August 18, 2006
No, I have not fallen off the face of the Earth. August is traditionally a busy month for me as I am in charge of the serials renewal, which needs to be to our vendor by September 1 to guarantee renewal. In addition, several new, time-sensative assignments came due this week, and I had to prep for and run my first MDMLG Executive Board meeting.
If there was any uncertainty about how underepresented hospital librarians felt at MLA and how irrelevant they felt programming was, those uncertainties were laid to rest yesterday. The normally “so quiet I sometimes forget about it” Hospital Library Section of MLA listserv offered a flurry of posts regarding JCAHO’s request for comments on the Management of Information Standard and regarding MLA programming. Michelle Kraft has done a good job recapping the conversation regarding hospital librarians and MLA, I will not reinvent that wheel. I also have my opinions on that but do not have the time right now to articulate them properly. What I want to iterate today is barriers, other than lack of relevant programming, to attending MLA conferences and discuss possible alternatives.
There are many reasons medical librarians, especially hospital librarians, cannot attend MLA. Funding is one reason, many hospitals are strapped for cash and, like it or not, do not feel continuing education for librarians is that important. There are grants available, but that is a solution for only a handful of librarians. Paying for a conference out of pocket is another option, and there are librarians who feel that attending MLA is so important that one should not hesitate to pay out of pocket if they were a true professional. I do not know about anyone else, but I am a librarian at a Catholic hospital. I don’t get paid enough to have a spare $2000 for MLA. I won’t get on my salary soapbox here, that is enough fodder for several posts. Lack of funds is not the only reason; some hospital librarians limit the number of staff members that can be gone from the library at the same time. So, either only the library director attends MLA, or the staff rotates attendance, or staff attends different conferences.
I agree that MLA, or any conference for that matter, is best experienced in person but that is not always feasible. Offering alternative means of “attending” MLA offers librarians the chance to keep up when they otherwise could not.