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Newsletter of the Medical Library Group of Southern California and Arizona

Nine Months Later

Posted on September 22, 2020 by David Bickford | No Comments

Note: The following is a report submitted by Deb Schneider, M.Ed, MLIS, HonorHealth, this year’s winner of the chapter’s professional development award.

If truth be told, the last time I reflected on how different “nine months later” would look probably dates back to my first pregnancy. An imperfect comparison to be sure as that time was filled with joyful expectation. This time, my “nine months later” feels more a mixture of concern, hope, uncertainty, commitment to (but mixed success with) not sweating the small stuff, admiration of and thankfulness for my colleagues, and optimism of better days ahead.  I submit for consideration that this description is an accurate summation of my 2020 MLA conference experience as well.

It’s difficult to remind myself of my expectations in January 2020 when I hit the submit button in hopes of having a lightening talk accepted for MLA. My worries seem small now.  Would my submission be accepted?  Could I convince my leadership to support my first-time attendance to MLA especially in an environment where our 2020 department education/travel budget had been slashed to eight dollars (yes, eight)? If they said no, could I pull together enough resources and personal funds to attend?

Fast forward past MLA acceptance, the emergence of COVID, lock-down, moving to remote work, conference postponement, disparities, surges,  AZ as “hotspot”, reimagination to a virtual MLA meeting, non-clinical cutbacks and partial furloughs at my organization,  protests, a generous award from MLGSCA facilitating my opportunity to still participate, approval to attend…

Arrival to MLA Live Action Week. The week was packed with back-to-back activities, posters, exhibits, and choices and is a testament to the dedication of the staff and conference team for what I’m certain amounted to hundreds of hours of planning and converting from the live meeting to a virtual format.   As an attendee, the ability to move at a click from one virtual room to another encouraged me to dive in topic after topic with few breaks and sometimes to sample simultaneously occurring topics in a way I could never have done in person. I went into information overdrive. Rookie mistake one of attending a virtual conference – this is not a smorgasbord – next time, choose well but choose less.

Looking at the numbers, I feel like I was not alone in the smorgasbord approach. Some stats from the week:

Rookie mistake two – the virtual conference environment of sitting at a computer in my kitchen was a replay of the last three months of my worklife. I struggled with disconnecting from my job and I found myself much more likely to check in on work issues, answer emails, and to initiate or respond to texts from my staff between sessions. Next time – protected time and better self-discipline to disconnect from work.  If I could provide you one takeaway for virtual conference participation, it would be this one.

I also missed the personal connections that occur at conferences and I’m not sure how to do that better. I participated but there is a separateness to the virtual experience. I missed the chit-chat, where are you from? What do you do? element that flows so much more easily in person.

Content highlights?  Impossible to do justice to as there were so many. My personal list:

What went well? I participated – heavily as I said – in larger lectures, small breakouts, viewing posters, posting questions. I experienced the other side by being a presenter with the same pop in/pop out behaviors of my attendees – some lurking, some engaging me in numerous questions.  While I missed the connection that an in-person presentation offers, this format was surprisingly interactive for my session and ran overtime with one particularly enthusiastic attendee who is eager to replicate our program in her setting which I found exciting and rewarding. I’m eager to help her organization should she wish to proceed. And I’m grateful for the opportunity to have attended.  If I get to go back virtually next year, I’ll implement my rookie lessons. If we get to attend in person, I look forward to meeting my many inspiring, dedicated colleagues in person.

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