HSLI Newsletter

Serving Illinois Health Information Professionals

HSLI 2016 Annual Conference Report: Eric Edwards

I would like to thank the Syed Maghrabi Conference Scholarship Committee for granting me a full scholarship to attend the 2016 Health Science Librarians of Illinois Annual Conference. My involvement with HSLI has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional career, and attending the conference is one of the highlights of my participation in the organization. The event gives me an opportunity not only to strengthen and expand my connections with fellow HSLI members, but also to learn about new perspectives and tools in the library and information science profession. I am especially appreciative of the opportunity to receive a scholarship for this year’s conference, given the challenging economic times facing the state of Illinois. HSLI’s ongoing generosity (I received the scholarship in 2011 and 2014, also) clearly demonstrates the organization’s commitment to the professional growth of its members.

I found all of the sessions at this year’s conference interesting and engaging. There were a few that particularly stood out, however, as providing ideas for my work as Interlibrary Loan Librarian at the Illinois State Library. One was Jacqueline Leskovec’s “Getting Started with Information Outreach in Your Community”. The focus of the presentation was the ways in which libraries can reach out to underserved patron groups. While the State Library’s main user group is state government employees, the ISL provides a variety of services, including interlibrary loan, to libraries of all types throughout the state, in addition to sponsoring programs for members of the general public, such as veterans. Through discussions with fellow attendees and feedback from the presenter, I identified several groups that do not use the ISL regularly but could clearly benefit. One is local high school students, especially those who are researching current issues related to local, state, or federal government. Another is tourists, who sometimes stop by the ISL to learn more about the various historical sites in and around downtown Springfield. The ISL has a large number of items, including historical documents, that would likely be of interest to those groups and could perhaps be part of a display in the public browsing areas.

Another session that I found particularly thought-provoking was Laura Alagna’s keynote speech, “From Surviving to Thriving in the Digital Era”. Her talk explored the impact of the digital revolution on the role of librarians, especially in managing and preserving electronic resources. As libraries continue to downsize their print collections, while expanding patron access to e-books and online journals, librarians must increasingly adapt their knowledge and skills. Furthermore, the preservation of electronic materials has now extended not just to items that were originally in a print format and have since been digitized, but also to documents that were “born digital” and so present their own unique set of preservation challenges. I have not been directly involved with the digital preservation efforts in which the State Library has participated recently, but I have had an opportunity to learn much about them while searching for documents. One initiative is the Illinois Digital Archives (IDA), which contains digital materials related to Illinois history from libraries throughout the state. These items include not just photographs, but also letters, maps, and videos. Another project is a collaboration, with HathiTrust and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, to digitize copies of books and other documents by Illinois authors and make them available in the public domain. This includes not just “classic” works, but also more recent materials.

Once again, I would like to thank the Scholarship Committee, along with those individuals who have donated to the fund. I greatly enjoyed this year’s HSLI Annual Conference, and I am confident that some of the ideas presented by the speakers will prove useful in my work. I look forward to future HSLI conferences and the variety of interesting speakers and other learning opportunities that they are sure to include.

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