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The MLA Educational Media & Technologies Section: A Twenty-Five Year History

Early Enterprise

Our early HSAG pioneers were very industrious. Along with successfully organizing their new Health Sciences Audiovisual Group, they contributed speakers for a session. (This was not a sponsored "Contributed Papers Session" as we know them now). The MLA "Preliminary Program" for the annual meeting in 1974 provided the following listing for June 5th:

General Session II - "Learning Resource Centers" Moderator: David A. Kronick, Ph.D., Librarian, University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio; Panelists: Dr. William G. Cooper, Project Director AAMC/AADS Educational Resources Project, American Association of Medical Colleges ; Col. Howard Gutin, Dir., Brooke Army Medical Center TV Facility; Phil Rosenstein, Director of Libraries, College of Medicine and Dentistry, New Jersey ; James F. Williams II, Medical Librarian, Shiffman Medical Library, Detroit.

The HSAG also invited Brenda Cross, a visual communications specialist from Eastman Kodak for their business meeting program. Her presentation, "The Care and Feeding of Media," dealt with equipment and software ("software" meant AV programs in 1974) for various formats of film. They asked for a room capacity of 150-200 chairs, anticipating a strong interest for this new agenda at the annual meeting. They were right on the mark, the MLA membership was excited enough about the new HSAG SIG that over 175 attended this first business meeting! That's some SIG!

The only down side to an incredibly successful first meeting was that by July 23, 1974, the HSAG received a copy of a memo questioning the use of commercial firms from Sam Hitt (President of MLA): "Those of you on the Board at the time (Dec. 1973) will remember that we reiterated MLA policy that commercial sources would not be allowed to teach CE courses, ...will you be prepared to discuss this issue again at the meetings in December, in light of Miss Spencer's (HSAG Chair) report?"

Although the HSAG Chair's report specified that, "Kodak paid all of the expenses, and the program was professional, polished and relatively free of commercial messages," it did not quite meet with MLA approval. HSAG did not offer CE credit for this presentation at the business meeting, but perhaps there was a misunderstanding as to what constituted a "CE Course" in 1974. According to Sam Hitt's interpretation it might have meant that any speech was considered "CE." Needless to say, HSAG did make a slight mistake on their first time out. With 175+ people attending our business meeting, maybe it was worth it!

As an aside, while MLA may not have been quite sure about this new SIG and the ethics of having a Kodak representative speak at the HSAG business meeting, but they certainly utilized the audiovisual format at the MLA Annual Meeting that year. Twenty-one of the thirty-three "educational exhibits" presented at MLA utilized an audiovisual format (2 videotape presentations, 17 slide/tape presentations, and 1 slide presentation. An MLA film on medical librarianship, Rx Information, was also shown at the 1974 meeting.)

One very interesting result of this controversy may have resulted in a restructuring of group responsibilities. On Sept. 19, 1974, Julie Virgo, Director of Education (MLA), sent a letter to the Committee on Continuing Education in which she quotes the last paragraph of Dorothy Spencer's report to MLA on the "Kodak business meeting." "How may the Health Sciences Audiovisual Group help and support the board, Continuing Education, local Arrangements Committee, and others interested in this common goal?" Ms. Virgo then writes, "I think that we can expect that in the future, special interest groups are going to become much stronger entities in the Association, developing their own programming." (Later, a MLA restructuring did occur and large SIGs became Sections which, of course, do provide programming).

Another significant event during the first year was the establishment of Media Notes, a series of columns to provide a forum for an exchange of ideas. The first column appeared in the July 1974 issue of the MLA News. Several congratulatory letters were written to the HSAG Chair in praise of this new contribution. The letters were welcome and must have represented the calm before the storm. Perhaps "micro-burst" is a better term for what happened next.

HSAG initiated another controversy which lasted several years with a proposal to the Exchange Committee to develop a clearinghouse for the exchange media on a "par" basis. The Committee unanimously decided against the MLA Exchange becoming involved in the project citing among other things, "lack of a bibliographic format, shipping problems and media being classed as ephemeral." Ephemeral!? However, it is an interesting insight into the thinking of the more traditional librarian during the mid-seventies. Correspondence at the time indicates that HSAG members felt there was..., shall we say..., a bias against this "up-start" medium. The exchange list idea did not go away with this initial denial.

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