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Author: Andrea Wright

ALHeLA Reintroducing Health InfoNet Service

Health InfoNet of Alabama Committee

By Alan Backer

Health InfoNet of Alabama Committee
Health InfoNet of Alabama Committee:
Monica Hodge (ASU), Megan Bell (UAB), Damiana Fortenberry (UAB), Andrea Wright (UA), Kelly Weigand (AU), Alan Backer (UAB)

The Alabama Health Libraries Association (ALHeLA) is reintroducing the Health InfoNet service to the state of Alabama. The taskforce for this project is currently conducting a multi-part needs assessment with public librarians across Alabama to help make the relaunch of Health InfoNet a lasting success. Health InfoNet of Alabama began in 1999 as a partnership between UAB’s Lister Hill Library and 40 public libraries in Jefferson County, Alabama, under the leadership of Lister Hill librarian Kay Hogan Smith. Their mission was to provide Alabama residents with easier access to trustworthy health information, as well as help train public library workers in disseminating health information. Over the ensuing 10 years, Health InfoNet’s reach expanded statewide with the help of NLM’s Go Local program, which ended in 2010.

Since the end of the Go Local program and the exit of key personnel, Health InfoNet paused its outreach to Alabama residents and public libraries. The goal of the current taskforce’s mixed methods study is to rediscover the health information needs of public library reference workers and the types of health- related questions they typically encounter. This will be achieved through the distribution of a detailed survey and the gathering of focus groups from survey respondents. The resulting data will help inform the contents of the Health InfoNet’s revamped website and outreach strategy. Funding for the needs assessment is being provided by a research grant from the Southern Chapter of the Medical Library Association (SCMLA).

Reprinted from SCMLA Southern Expressions with permission

2022 Meeting Registration Open

SCMLA Annual Meeting 2022 Graphic
SCMLA Annual Meeting 2022 Graphic

The 2022 ALHeLA Annual Business Meeting will take place at the Annual Meeting of the Southern Chapter of the Medical Library Association in beautiful Montgomery, Alabama on October 21, 2022. Learn more about the SCMLA Meeting, as well as how to register for the ALHeLA business meeting on the 2022 Annual Meeting page.

Join us as we “Embrace, Explore, Evolve” with SCMLA, and then share a meal together at our business meeting on Friday!

Organizing a Virtual Meeting

When Alan asked if I would be willing to write about organizing our virtual annual meeting last November, I was concerned that I didn’t know enough about the arcane best practices of virtual meeting craft to be useful. Additionally, in spite of its success, I sincerely hope that it will be our last one online for some time. (This year’s meeting is far enough away that we can still hope to be all vaccinated and operating under some semblance of normalcy by then…right?) Yet agreeing to write this column did give me the opportunity to address the one thing I do want to get off my chest: my profound appreciation for the generosity of spirit that each member showed as we planned and shared that time together. I want to thank everyone who attended and learned and contributed and asked questions and voted. It means so much to feel like part of a community, and never more so than when we are as separated as we are today. 

I’ve served on Program Committees and Local Arrangements Committees for MLA and SCMLA, and it turns out that whether you are meeting in person or online, many of the concerns are the same. Members want the programming to be fresh and relevant. They want there to be ample time to visit and rest. They want the technology to work so well that it is invisible. And you want to wear comfortable pants the day of the meeting. 

In this case, since the meeting was abbreviated, I was concerned about having enough content for it to feel like a special event, instead of another online quarterly business meeting for the officers. Even with a CE presentation and a speaker, I felt like including a social session in the program was important to making the day feel like we had connected as a group. My Powerpoint Party may have been a bit of a flop thematically. (There’s a real tip! Make sure you have buy-in for your strange online social events!) Still, it was anything but a disappointment when it came to real connections. We told stories, took video tours of crafts and sewing rooms, shared pet pictures, and learned about our lives outside of the library in the same way you do when you share a taxi to the airport or walk to a local diner in a new city with your frolleagues.1 Better yet, we didn’t suffer the feeling of loss when you end up too far down the long dining table to catch up with someone you really wanted to see.

One of the advantages of having the meeting online was that we were joined by some cherished retired members who probably wouldn’t have traveled out of town for a meeting. Current professionals experiencing tightening travel budgets surely also benefited. Additionally, we found ourselves free from the tyranny of the frigid conference center, and many of us could replace our layering conference cardigans with fluffy house shoes. On the other hand, in a normal format I wouldn’t have had to worry about hordes of nude trolls invading the meeting rooms, a real concern in the Zoom setting (See Tips to Avoid Zoom Bombing). We knew to use password protected links and only send the meeting links privately to those who registered instead of using a public page, but I was also on the fence about whether to use the same room all day or to have fresh rooms ready for every event, which would be helpful in case we had to abandon one. In the end, I hope the choice to stay in a single room was more convenient and fostered conversation between sessions. 

We are a small, close knit group in which it’s easy to feel like you already know everyone and their needs, and as a result I overlooked some important areas of responsibility that should be considered in the future. Our libraries and public meetings spaces are required to be physically accessible, and it’s important that technologically-mediated meetings are, too. It would be better practice to include information about who to contact about accommodations in the registration materials and be prepared to provide meeting captioning or other services. ALHeLA also doesn’t have a code of conduct for meetings, and while I hope we’ll never need to refer to one, it’s much better to have an existing process in place if someone feels threatened than to scramble to figure out what to do when and if the time arrives.

Thank you all again for being such excellent advisors, supporters, and participants for the meeting. Thanks especially to Becca Billings, who arranged for the CE course and to Errica Evans, who capped off her presidency with an excellent business meeting! I’m very excited about this year and hope to “see” you all (in whatever medium I’m able) soon.

1Frolleague– noun, a friend who is a colleagues (all of the MLA Presidents use this portmanteau in their annual speeches, but no one ever has to spell it)

2020 Meeting Registration Now Open

woman on phone
woman on phone

Registration is now open for the 2020 Annual meeting to be held online via Zoom on November 10, 2020! Come learn about the new PubMed interface and misinformation and disinformation during a Pandemic, and then enjoy catching up with medical librarians around the state between sessions, at the business meeting, and during the PowerPoint Party to follow. Read all about it on the meeting page, register, and then feel free to join us from wherever you are on November 10!

ALHeLA would like to thank Wolters Kluwer / Ovid for sponsoring the speaker presentation!

Online Membership Form and Dues Now Available

online payment
online payment

You asked for it and we delivered.  Online membership form and payment now available.

To pay your membership fees online:

  • Go to the Membership Page
  • Scroll to bottom of the page
  • Select one of the options:
    • Online membership form and payment is for regular members, which is anyone who is not a library student.
    • Student Online membership form and payment is for library students
    • Paper membership form is for those who would like to continue to mail in a paper membership form and check to the ALHeLA treasurer
  • Follow the online form instructions
  • Submit your electronic payment via either PayPal or Venmo

If you have questions contact either Megan Bell, ALHeLA treasurer, or Andrea Wright, ALHeLA website manager.