February 17, 2018

Laurel Graham | Movers & Shakers 2006

Giving Information Wings


In fall 2004, Laurel Graham discovered that because of too-stringent economic definitions of what constitutes a ‘needy’ nation, federal programs providing free library services were not serving all the countries that needed them. It offended this medical librarian that arbitrary definitions would stymie the ability to put medical breakthroughs into practice because physicians couldn’t obtain articles on the newest surgical procedures, drug protocols, or prevention.

So in one day Graham came up with the idea of Free for All (FFA), a collaboration among medical librarians to provide free articles from the medical literature to ‘health science professionals in countries whose libraries have been decimated by war and poverty.’ She immediately invited librarians on the medical libraries discussion list to join. Since then, 40 libraries have joined FFA, and together they have filled nearly 400 requests.

Graham refuses to take all the credit for the project, saying, ‘This project only works because of the generosity of those libraries.’ Beth Wescott, network access coordinator for the National Network of Libraries of Medicine Southeastern Atlantic Region, says, ‘Laurel and her cadre are dedicated humanitarians who are frustrated by bureaucratic delay.’

The beauty of FFA for Graham is that ‘every article changes the way a patient is cared for.’ She points to tubercular children in Romania who have benefited because their doctors were able to order the most recent articles on treatment, a doctor in Egypt now able to keep up on the most current research on diabetes, and medical students in India ordering literature reviews to supplement their textbooks.

At her job, Graham still oversees the American Dietetic Association’s library and has recently redesigned the association’s web site (www.eatright.org) and tested it for usability. But on the side, she continues to monitor FFA and handle problems.

Look for new projects from Graham, because, as she says, ‘I get bored easily, so I create projects to occupy my time.’ All her projects tend to involve libraries, because she believes ‘all information should have wings.’ Or, at the very least, some angels to do the delivery.



Current Position Corporate Librarian/Web Site Indexer, American Dietetic Association
Degrees MLS, State University of New York at Buffalo, 1997
Founder Free for All, www.geocities.com/wfb_2/freeforall.html
Worldview ‘I took the Pepsi challenge and chose Coke. I am a contrarian.’