2022 Alternative Spring Break Reflections

Raeshelle Cooke


Over the spring break week, I worked with the National Library of Medicine Region 7 to create a discussion guide for a graphic novel. Before this experience, I did not know what a discussion guide was, and I was interested in learning and also getting the opportunity to create one myself to add it to my resume and knowledge bank. I learned that a discussion guide is a list of questions about a book, and it is used to encourage discussion about the book’s topic. We were tasked to read a graphic novel about a mental health topic, as NNLM Region 7 works in Public Health.


This experience gave me the opportunity to read about Alzheimer’s for example, as this was the mental health topic I chose to read about. I read the book Tangles: A story about Alzheimer’s, my mother and me by Sarah Leavitt. Through her experience, I learned more about what Alzheimer looks likes from the perspective of the patient and also the caregiver. I always suspected it was a difficult and trying experience, but the book was very blunt and detailed; it made it clear just how much of a heartbreaking, exhausting, and rollercoaster-like, disgusting, and daunting experience it really is. It got me thinking and asking myself: how can I best prepare myself and my family for this event if it should happen to me? And what can I do now for my brain to keep it away? It got me in preparation mode more so than fear mode.


I chose this book and this mental health topic because I wanted to pick a mental health condition that I personally connect with. My family on my father’s side has a history of Alzheimer’s and Dementia, and I have had fears of getting this disease, so I wanted to read a book about it so that I can care about the project, learn about the disease, and share someone’s real-life experience with the condition as it may help people. Over the week, I created a discussion for the book, so I came up with a list of questions for the book that others can center their conversation around to start a discussion about Alzheimer’s. I also created a video presentation talking about the project, so I got to speak to the public and present as well. The discussion guide will be added to NNLM Region 7’s discussion guide kit, so it will be shared with different groups of people. I am excited that I had the opportunity to work on a project as important as this, and that others will be using the guide in the future.


The professional impact was also rewarding. Our supervisor set us up with meetings with library managers and librarians, so we had a chance to speak with them about their careers, how they got where they are, and we got to hear their advice on the best steps to take to be successful in those various career field. I got to learn a lot from the meetings, and I was also grateful that the library director we spoke with sent us a lead on an internship afterwards, so the meetings were already having a positive impact on our careers and the week wasn’t even over yet. I really appreciate that our supervisor took the time to set us up with those informational meetings in the middle of the project, to do something outside the scope of the project just to help us with our careers. She didn’t have to do that, so it was awesome of her to make that effort. The project was great. I enjoyed the experience and would do it again, but work on a different project to have a different experience/gain a different skill. I highly recommend students participate in this project during their spring break. It rewards you in more ways than one.




Carly Jessup


For my week-long virtual internship, I worked on an Inclusive Writing and Cultural Humility Resource Guide. My project was with the Network of the National Library Medicine, Region 1 Health Sciences and Human Services Library, University of Maryland, Baltimore. This included finding inclusive language resources and content creator checklist resources. The goal of the course creator checklist was to help examine content created by employees and make sure that it is inclusive and culturally humble. After looking at inclusive language resources, I looked for checklists related to assessing content creation related to diversity and inclusion. I looked at a range of materials, but I was especially interested in finding checklists related to medical schools.


Additionally, I was able to attend multiple informative meetings during the week. I attended an Implicit Bias and Coded Language Training Session. We discussed oppression, implicit bias, took implicit bias tests, and discussed our experiences in breakout rooms. I also learned about coded language and microaggressions as well as how to address a situation if it comes up. I also attended an Accessibility Training which specifically discussed video captioning.I hadn’t thought much about the difference between captions and subtitles. However, there is actually a big difference, especially for those deaf or hard of hearing. Subtitles are intended for translation, while Captions go beyond listing narration and include speaker identification and non-verbal elements such as someone laughing or mysterious music playing. Both of these trainings taught me information and skills I will use both in my career and everyday life.


For me, this experience has been a great way to explore working in a different type of library setting than I had previously experienced. Additionally, I enjoyed being able to work on a project that was interesting to me with a topic that I think is extremely important. I learned from a variety of highly knowledgeable information professionals and am grateful for having this experience while still in school. I highly encourage UK students to apply for Alternative Spring Break!





Lauren Laumas


During the Alternative Spring Break program with the Master’s in Library Science program at the University of Kentucky, I participated in the Graphic Medicine Discussion Guide Creation project with the Network of the National Library of Medicine Region 7 at the University of Massachusetts. I read the graphic novel, Lighter than my Shadow, by Katie Green. From there, I developed questions for a discussion guide that could be distributed to patients, providers, teachers, and other audiences that may want to learn about an individual’s experience with a medical topic, which in this case was eating disorders. Creating the discussion guide required me to read the graphic novel closely, read articles from websites such as MedlinePlus about the medical topic covered in the novel, listen to an interview with the author, and gather other background information. I used this information to develop questions that could prompt the reader to think deeper and make personal connections.


This experience taught me the importance of conducting research about a medical topic while reading a narrative about said topic. Many people have misconceptions about illnesses such as eating disorders, so it is important to clear up misconceptions before approaching a narrative about the subject. I also learned about how to create questions that promote critical thinking and encourage reflection. Questions that go beyond eliciting “yes” or “no” responses make people think deeper about the topic at hand. Questions that also encourage an individual to reflect on a topic inspire sympathy, empathy, and personal connections. Finally, I learned more about the profession of medical librarianship. I attended several meetings during the week facilitated by medical librarians and I spoke one-on-one with medical librarians during informational interviews. These experiences helped me see the behind-the-scenes work medical librarians do, make professional connections, and learn more about the daily work of librarians.


The Alternative Spring Break program I participated in with the NNLM Region 7 allowed me to learn skills pertaining to bringing out critical thinking in others. Since I am aspiring to work in academic library science, I will likely teach information literacy classes, and the skills I learned during this internship will help me when eliciting responses from students. I also got a closer look into what medical librarians do in case that is a career path I would like to take. On a personal level, the process of reading the graphic novel and learning more about eating disorders helped me feel more sympathy. Overall, the Alternative Spring Break program through the Master’s in Library Science program at UK was a positive experience that expanded my skillset, allowed me to make professional connections, and gave me authentic library science experience.




Kaylee McMunn


This semester I had the opportunity to participate in the University of Kentucky School of Information Science Alternative Spring Break program. Throughout the week, I worked to transcribe handwritten medical dissertations from the Early Dissertations of University of Maryland 1813-1887 collection at the Health Sciences and Human Services Library, University of Maryland – Baltimore. The collection comprises bound volumes of multiple dissertations on various topics, an early M.D. degree requirement of the UMB School of Medicine. Because handwritten documents cannot be OCRed (optical character recognition), the purpose of transcribing these documents is to make them searchable and therefore more accessible to students and researchers.


Throughout the week, I learned a lot about the transcription process and techniques for deciphering mid-19th century handwriting. Since the purpose of the work is to make the materials searchable and accessible, as many words and descriptions as possible needed to be included in the transcription. Any small detail can have value to a researcher, for example words no longer in regular usage or in a different spelling. As these were medical essays, Latin terminology was also interspersed throughout, so already having a familiarity with the language and its structure was useful. Many times context could give clues to a difficult word or phrase, or using more legible words as a key to pick out difficult letters and words in other places. Though each transcription was slow to start, I found that with each dissertation, I quickly became more accustomed to the author’s handwriting and could pick out difficult words much more easily as I progressed in that transcription. That said, each new dissertation was like starting over—each time, I had to relearn the quirks of a new voice, a new hand. In addition to technical skills, through regular meetings with my placement supervisor I also learned more about the importance of and conversations around this type of archival work. We talked a lot about the importance of access to information in archives, but also the right to be forgotten and the implications of ethical decision making in collections and archival practices.


My experience in this year’s ASB program provided me with hands-on experience working with rare materials in a new context and environment, invaluable mentorship in the field, and a fresh perspective on accessibility and ethics in archives. I am so grateful for the opportunities this program provided me and I look forward to the impact of this experience and implementing what I learned as I continue in the LIS program and prepare for my future career.




Annabelle Smith


I’m very thankful to have participated in the University of Kentucky’s Alternative Spring Break program with the Network of the National Library of Medicine Region 5 (NNLM R5) at the University of Washington. During the week, I collaborated with Michele Spatz, the Outreach and Engagement Coordinator for NNLM R5, on creating a Shared Decision Making LibGuide for both NNLM R5 and the University of Kentucky. Shared Decision Making is a model that promotes better communication between patients and providers, so that patients can participate in designing their treatment plans. Throughout the week, I worked with Michele on finding resources for medical students, faculty, and providers on Shared Decision Making and Patient Decision Aids. Shared Decision Making is put into practice when providers have been trained on how to use Patient Decision Aids to support clinical decision making with patients. As a result, I designed a Shared Decision Making LibGuide (https://libguides.uky.edu/SDM), where I compiled resources such as tutorial videos, research articles, eBooks, and other helpful tools. This LibGuide will be a great resource to the medical community at the University of Kentucky to learn more about how to use and apply Shared Decision Making tools into clinical care. 


Being able to work on this unique project in the ASB program is one of the best experiences I’ve had as a graduate student in the Master’s in Library Science program. This program has given me the opportunity to learn from health sciences librarians and the work that they do for the Network of the National Library of Medicine. In addition to my project, I was able to attend many meetings on the various projects that were ongoing at NNLM R5, which provided great insight as to how NNLM strives to collaborate with other libraries to reach out into their region. My favorite part of the program was having the opportunity to participate in one-on-one conversations with members of NNLM R5 to learn about how they came to librarianship, what projects they’re working on, and what they see for the future of health sciences libraries. It was a fantastic opportunity to make connections and form relationships with professionals who are doing amazing work in the field of health sciences librarianship. 


This week it has been a privilege to work with professionals that work to enhance information services locally and globally. The Alternative Spring Break program is a

great opportunity for students to connect with professionals, learn new skills, and get hands-on library experience! I recommend that all students apply!



Phillip Steder


It was nearly 9:00 AM. I was awaiting the first meeting with my host professors for the  Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine – Georgia (PCOM Georgia) as a part of the  University of Kentucky’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) Program. I looked over the schedule  to see all that needs to be accomplished. As much as I was excited, I was also very nervous.  Despite my brief knowledge of diversity, equity, & inclusion (DEI), I had zero experience in  designing a library guide, nor did I know if I would understand my purpose in the span of a  week. Then, I entered the meeting through a Google Meet call, and all the anxiety started to  deplete. As Meghan DiRito, Barbara Wood, and Oliver Chen discussed the project with me, I felt  a sense of relief hit. Indeed, the first day’s meeting was all I needed. After the introductions, I  proceeded to start watching my SpringShare training videos to get better fitted into the work I  would soon be completing.


The training videos helped me get a basis for the types of templates on which I would be  working. In addition to the training videos, I also met with my host professors throughout the  week to get to know them and meet other members of the team. The team introduced me to the meaning behind cultural humility and DEI and their connection to the medical school. For  example, Dr. Jackie Werner, a librarian at the Philadelphia campus, gave me an overview of the  role of cultural humility as it related to the LGBTQIA+ community. Another example was my  meeting with Dr. Kevin Bradford, a librarian at the Georgia campus, who showed me the basis  for inclusive writing, or writing that uses up-to-date language appropriation to promote inclusion  and to avoid outdated offensive terminology. His presentation opened my eyes on the type of  language I should use for both the project and the real world.


Friday had finally come, and I was finished with my library guide. The final product was  beyond my expectations. There were nineteen links provided in the guide, all of which were  divided into seven sections: Cultural Humility, Microaggressions, Implicit Bias, LGBTQIA+  Identities, Health Disparities, Allyship, and Racial Trauma. To officially finish the project, I  presented my library guide to other participants in the ASB program, who also presented theirs.


Overall, my time with PCOM Georgia was short, but rewarding. I had a blast working  with Dr. DiRito and her team on the library guide and learned a lot about cultural humility and  DEI in the process. The skills I acquired, the lessons I learned, and the connections I made in  such a short amount of time were unlike anything I had experienced in this master’s program. I  was even recommended to apply for a position if one ever becomes available when I graduate  next year. Needless to say, I made a lasting great impression.




Paige Wright


This past spring break, I had the great pleasure of participating in the University of Kentucky’s Alternative Spring Break Program. I was given the opportunity to work with the Network of the National Library of Medicine Region 1 at the University of Maryland Baltimore. During this week, I worked exclusively on the Medical Dissertations Collection. I specifically was given the task of creating metadata about the dissertations. This meant that I was reading through each of the dissertations and inputting its identifying information into an excel sheet. The information that I put in included the author’s name, hometown, the date it was written and the topic of the dissertation. Before participating in this program, I had some experience with creating metadata and working in an archive setting. However, I did not have any experience in working with medical collections. This was one of the reasons why I chose to apply for this program. By the end of the week, I had read over 1,000 pages of medical dissertations and created metadata for 27 whole dissertations (1 ½ volumes).


Being a part of this program not only gave me new experience that I hope to apply later on in my career of archival work. It also gave me the opportunity to speak with an archivist and gain more knowledge about the field of archiving. I was privileged to get to speak and work with the head archivist at the University of Maryland Baltimore Medical Library. I was able to ask her different questions about the field of archiving and how to get into it. From applying to jobs to what makes archiving such a special field to get into, I was able to ask every and any question that I had. Participating in this program has allowed me to gain experience and feel more confident in moving on and graduating from UK. I feel very lucky and privileged for being given this opportunity. It is something that I will always remember and has been a great way to end my last semester as a Wildcat!