Regional Medical Libraries Making a Difference: Focus on Pacific Southwest Region

No matter where they live or work, health professionals, researchers and the public can access information from the National Library of Medicine thanks to its National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM), consisting of more than 6,000 libraries coordinated by the NLM and supported by eight Regional Medical Libraries (RMLs). NLM In Focus is showcasing the libraries awarded contracts to serve as RMLs for 2011-2016.  In this article we introduce you to the people and projects of the Pacific Southwest Region.

Map of 8 Regional Medical LibrariesFrom the bustle of Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Phoenix, and Las Vegas, to the distant islands of Guam and American Samoa, the Pacific Southwest Region covers a far-flung, diverse region of 48 million people. From its home at the UCLA Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library in Los Angeles, the RML supports libraries and health information centers in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, and the US Territories in the Pacific, including the military Armed Forces Pacific.

For a closer look at the region, NLM In Focus spoke recently with its Director, Judy Consales, and some of her key associates, including Alan Carr, Acting Associate Director; Kelli Ham, Consumer Health and Technology Coordinator; Kay Deeney, Educational Services Coordinator; Lori Tagawa, Community Outreach Coordinator; Marco Tamase, Member Services and Technology Assistant, and Melina D. Perez, Office Manager.

NLM in Focus: What makes your region unique and interesting?

Our region stretches across six time zones and the International Date Line. It’s a geographically vast, and culturally, ethnically, and linguistically diverse region of great contrasts. We work with 600 member libraries and information centers to meet the needs of the region’s population. Many people speak languages other than English or have limited English proficiency. For example, we serve Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders; Native Americans; Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese and other Asian populations; as well as millions of Spanish-speakers throughout the region. The information needs of such urban centers as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Phoenix differ greatly from those of rural areas like the Nevada frontier counties or the island communities of the Pacific. With the region’s sheer size, it’s a five-hour flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu and an additional eight-hour flight from Honolulu to Guam, which spans over 6,000 miles, diversity is a challenge, but also a reward.

NLM In Focus: Are there challenges specific to your region? If so, how have you overcome them?

Distance is always an issue, but we remain enthusiastic travelers. And, the telecommunication infrastructure in the Pacific and rural parts of Hawaii and Nevada can be unreliable. We rely on distance learning to reach as many Network members as possible. To get the word out about NLM resources, funding opportunities, and other news, we extensively utilize Facebook and Twitter, and two blogs: Latitudes, for longer feature articles, and NewsBits, for announcements, listings of upcoming events, technology tips, and training information. We carefully plan the timing of webinars and other online meetings for the convenience of all our Network members over six time zones.

Another challenge is the loss of hospital librarians in the region, primarily through retirements and library closures. We have extensively supported advocacy efforts for hospital librarians when planning topics for our webinars and the workshops we sponsor. One example is the six-hour class Diagnostic Error: A Multidisciplinary Exploration. We have also provided professional development funding for hospital librarians to attend workshops and conferences to enhance their skills.

NLM in Focus: What are your proudest accomplishments?

Midday at the Oasis

Midday at the Oasis, the region’s monthly webinar, has covered a range of topics related to health librarianship. They are open to all.

Midday at the Oasis, our monthly webinar, has provided an excellent array of presentations, which are always well attended. The mix of topics has included copyright, data dashboards, embedded librarians, funding opportunities, and consumer health initiatives. We promote the webinars, which are open to anyone wishing to attend. Feedback has been extremely positive, and the sessions are approved for one hour of MLA Continuing Education Credit.
We’re proud of our continuing partnership with the California State Library, which resulted in the development of an important resource, Finding Health and Wellness @ the Library: A Consumer Health Toolkit for Library Staff. We started the project with a question: “What could the California State Library do to help local public libraries improve their ability to provide reliable health information?” The answer? The Toolkit, now in its second edition and a great success!

One of our most important outreach efforts involves working with promotoras, community health workers who use their understanding of local cultures and languages to help people access reliable health information. Last year we exhibited at the Promotoras and Community Health Workers Conference, sponsored annually in December by Visión y Compromiso. In 2013, in addition to exhibiting, we will offer a two-hour workshop conducted entirely in Spanish about locating reliable health information resources on the Internet. This provides us with the opportunity to reach low-income minority groups while sharing our resources. Through our Arizona Outreach Cooperative Agreement, we sponsored the “ePromotoras” project, involving eight training modules, all conducted bilingually in English and Spanish. Six of the sessions were webinars.

Another important outreach activity has been our work with school nurses, beginning with a presentation at the 2012 National Association of School Nurses Annual Conference in San Francisco. Subsequently, a number of state school nurse associations throughout the country have requested similar presentations, such as MedlinePlus and Other NLM Resources, which was conducted at the California School Nurses Organization 2013 Annual Conference in San Diego.

The Arizona outreach effort has also included workshops at the Chinle Comprehensive Care Center and the Fort Defiance Indian Hospital on the Navajo Nation in Northern Arizona. This remote area is nearly a seven-hour drive from Tucson. The Fort Defiance hospital is a 56-bed inpatient facility serving residents from all over the region. We worked with public health nurses and volunteers to introduce basic research skills, including how to use PubMed. They were impressed with the tools that PubMed offers to enhance the searching process. One participant commented: “I can’t believe how easy you make searching look, when I tried searching last week, it was just too overwhelming. I am now confident to go back and do more searching!”

In addition, in December 2011 we sponsored and broadcasted a day-long E-Science Day symposium at the University of California, Davis, Medical Center campus in Sacramento. More than 100 attendees participated in the event.

NLM In Focus: Tell us about your recent community outreach projects.

Last year, we funded K-12 outreach projects, emergency preparedness trainings for public librarians, open access trainings for librarians, community college outreach and training in the Pacific, and outreach to clinicians in rural and frontier Nevada.

We believe that visibility is the key to our success, so we exhibit at as many community events, health fairs, school events, and health conferences as possible. We promote medical librarianship as a career and participate in webinars with organizations such as InfoPeople, which reaches many public library staff.

NLM in Focus:  How has technology affected your work?

Because the region is so vast, we rely on social media, LibGuides, and our Web site to deliver information, in addition to email and telephone contact. Our blogs, Facebook page, and Twitter feed are very active. In addition, we utilize distance-learning classes to reach all areas of the region.

We’ve partnered with the University of California, Davis, under a broadband and telemedicine grant to develop an online tutorial series called Health and Wellness Competencies.  And we’ve collaborated on content for a series of online tutorials for the Explore Health site. One of the more popular offerings in this series is Detective Donna, a tutorial on finding reliable health information online. We also provided materials and train-the-trainer sessions for subsequent in-person trainings in rural locations throughout California.

We have offered webinars through a very successful collaboration with the UCLA Southwest Regional Public Health Training Center, which targets the uninsured, isolated, or medically vulnerable populations, with the goal of improving their access to health care. The webinars are aimed primarily at public health professionals throughout the region. More than 200 people participated during the most recent session, Evidence-Based Public Health: Identifying and Using Information Resources.

In addition, we recently implemented a new series of one-hour webinars, NLM Express, which we plan to offer four-to-six times per year. These sessions will focus on various NLM health information resources and complement our Midday at the Oasis monthly webinars.

NLM in Focus: Any Further Thoughts?

One of the most rewarding aspects about working with the region is the tremendous diversity and the variety of people we meet. We have established excellent working relationships with our Network members, who rely on us to get the word out about NLM resources and services. Our travels take us to many different environments, and allow us to partner with interested and committed people on important outreach projects. We continue to seek new challenges and welcome new opportunities to promote quality health information resources from the National Library of Medicine to the Pacific Southwest region.

By Thomas Conuel, NLM in Focus writer

Pacific Southwest Region Staff

(top row, left to right) Judy Consales, Alan Carr, Kay Deeney; (bottom row, left to right) Kelli Ham, Lori Tagawa, Marco Tamase; (not pictured) Melina D. Perez