Archive | December, 2012

Top 10 Informationist Moments of 2012

27 Dec
Closing the Whiteboard on 2012

Closing the Whiteboard on 2012

I’ve only been at this informationist work for a few months, thus a true “Top 10” list is a bit of a stretch for my New Year’s post, but a few really terrific things HAVE happened, thus I figured coming up with some list warranted at least a college try. Here goes:

#10. An Invitation to the Party

I was invited to attend a retirement party for the project administrator of the research study I’m working on. What makes this special is that the invitation came before I officially became a part of the research team and while I wasn’t able to make it, it let me know that I was included in the group, by the group, before I ever even became part of the group. Inclusion, both physically and cognitively, is an important part of success in this arena.

#9. A Weekly Schedule

It took a little while, but eventually I was able to carve out some semblance of a regular weekly schedule that included the hours I’m committed to working as an informationist on the study. It’s not perfect yet, but we’re headed in the right direction. I imagine that balancing time and tasks between being in and out of the Library will remain a key focus in 2013.

#8. Office Space

Going along with a weekly schedule, securing a physical place outside of the Library to work on the project was also a coup. I was lucky in that the research team has other consultant-type people as members, thus having a research staff office was both known to be important and already existent. I’ve found that if/when I go into the Library on the days that I’ve scheduled myself to work on things related to the project, I too easily get pulled into other things. Staying away is important!

#7. Impromptu Conversations on Sidewalks

Being able to bring up my role as an informationist to researchers that I already know on campus is both easy and productive. I’ve had several conversations with individuals in the process of writing grants and as they tell me about their ideas, because I know them personally, it’s easy to say, “Have you thought about including an informationist on your team and/or in the proposal?” What I’ve also discovered is a lot of overlap between the researchers that I know. Part of this is expected (you do a lot of work in one department or division, and you tend to know many people who naturally work together), but it’s the unexpected connections that have been the biggest thrill. They’re also the ones with the greatest potential to build further collaborations. Cross-discipline research is really important in translational science and an informationist is very well suited to help build the bridges between the people and research currently happening in different areas.

#6. The Bucket List

During about the third or fourth weekly team meeting that I attended, I confessed that I was completely confused by the word “eligible”. It seemed to me that women were eligible for the study several different times. In other words, there were different levels of eligibility. I said, “I’m lost. Who is eligible for what, when?” In voicing what might appear like a weakness (after all, I was brought on board as the “expert” in communication), I hit on something that everyone was struggling with! Too many times, people were using the same word to describe different things. It was confusing not just me, but others as well. The result was my first tangible item to the team – a very simple list of what we would all agree to call each “bucket” of subjects. Producing something (an actual THING, in this case a list of words) was the first step to make me feel like I was a contributing member of the team.

#5. Presentation Proposal with a PI

It was a 2012 highlight that one of the principal investigators on the study agreed to submit a presentation proposal with me to the New England Chapter of ACRL’s next annual meeting. I hope it will be a 2013 highlight that we are chosen to present on our work together as informationist and researcher. The more that we can get researchers themselves to talk about the importance of embedded librarians and/or informationists in their work, the further we will advance in this area of our profession. I’m convinced of this.

#4. Informationist Invasion 2012

If you’ve been a regular reader of this blog, you know that in early November, informationists representing each of the NIH-funded awards gathered in Worcester, MA to share with science and medical librarians from New England about their new roles. “Embedded with the Scientists: Librarians’ Roles in the Research Process” was a big success! Personally, I was really happy to have the chance to meet my colleagues from around the country; to share ideas, talk about issues and roadblocks and how we might overcome them, to plan ways to support one another in our work, and to make new professional friends. Pursuing new directions is a lot easier with the support of colleagues.

#3. I Lost My Old Job

It’s nice to know that people care about you. When the announcement that my Library was (still is!) accepting applications for my current position as the Head of Research and Scholarly Communication Services, I got more than a few phone calls and emails from friends and colleagues. “Is everything okay?!” “Where are you going?” “What happened?” For once, I was happy to say that I’d lost my job. Even before we received the supplemental grant award, the management team of my Library saw that charging a librarian with the task(s) of becoming embedded in research teams was a direction we both wanted and needed to go. Receiving the grant only further solidified this commitment and my Director began to work the budget as she was able to move me into this new position, thus freeing me from the responsibilities of the former. To be successful in this area, we need such commitment. In today’s environment, creating new positions requires structuring budgets and workloads in ways we might not have thought before, but unless a Library is willing to do this, the work of the informationist, if it proves valuable, will ultimately be consumed by research departments or Information Technology, and the library profession will find itself missing out on a very relevant path.

#2. Supplemental Grant Award

It kind of goes without saying that there likely is no “Top 10 Informationist Moments of 2012” without the awarding of the NIH Supplemental Grant for the R01 study that I’m now a part of. It was not the beginning of the embedded librarian/informationist idea and/or role by any means, but as noted above, it solidified our movement forward into this new direction. My Director and the PIs stated, while we prepared the grant application, that we would pursue the project regardless of whether or not we got funded. This showed the level of commitment to it. But the fact that we DID get funding, opened doors that otherwise might have taken a bit longer to unlock. By offering these awards, the National Library of Medicine, through NIH, demonstrated that the role of the informationist in biomedical research is one worth supporting and examining to determine its longterm value. Sometimes professions need this kind of support to make big changes.

#1. Guest Lecture Invitation

You might think that #2 would be #1, and I admit that I went back-and-forth on deciding what moment I’m giving top billing to. What I ultimately decided is that moment #1 happened only yesterday, squeaking in just under the wire! I got an email yesterday morning from a researcher I’ve worked with in the past in a different capacity. She told me that she’s teaching a class this coming semester on Team Science. To avoid misquoting, I’ll share the text of the email:

“I’m teaching a class called Team Science in the Spring, the focus of which is to help students (in the MSCI program) to understand the importance of teams in science, how to build their research teams, and how to effectively function in teams.  You have talked a lot about how many researchers and docs don’t understand the role of the informationist in their work, so I wondered if you might be interested in coming as a guest some time and talking about the role of the informationist on an academic team?”

Perhaps you can see why this invitation wins out in the “Big Moments of 2012” contest. Here is a pretty prominent researcher on my campus who gets it – or at least is willing to give me a shot to convince her, as well as a classroom of future researchers, of the important role librarians and/or informationists can play on research teams. Here is an opportunity to make my case that we are, in fact, part of the team. We’re not just a supporting cast on the sidelines.

Of course, I took her up on the offer right away. Stay tuned for a post in early March telling how it all goes.

So, while it’s only been a short few months in Informationist-landia, I feel confident saying that it’s been filled with more than a few memorable moments. In short, I’ve learned a great deal about the importance of building relationships, of harnessing the possibilities of existing relationships, of finding and exuding confidence, of setting boundaries and limits, of setting priorities, of finding balance, of speaking up, and of accepting change. And perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned the importance of articulating what I can do, what I can’t (or won’t) do, and what I’m capable of learning to do. Above all else, I believe being able to state these things clearly to a researcher is the way to open the door to their world, but it takes some work to be able to do that. Do the work.

In his book, Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon writes, “Ironically, really good work often appears to be effortless. People will say, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ They won’t see the years of toil and sweat that went into it.” To step into a new area professionally requires work. You need to take the time to read and explore and emulate and try and eventually find your own way; a way that is ultimately a blending of who you are and what you can do. This is the “you” that succeeds. This is what I learned, maybe more clearly than anything else, in 2012. I learned it in this new role as an informationist and I learned it in life. As I close the calendar on this year, I can’t complain much about that.

[Looking for a New Year’s book for yourself? Pick up a copy of Kleon’s book. You can read it over a cup of coffee on a Saturday (or a snowy) morning and you’ll come away with 10 pretty good tips (or more) for being creative in your work and in your life.]

The Potential to Have Potential

19 Dec

A quick keyword search of the word “potential” in the books collection at Amazon yields 35,937 results including such bestsellers as:

  • Boundless Potential: Transform Your Brain, Unleash Your Talents, Reinvent Your Work in Midlife and Beyond by Mark S. Walton
  • The Soul of Leadership: Unlocking Your Potential for Greatness by Deepak Chopra
  • The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth: Live Them and Reach Your Potential by John C. Maxwell
  • Achieve Your Full Potential: 1800 Inspirational Quotes that will Change Your Life by Change Your Life Publishing
  • Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential by Joel Osteen

Be it business, education, health and diet, parenting or investing, we are at no loss for advice on how to be our very best; how to reach our full potential.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines potential as “existing in possibility: capable of development into actuality.” Potential is the promise of everything that we could do or be or become.

In 1998, the Indianapolis Colts of the National Football League used their first pick in the draft to select Peyton Manning. The San Diego Chargers chose second, selecting Ryan Leaf. Prior to this draft, there was a great deal of discussion and analysis ad nauseum regarding the professional potential of these two young men. In my opinion, it’s probably the best example one can offer to show that potential is just that – potential. It is not without significance, but alone, it really proves little of nothing in terms of what a person will become. Even the most casual of football follower likely knows that Manning is a future first ballot Hall of Famer. Ryan Leaf, last I heard (early in the summer) was, sadly, off to jail. Again.


Bubble Rock, Mount Desert Island, Maine. Credit: dgrice

When I studied the concept of energy transfer in exercise physiology (probably physics, too), I learned about potential energy. It’s often described using the example of a boulder resting on the edge of a cliff or water at the top of a hill, before it goes over a waterfall (McArdle, Katch, and Katch, Essentials of Exercise Physiology, Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, 2006). The boulder and the water have to fall, in order for any transfer of energy (potential to kinetic) to occur. If someone cements the boulder in place or builds a dam above the waterfall, the energy will remain potential. Nothing but potential.

As I slogged my way through David Haynes’, Metadata for Information Management and Retrieval yesterday (Note: The use of the word “slogged” is a reflection upon the reader more so than the author of the text.), I underlined several passages that refer to the library profession’s attention to metadata, the debate(s) over the differences between creating metadata and cataloging resources, and the emerging place of metadata in the curriculum and syllabi of courses within information science degree programs. Haynes’ book was published in 2004. The debate, he writes, began in the 1990s. When I read this last statement, I wrote in the margins, “And it continues today.”

Talk about potential. In fact, talking about our potential seems to be exactly what we’ve been doing in this area for 20+ years. Talking. However, inroads made in educational programs and an entire new field, information science, have risen from the discussions, and the more traditional skills of librarians are now being augmented with ones that prepare them to work as informaticists, informationists, and/or metadata librarians. Small cracks in the dam are appearing, as we start to really tap into the potential once trapped upstream.

With an old year ending and a new one about to be upon us, it seems appropriate to both think and write about potential. I walked into work this morning in front of a few med students on their way to an exam. They were jokingly (I took it as a good sign) quizzing one another on different aspects of diabetes that they’d been studying. The beginning of a new semester always marks a time of great potential – things to learn, assignments to be done, projects to complete. The end marks the time when we can measure how well one lived up to his/her potential. When you look back on the previous months, did you learn everything you’d hoped? Did you make the best use of all of your time? Can you now, at the end of the class, clearly explain to another person what the subject is all about? Did you reach your full potential or do you look back with regrets?

The end of a calendar year is the same. We make all kinds of New Year’s resolutions, often based upon things that we wished we’d accomplished the year before. This striving to be better is what drives the self-help industry. So many people so deeply desire to reach a higher height. We want to be more fit, lose some weight, remember people’s names. We want a promotion or a raise, a better job, something that makes us feel like we’re making the most out of our days and our talents. We have so much potential.

We have so much potential.

Do you ever wonder why there are so many folks ready and willing to tell/sell you how to reach your potential? Is it, perhaps, because we so seldom fall off the cliff? Is it maybe that we like the dams that we’ve built to hold us in place?

Leaving the library, inserting one’s self into a research team, taking the risk to say you’ll do something that you may not be the most expertise in… these are acts of falling. Learning new skills, seeking out new challenges, and redefining our profession release our potential energy. They involve movement and action. They involve change. Perhaps the reason so many people make so much money off of our desires to change is because deep down, we really don’t want to change. And so we don’t. And we buy another book or join another gym.

Carol Dweck, the well-known Stanford psychologist and researcher (and author of a few self-help books), has devoted her career to studying mindsets, particularly fixed versus growth. Libraries, from both inside and out, have been saddled with a fixed mindset. I say “from both inside and out” because it isn’t librarians alone who have a fixed idea of what a library is. In fact, from where I sit (in an academic library), it’s often our patrons who have the more permanent idea of what a library is and what a librarian does. We often say, “They don’t have a clue what we do!” (I’m not going to go into why this might be. Not in this post, anyway.)

In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (How we can learn to fulfill our potential),  Dweck explains why those with a fixed mindset have such a difficult time taking risks. The reason, she states, is because “effort is only for people with deficiencies.” She goes on to say:

When people already know they’re deficient, they have nothing to lose by trying. But if your claim to fame is not having any deficiencies – if you’re considered a genius, a talent, or a natural – then you have a lot to lose. Effort can reduce you. (p. 42)

Truthfully, I don’t know many librarians who believe they are geniuses. I do, however, know a profession that believes it’s greatest value is expertise, particularly expertise in locating, organizing, and providing access to information. But the truth is that this expertise is valued less and less today. In a world of networked knowledge, knowledge itself is redefined. Everyone is an expert. (For more on this, read David Weinberger’s, Too Big to Know.) And so perhaps the biggest challenge we face as librarians and/or informationists is the challenge to put forth the effort; to take the risk that comes with trying.

We probably all know a person for whom we have said or heard, “She has so much potential.” Who knows? Perhaps it’s been said about you. Too often, I’ve noticed, we hear or say that phrase with a tone of regret. “She could have done so much here.” “He could have been so successful.” The “could haves” and “would haves” of life are often tied to untapped potential and untapped potential is often tied to lack of effort and/or the fear of taking a risk. The higher the cliff, the harder the fall.

Libraries and those of us who work in them are filled with potential. It’s my own hope that when I come to next December and I look back on my full year as an informationist, I will see that I’ve fallen down a lot.

(Find out more about Carol Dweck’s work, particularly as it relates to students and learning, at Mindset Works.)


Making a List

13 Dec

Any gift-giving occasion often prompts us to make lists. The same can be said for markers in time, particularly the end of a calendar year. As we’re almost to the mid-point of December, it’s double-duty list-making time, as many are planning what to give others for the holidays, as well as making resolutions about what they might do or change or accomplish in the New Year. I grew up celebrating Christmas and making my yearly list to Santa Claus, asking for whatever I wanted him to bring me. I asked for a bicycle one year, a pogo stick another, a Hoppity Hop a third. These are things I remember. I also remember getting some really cool gifts that I never thought to ask for. Once, my dad gave me a small, square, metal box with plastic drawers, each filled with a treasure like brand new Pink Pearl erasers, scissors, a tiny stapler, and colored pencils and crayons. I still have that box. My mom co-opted it from me years after I’d received it and used it to organize her embroidery thread. That’s it’s purpose, still today. Other surprises include a djembe from my partner a few years back and sewing lessons last year. The latter was not a surprise, per se, but I was surprised that I could actually operate a sewing machine. It’s great fun!

In Informationist-landia, I’ve been making a list of things – services, skills, areas of expertise – that I can bring to a research team. We did this exercise, somewhat quickly, as we prepared the supplemental grant application that ultimately landed me on the breast cancer intervention study, but I’ve been working on it more since then. You might recall that the whole group of funded informationists did this exercise back in early November when we gathered here in Worcester. I shared that list in an earlier post. Now however, as I’m about to embark on this work full-time, I need to really become familiar with this list. I need to practice articulating it to those on campus with whom I hope to work. I wrote to a researcher just this morning and mentioned the change in my role. I also asked her if we could grab a cup of coffee sometime so that I can share more about how this role could benefit her and others in her department.

As much as I cringe at the thought of it, this is about selling something; specifically, it’s about selling myself. I don’t much like that thought. I’m fine with self-promotion and I have no real trouble talking to people, but there’s something about the word “selling” that leaves me queasy. It’s not really fair, as I know plenty of honest, decent, nice, funny, every-other-kind-of-pleasant-attribute-you-can-name people who sell things for a living, but for whatever reason, I can’t get past the image of myself with slicked back hair and a bit of a sleazy smile, pulling the wool over a researcher’s eye as I convince him/her that I’ll deliver 180 articles per gallon of coffee and index from A-Z in 4.2 seconds. Best deal this side of Pecos, Texas, pardner.

Considering I’m short on both Brylcreem and sleaziness (thankfully), I’m willing to consider sales in a different light. Fortunately, in just about a month, one of my favorite business authors has a new book coming out that will (fingers crossed) help me do just that. In January, Dan Pink (MLA members might recall him as our keynote speaker at the annual meeting in Washington, DC a few years ago) offers us, To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth about Moving Others. Per the website, Pink’s book can help the employee “pitching colleagues on a new idea”. That is, after all, exactly what informationists and embedded librarians are doing. We’re trying to convince our patrons, our colleagues, that library services go well beyond access to articles, database searching, and inter-library loan. One item on my list: Dan Pink’s new book!

Another salesperson that comes to mind is likely one of the greatest of all times, Steve Jobs. Plenty has been written about Mr. Jobs, both during and after his lifetime, much of it detailing his brilliance at pitching new ideas, new products, entire new ways of living. He was a master. As I’ve been reading and thinking and writing about the task of convincing researchers of their need for an informationist on their teams, I’ve often thought of a particular, quite popular, quote from an interview with Jobs that appeared in a May, 1998 issue of Business Week:

Jobs Quote

It’s true, isn’t it? And it was the genius of Jobs and Apple that they consistently, over the years, give us things that we never knew we needed before we saw them, before we had them in our hands, before they became integrated into our lives. Can you remember typewriters and carbon paper? Can you remember dial-up modems? Can you remember not having a cell phone? Can you remember when music came on vinyl records? Can you remember when you had to actually buy a CD in order to hear your favorite band? Desktop computers and iPods and iPhones and email… we can’t function without them nowadays, but it really wasn’t that long ago when we didn’t have any idea that they were indispensable to our lives. But Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and other giants of Silicon Valley changed our world over the last few decades. They changed it for good, both in that it will never again be the same, and in the sense of making it better. Some things, anyway.

We may be lacking such a visionary in our profession today (or maybe not), but individually we can each work to have a vision of what researchers need in terms of information management and organization, data management,  information literacy, etc. We can formulate a vision of what we each bring to the picture and then, paint that picture for those we hope to work with. Maybe researchers just don’t know what they want from us yet. Maybe it’s our job to show it to them.

And now…

… as it is the time of giving and receiving, I wanted to share a story that is for me perhaps the very best example of receiving something that I didn’t know I needed before I got it. It’s also a story of the real meaning of this season – whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or even Festivus. Regardless, the Season is about sharing gifts with one another, be they material or otherwise. And oftentimes, the ones we least expect are the most special…

When I was in college, I worked in the dining hall. These were the days before Aramark or Sodexo or other large corporate big-box food service entities. They were the days when students still ran the dining hall; where we worked side-by-side with a handful of adults, cooking and serving and running the dish line. It was, in all seriousness, one of the most fun jobs that I have ever had in my lifetime. It was akin to belonging to a large fraternity. I did belong to a sorority in college, but D-Hall was a separate group. We had fun at work and we had fun outside of work. It was a blast.

After a year or so of working on one of the serving lines, I got promoted to the position of Cook’s Aid. The job was what it says, I was an aid to the cook’s in the kitchen. The cooks were full-time working adults. They supervised us, watched out for us, mothered us (in the case of Mary, the chief cook), and barked at us (in the case of the two guys who were retired Navy cooks). I loved working with them.

During my junior year of school, over the winter break, my mom was killed in a car accident. I went back to school a few weeks after it occurred, grateful for classes and a job that filled up time. When Christmas break was looming the following year, I was working one of my last shifts during finals when Robin, one of the cooks, found me as I was clocking out and took me to a break room where she gave me a small, fully decorated, Christmas tree. It was the kind that would fit on the top of my dresser back in the sorority house. She had tears in her eyes as she gave it to me and as she told me how worried she was that I was going to go home and find no tree. She knew how hard that Christmas was going to be. She knew that I needed a tree to get through it. I didn’t know that, but she did. And she was right.

It’s a story that really hasn’t much to do with being an informationist, unless you think about the fact that being an informationist means being a person. And sometimes people do the kinds of things that show us the very best of the human spirit. I wish everyone this spirit throughout the Season and into the New Year.

Thank you for reading my blog the past few months. I’ve received so many kind words and thoughtful responses to things I’ve posted. It’s a real gift.

~ Sally


Walking the Walk (in festive reindeer socks!)

12 Dec

A message went out today to several listservs, announcing that my current position – Head of Research and Scholarly Communication Services at the Lamar Soutter Library, UMass Medical School – was open and that the Library was accepting applications from qualified candidates. If you, dear reader, are a qualified candidate looking for a really exciting opportunity, I’d advise that you give the post a look see and consider applying. Mine is a progressive, innovative place to work. We also have a great holiday party each year. In fact, we just had it today. Sorry you missed it!

New Holiday Socks for the Holiday Party

New Holiday Socks for the Holiday Party

The best thing I can say about my Library and its administration today is this… my current position is now open. What this means is that my library director and others in leadership here believe that the role of an embedded librarian is one so key to our future success that they’re willing to put someone on it (me) full-time. One of the issues shared by other informationists, as well as audience members, at the November professional development day, was that of sustainability. “How do you manage these new roles while doing everything else you’re already doing?” was a question asked by almost everyone in attendance. Well, one answer (it fits in with an earlier blog post that I wrote) is that you make those things that you feel to be important, priorities. It’s one thing to say something is important. It’s something altogether different to make the necessary shifts and changes required for it to happen. This is what we’re doing here in my Library.

So this is a short post today. I’m sitting here with my feet up, showing off my reindeer socks, and feeling way too full from a good lunch and a table filled with homemade goodies for dessert. It won’t last long, though. I have my work cut out for me finding new research projects to work on and convincing researchers of the expertise I can bring to their teams. It’s a really exciting time to stay put! And it’s a really great thing to work in a library where you can do new things without having to leave. We should all be so fortunate.

In Theory…

4 Dec
Pythagorean Theorem

Pythagorean Theorem

Last Friday, I attended the 2nd annual Community Engagement Research Symposium sponsored by the section of the same name that is part of the University of Massachusetts’ Center for Clinical and Translational Science. The Community Engagement and Research Section is the arm of the CCTS charged with helping researchers from the University work with the local communities and community leaders to address issues related to public health.

We do this by helping university researchers and community leaders form equal partnerships for health research. This approach is called community engaged research. Other names for this type of approach include Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR), Community Collaborative Research, Community Partnered Research, and Participatory Action Research. (CCTS website)

The program featured an excellent keynote address by Elmer Freeman, Executive Director of the Center for Community Health Education Research and Service, a community-based organization that provides research funding and support for issues related to professional development and education for community healthcare providers, community advocacy programs, health disparities and inequities, and health policy. Freeman is a veteran of the trenches, an individual who has spent his career at the forefront of community-based health care and who never shies away from speaking frankly about the realities of healthcare in poorer neighborhoods, the gap between health research and medical practice in community health, the politics of funding bodies and academic institutions, and the frustrations that come with trying to address the many challenges of doing community partnered research. Among the many great, quotable lines he spoke (and I tweeted) was this one, “Health care providers in community health centers want practice-based medicine, NOT evidence-based practice.”

As I listened to Freeman and the other panelists of the day, and as I looked at the many poster presentations from projects around the state, and as I took note of comments from the audience, I couldn’t help but draw a whole bunch of parallels between the situation(s) they were describing and much of our own in the world of academic librarianship. Several times, I overheard people say, “We need to create research methodologies that work for a community, not just publication.” Another UMMS leader said, “Academics need to integrate themselves into the community.” Many spoke of the big difference between theory and practice.

Today I had lunch with a friend and colleague who is working to develop curricula for teaching data management practices. I described for him a task that I’m beginning to tackle in my informationist role, i.e. the creation of a data request form with an integrated (or perhaps attached) data dictionary. He asked, “Where is the data for this project stored?” To answer, I began to describe how some data comes from insurance claims (claims data), collected and maintained by the insurance company. Other data comes from electronic health records (staging data), managed by different health care providers. Another source is the system used by schedulers and counselors, the database where they input all of the information that they collect while making their phone calls (intervention data). Lastly, there is analytic data, kind of a collection of the relevant data that comes in from these other sources, ultimately used by our analyst for statistical analysis.

As I talked on, I could see a crinkle form on my friend’s forehead. “There isn’t one dataset?” he asked. Technically, I guess I can say that there is. The analytic dataset is probably the closest to that, but that dataset is derived from others. It’s dependent upon others. As we talked more about other “data” – things like minutes from meetings, progress reports, email correspondence related to the study – he said, “I imagine data management as creating this one neat file folder. You click it and it opens to have everything related to a study organized, accessible, easy to share.”

What a nice image.

And then I told him about last Friday’s meeting and how I’d been thinking about the huge gulf between theory and practice, not necessarily in healthcare, but in our own profession. Library school was all about theory. I remember sitting in classes when I was earning my LIS degree and the faculty member would say that grad school was about learning the theory of librarianship and information science. We would learn how to BE librarians on the job. I feel a lot like this is what’s happening to me now as an informationist. We’ve been talking about eScience and data management for a few years now, in theory. We keep saying that when it comes to managing data, librarians can do this and this and this. We talk about best practices, yet have a bit of a gap in our knowledge base when it comes to knowing what the current practices are. I feel, in a way, like the academic researcher who’s come up with an interesting hypothesis about what an informationist is and now I’m all about testing it.

So far though, what I’m finding is that our theory of what an informationist is and does, and the reality of my day-to-day work is not quite on the same page. I do believe we’re on a good path to figuring out the answer to our “research question” and ultimately, to knowing what our role can be here in the research process. I also think that the researcher who implored her fellow academics to integrate themselves into the community was speaking to me, too. Embedded librarians and informationists are trying to heed the message. I am integrated into this study and it’s a huge step towards putting our theories into practice, in a truly meaningful way.