Working better together…thoughts from APHA 2013

The best part of almost any conference for me is seeing what a group of people are able to accomplish when they apply their collective expertise and knowledge towards a problem. This is much more apparent to me at conferences outside the library world, perhaps because I have fewer preconceived notions about a topic. I’m attending the American Public Health Association conference this year to deepen my knowledge of public health research. Two things I really love about public health are 1) the mission to improve the lives of everyone, and 2) inherently collaborative approach to solving problems. Some areas of librarianship are better at this big picture, collaborative problem solving than others, but we often fail to articulate the why, the rationale, the drive behind what we are trying to do.

A recent personal example of this is a research project idea that one of my coworkers brought back from a conference CE. He described it as lame, but it really isn’t. It’s not hugely ambitious or awesomely innovative, but it IS feasible and relevant to our current team initiatives. After getting some feedback from our team leader, the idea is even better and could potentially provide insight into an area where we are currently operating blindly on assumptions. I tend to work alone, it’s just my nature, but this experience and participating in a writing group this year have really shaped the way I proceed with an idea. I am slowly learning that my ideas tend to come out half-formed and misshapen; transforming them into something useful requires discussion and new perspectives to see the value in them and to trim away the unnecessary baggage.

By Heather L. Coates

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