June 12, 2009

Jumping right in

Prior to and shortly after beginning library school, I worked at a natural health food/supplement store doing sales/customer service, which entailed, well, sales and customer service, but also a great deal of reference on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). We had to pass a series of tests based on CAM and basic nutrition knowledge before we could survive the probationary period. This coupled with frequent training sessions really helped familiarize me with the resources we had and memorizing why certain supplements fit into specific sections. Gaining greater knowledge in this area and meeting customers with positive experiences with CAM definitely has encouraged me to believe that it's important for people to at least be aware of CAM as an option, especially with the USA health insurance situation -- I would say most of the customers visiting the store were either too poor to afford health care and health insurance or mistrustful of allopathic medicine. Doing the proper research to find safe and appropriate CAM methods for treatment can be fantastic, it's just a matter of where to start, avoiding information overload, because there are a lot of options! Too often, customers would come in wanting us to just tell them what to do without looking into it at all themselves because they would be overwhelmed by the choices. Obviously not being permitted to do this, it was helpful for them to have us at least narrow down what they were looking at.

Last year at ALA (2008), Kelli Ham gave a great presentation: Health Information Naturally: Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the Challenge for Librarians (scroll down to the Mon. 4pm start time), which covers this topic well. She has her handout posted along with her presentation slides, offering some excellent resources for CAM reference.

While earning my Masters, I focused a number of projects on librarianship for CAM, including:
a Code of Ethics for CAM Information Professionals, an Opening Day Collection Project for Homeopathy (collection development), and not really related to CAM, but to medical librarianship and open access, I wrote a paper about the NIH Public Access Policy.

It's certainly an interesting subject (to me, at least)!