Librarians are the information superheroes of the 21stcentury.
In today’s hyper-connected world, saturated with studies, reports, data, records, pictures, sponsored content, and even misinformation, librarians help us sort through it all and find the information that is meaningful, trustable, and that meets our needs.
The National Library of Medicine (NLM), the world’s largest collection of trustable health information, supports librarians in their mission to put quality health information in the hands of their patrons. NLM provides free access to online databases, curated and digitized collections, health information portals, training webinars, and explanatory videos as well as grants distributed by the eight National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM)Regional Medical Libraries.
In addition, the Exhibition Program at NLM curates and produces banner exhibitions on topics that reflect the breadth of NLM’s history of medicine collections. The exhibitions, made available free of charge to organizations around the world, engage diverse audiences and explore a variety of topics. The libraries and cultural and community centers that feature these exhibitions are well positioned to raise awareness of and increase patrons’ skills in accessing NLM health information resources as part of the experience of hosting a banner exhibition.
Some superhero librarians already connect NLM exhibitions to community-focused, health-related activities. For example, the Milwaukee Public Library Central Library is the first venue to present NLM’s banner exhibition Rashes to Research: Scientists and Parents Confront the 1964 Rubella Epidemic, which launched on June 3, 2019. As part of this partnership with NLM, Milwaukee librarians will increase their familiarity with a variety of NLM health information resources, including “Training Resources for Librarians” and “Consumer Health Resources,” to expand their skills in referring patrons to NLM health-related information.
The librarians at the Lamar Soutter Library at the University of Massachusetts Medical School embraced a partnership with NLM when they hosted Graphic Medicine: Ill-Conceived and Well-Drawn! during the fall of 2018. In addition to panel discussions with authors featured in the exhibition, the librarians hosted training on PubMed, the NLM database for biomedical literature, for more than 100 people.
Similarly, while hosting the NLM banner exhibition “And There’s the Humor of It”: Shakespeare and the four humors, librarians at the Chatham Area Public Library in Chatham, Illinois, connected with colleagues at the Southern Illinois University (SIU) School of Medicine Medical Library, an NNLM Partner Outreach Library. Librarians from SIU held sessions for their Chatham peers on NLM’s MedlinePlus database and PubMed. The SIU librarians also shared information about NNLM’s Health Resources for Public Libraries website and distributed MedlinePlus and PubMedbrochures.
Over the last year, the Exhibition Program has initiated changes to better support the superhero librarians who borrow NLM banner exhibitions and help them more easily integrate NLM health information resources into the experience of hosting an exhibition.
Called “Exhibitions Connect,” this opportunity makes banner exhibitions available for booking more frequently, and, to help librarians better connect to NLM health information resources and relevant training, the Exhibition Program will provide a curated selection of resources specific to each exhibition. These resources will be posted in a free NLM/NNLM Moodle course, which users can register to access. In addition, staff of the NLM Office of Engagement and Training and the eight Regional Medical Libraries are ready to support exhibition host venues at each step of the way.
For more information about Exhibitions Connect, please visit the Exhibition Program website. Announcements about banner exhibitions, relevant health information resources, and new exhibition releases are distributed via the Making Exhibition Connections listserv, so sign up now!
By Patricia Tuohy, head of the Exhibition Program in NLM’s History of Medicine Division.