InfoFair was an annual event at the Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library, held since 1983 with the goal of providing up-to-date health sciences information. For over thirty-five years, InfoFair has showcased cutting-edge computer technology and educated users on computer services, applications, and resources.
"A National First"
In 1983, the Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library hosted more than 200 physicians and other health professionals at its first annual InfoFair.
In 1982, Priscilla M. Mayden, director of the Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library from 1966-1984, wrote a letter to the National Library of Medicine inviting them to attend a “one-day workshop for individual owners of computer terminals and microcomputers.”
The purpose of the workshop, she wrote, will be “to acquaint users of personal computer equipment with the information bases (presently or soon to be available) which can be accessed directly without library mediation.” Mayden added that “end-user hardware” would be available so that “participants may have some hands-on experience with the systems being demonstrated.”
The first InfoFair, held in 1983, was organized by EHSL’s Nina E. Dougherty. The event was held in response to inquiries about using a home or office microcomputer to access the MEDLINE database, the National Library of Medicine’s premier bibliographic database since 1964.
Nina Dougherty served in various roles at EHSL, including Outreach Librarian and Assistant Director of Information Services. She planned and coordinated InfoFair from 1983 until 1989, solidifying the event as a showcase for technologies and computing in the health sciences in Utah.
Representatives at the 1983 InfoFair demonstrated databases from “CompuServ,” “DIALOG” and “Knowledge Index,” “AMA/NET,” “BRS/After Dark” and “SCIMATE.” and the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), and MEDLINE.
A variety of microcomputers were exhibited from vendors including IBM, Apple, Laser Disc, and various early desktop computers. Representatives were given space for both demonstrations and mini-seminars, participants learned about the availability and cost of health-related databases, equipment, and software.
This event marked not only a first in Utah, but a first in the United States for a library: ‘end users’ learned how to access online databases, information sources that store everything from airline schedules to medical research data.”
(Health Sciences Report, University of Utah, Summer ’83)
The theme of the 1985 InfoFair was The Virtual Information Revolution, and featured a keynote address by Donald A.B. Lindberg M.D., Director of the National Library of Medicine for over thirty years. In his speech, entitled “Medical Information: The New Technologies and You,” Dr. Lindberg spoke about information technologies on the rise in the health sciences.
1987- First Priscilla M. Mayden Award
The 1987 InfoFair saw the presentation by Donald A. Lindberg, M.D. of the first Priscilla M. Mayden Award, an award honoring Priscilla M. Mayden for her work in health science librarianship. The first recipient was Randolph A. Miller M.D. for contributions to the health sciences and application of computer technology to medical science. Specifically, for his work on Quick Medical Reference (QMR), the successor to INTERNIST-I.
In 1987, Suzanne S. Stensaas, Ph.D., showcased the first edition of her neuroanatomy software program, HyperBrain, to be used with a videodisc called “Slice of Life.” Hyperbrain included thousands of images and illustrated glossary terms.
From 1985 to 2007, the Slice of Life Project served as a nonprofit, cooperative venture called The Knowledge Weavers Project, creating and sharing educational materials using computers, multimedia, and new media in health sciences education.
An Annual Computer & Information Event
From 1988 until 1999, Joan Marcotte Gregory, MLS, AHIP served as InfoFair Coordinator. During this time period, InfoFair both expanded and experienced important changes, such as the advent of the Clifford C. Snyder, M.D. and Mary Snyder Lecture, and the videotaping of popular InfoFair sessions for many who could not attend due to space restrictions.
InfoFair 1993 featured the first presentation of the Clifford C. Snyder, M.D. and Mary Snyder Lecture. Dr. Snyder, Professor of Surgery, founded the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the School of Medicine in 1967. Their funding generously ensured the continuation of future InfoFair presentations.
In 1996, the keynote speech, “Medicine in the Computer Age,” was made by medical pioneer Homer R. Warner, M.D., Ph.D., Professor and Department Chair of the Department of Medical Informatics. Dr. Warner founded the University of Utah’s first Biomedical Informatics Department in 1964. Dr. Warner had also been a featured InfoFair speaker in 1990 and served on the “Meet the Experts” panel in 1995.
“Meet the Experts” panel sessions presented an opportunity for informal discussion with presenters and other experts in the fields of medicine and technology. A panel moderator discussed a variety of topics with panelists including evidence-based health care, consumer health informatics, and integrating multimedia in the health sciences curriculum.
In 1997, the library broke with tradition by setting up a “virtual” exhibit area on the Web versus a “physical” one, highlighting links to providers of computer and information technology, hardware, software and services.
In 1998 an Electronic Resources Fair was added as a new feature, where Reference staff were available at computers to answer questions.
Glimpse Into The Future of Computing
Jeanne Le Ber, MLIS, served as InfoFair Coordinator from 2000-2015, organizing InfoFair events such as the 2014 InfoFair focusing on sex and gender differences and women’s health. Jeanne served as the Education Librarian at EHSL from 1994 until 2010, when she was appointed the Associate Director for Education and Research.
Speakers from the InfoFairs that were held between 2000 and 2015 included Ellen More, Ph.D., Valerie Florance, Ph.D., Joseph Henderson, M.D., Daniel Masys, M.D., Nanci Murphy, Pharm.D., Devra Davis, Ph.D., Parlmer Taylor, Ph.D., and Donald A. B. Lindberg, M.D. (for a second time).
A wide range of themes from genome research in healthcare, to women’s health, to air quality, centered around one common goal: to provide innovative technological solutions to issues faced by the healthcare professional community and beyond.