Illustration demonstrating how comics work

Making Exhibition Connections: Lamar Soutter Library

Libraries, museums, and organizations throughout the United States and across the world host National Library of Medicine traveling exhibitions. These sites plan and present enriching and engaging programs to connect their communities with the information in the exhibitions and with the wide variety of publicly-available NLM resources. This is the fifth post in a series called “Making Exhibition Connections,” which invites host venues to share their partnerships, programs, and public engagement experiences with Circulating Now readers. Today, Victoria Rossetti, the Education & Clinical Services Librarian at the Lamar Soutter Library, University of Massachusetts Medical School, talks about hosting Graphic Medicine: Ill-Conceived and Well-Drawn!.

Graphic banners in a library
Graphic Medicine: Ill-Conceived and Well Drawn! on display at Lamar Soutter Library

Circulating Now: Please tell us about yourself and the Lamar Soutter Library. For example, what is your job? Where are you located? Who visits your library on a regular basis?

Tori Rossetti: My name is Tori (Victoria) Rossetti and I’m an Education and Clinical Services Librarian. I work with nursing, medical, and graduate biomedical science students and faculty at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, as well as healthcare providers in the UMass Memorial Health Care system. As a liaison librarian, the main portions of my job have to do with education and instruction, but I also work on literature searches and systematic reviews with different populations in UMass. My background is in the humanities, and my undergraduate degree was in English, so I have a vested interest in humanities in medicine, and one piece of my work in that is continuing to curate the graphic medicine book collection, which was started by Matthew Noe, and working to bring the benefits of graphic medicine to the curriculum.

While our library mainly serves the Medical School, our library is visited by members of the public who may be patients or family members of patients, community members looking to use our resources, as well as clinicians, students, faculty, and more. UMass Medical is also the host to the Network of the National Library of Medicine’s New England Region 7 Regional Medical Library, which is tasked with outreach and education in the surrounding states of Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, and New Hampshire.

CN: Why did you want to host Graphic Medicine: Ill-Conceived and Well-Drawn!?

TR: We thought the exhibition would be a perfect fit for our space for a variety of reasons. Our graphic medicine collection is popular, and the opportunity to connect programming and education to that collection was too good to miss. Our population is very interested in the variety of ways comics can be used in medicine and research that includes narratives but also encompasses science communication, health literacy, and is also deeply interested in the ways art and self-reflection can support wellness and foster compassion. One of my colleagues is fond of saying that medical school is like a fire hose of information; in that deluge, many of our students look for things to invest themselves in that let them pursue a passion, such as art, music, writing, or reading for pleasure.

Because of our connection to the NNLM/NER, we also knew that having the exhibition here would be a good opportunity for them as well. They have an ongoing graphic medicine initiative that puts themed graphic medicine book club kits into the hands of the public in the region and supports discussions around difficult health issues like addiction, aging, and emergency preparedness. We really looked at hosting the exhibition as an opportunity to engage with groups we have and haven’t worked with before, to provide our students and clinicians with wellness and educational opportunities, and to promote existing library resources.

CN: Were you trying to connect with specific groups within your community?

Flyer for public programs
Flyer for public programming at the Lamar Soutter Library

TR: We were aiming to make connections to a few different groups with some of our different programming. One group was our Graduate School of Biomedical Science (GSBS) students and faculty. GSBS has different information needs and different contact points with the library because their areas of study and scholarship are so different from the School of Nursing and the School of Medicine. The geographic location of the lab spaces can also contribute to a feeling that programming done in the library is not specifically aimed at the GSBS community. With the exhibition, we saw the opportunity to invite Matteo Farinella (author of Neurocomic and The Senses as a guest speaker to lecture on “The Potential of Comics in Scientific Communication” and to follow that with a careers chat. We were able to connect with a class where the faculty member already taught Neurocomic as part of the curriculum and the interest grew from there, culminating in a very well attended event.

The other population we targeted were our School of Medicine students and faculty, particularly those who had already demonstrated an interest in humanities in medicine. We hosted a Graphic Medicine Panel featuring Dana Walrath (Aliceheimers), Cathy Leamy (Suzie and Ray comics), and MK Czerwiec (Taking Turns). The panel focused on the creation and application of graphic medicine, the aim being to offer an introduction to an audience that may not have been familiar with graphic medicine, while also offering insight into how it is used in medical education and consumer health education.

CN: How did you engage with US National Library of Medicine health information resources while hosting Graphic Medicine? Which resources did you highlight?

TR: The library regularly offers training on PubMed in individual and group settings. While the exhibition was in the library, we formally trained 124 people on PubMed, and answered an additional 20 reference questions relating to NIH compliance in MyNCBI. We also found that the page that offers curriculum for the exhibition was a useful resource to point people to, either for more information, or as a way to use graphic medicine in their own teaching and learning.

CN: How did the Lamar Soutter Library’s role as Regional Medical Library influence your engagement with US National Library of Medicine health information resources?

TR: Because the staff of the library at UMass and the staff of the Regional Medical Library work together on projects at times, we are familiar with their work promoting NLM resources in the community. Because of this, I feel we do tend to highlight NLM resources to our users more, especially if we have consumer health reference questions. In addition, because of their work in the community, the Regional Medical Library was able to publicize the exhibition to libraries they had done trainings at, and invite those members to come view the exhibit while it was in the library

CN: What else would you like to share about your experience hosting this exhibition?

Three white women draw at a table
Women at the Comics and Coffee Wednesdays event

TR: The Lamar Soutter library loved having the exhibition in our space, and really enjoyed engaging with our community on the topic of graphic medicine. We felt that the exhibition gave us an opening to reach out to groups we didn’t already interact with. The panels were also beautiful, and we were able to display them in a way that created a pathway to the physical location of our graphic medicine collection. It’s my opinion that this, along with our outreach efforts, was responsible for the uptick in graphic medicine book borrowing we saw in the months following the exhibition.


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