April 19, 2018

Rachel Walden | Movers & Shakers 2009 – Activists

Rachel Walden, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, NashvilleSpreading Awareness

Rachel Walden, observes David Rothman, information services specialist, Community General Hospital Medical Library, Syracuse, NY, “is unique in providing frequent, authoritative posts on the science and politics of women’s health.”

Walden is best known for demanding answers and action in the POPLINE abortion controversy. In spring 2008, POPLINE, the major database on global reproductive health, limited researchers’ ability to search on “abortion” by making it a stopword. Its rationale: USAID funding put it under the global “gag rule” restricting discussion of abortion. “As a librarian,” says Walden, “I was angry that access to information was being quietly restricted based on a political agenda.”

Walden spread the word on her Women’s Health News blog, providing clear explanations and contacting reproductive rights and feminist activists. “This was not just an issue for librarians,” recalls Walden, but “for everybody who cares about reproductive rights and the effects of the global gag rule.”

The POPLINE controversy sums up Walden’s ongoing mission “to connect people with health-related information.” For Walden, librarianship and blogging boil down to one thing: “here’s some information, let me share it with you.” Blogging offers “the added layer of my own commentary.” Her background as a medical librarian lets her use the skills that support evidence-based medicine to evaluate medical news and statistics, helping readers to “sift through the media and talk around women’s health, particularly politically charged issues.”

Walden considers “evangelizing about librarians” part of her blogging. Readers sometimes email asking for resources, and, during the POPLINE discussions, “I had a couple remark, ‘Don’t mess with the librarians,’” she notes. It’s “just a normal thing—I’m a librarian, I do this blog, I can find information on things.” And now she’s blogging on Our Bodies, Our Blog (www.ourbodiesourblog.org) and writing occasionally for Women’s Health Activist, the newsletter of the National Women’s Health Network.


Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville

POSITION Librarian, Eskind Biomedical Library

DEGREE MLIS, University of Pittsburgh, 2006

BLOG womenshealthnews.wordpress.com

EDITOR Electronic resource reviews editor, JMLA