to the discussion and outcome of the summit.

Task Force Members

Gerald J. Perry, AHIP, FMLA
University of Arizona
Chair and 2010-2011 MLA President
Kevin Baliozian
Medical Library Association
Barbara A. Epstein, AHIP, FMLA
University of Pittsburgh
2017-2018 MLA President
Michelle Kraft, AHIP
Cleveland Clinic Foundation
2015-2016 MLA President
Beverly Murphy, AHIP, FMLA
Duke University Med.Cntr.
2018-2019 MLA President
Gabriel R. Rios
Indiana University
Daniel J. Doody
Doody Enterprises, Inc.
Summit Organizer
Rich Lampert
Doody Consulting, LLC
Summit Co-organizer
Mary M. Langman
Medical Library Association
Staff Liaison
Maria Lopez
Medical Library Association

InSight Initiative Articles

Apply for InSight Initiative Summit 3

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It’s Called Predatory Publishing for a Reason!

Report from InSight Summit 2: How Can Librarians, Publishers, and Providers of Discovery and Management Tools Collaborate to More Effectively Communicate the Value of Information?

Report from InSight Summit 2: How Information Providers and Libraries Can Collaborate in Supporting Users in Developing Information Literacy through the Research/Publishing Life Cycle

Participating Organizations (2019)


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