Archive | May, 2013

A Bit of Advice from Everyone’s Favorite Nurse Administrator

24 May

As I mentioned in my weekly post yesterday, I’m working on putting together a couple of presentations on the skills, tools, and tasks of an embedded librarian. This afternoon I’ve been searching through databases, videos, the interwebs, and more, looking for some good examples and/or helpful advice for how to interview researchers (or anyone you hope to help). In doing so, I stumbled across this bit of advice from Anna Deavere Smith, one of our very best character actors (embody-ers) and brightest minds in the arts. Listen to what she says in this snippet of an interview from Big Think and then tell me if you agree or not:

What is your question?


No Informationist is an Island

23 May

I recently had an article published in the Journal of eScience Librarianship, outlining my work as an informationist on the mammography intervention study – “A Librarian by Any Other Name” by Sally A. Gore. The issue also contains brief pieces by the other informationists who were funded through the NIH/NLM Supplemental Grant program, as well as an editorial by Valerie Florance, PhD, the Director of Extramural Programs at the National Library of Medicine, in which she gives a brief history of the informationist concept and why these awards were offered.

The Journal of eScience Librarianship in an open access publication of the Lamar Soutter Library, the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

The Next Step(s)

22 May

Spring is a whirlwind in my workaday world. It’s chocked full of meetings, presentations, science boot camp, and all of the many things that make my job such a great one to have. While many academic librarians may be looking forward to the end of another semester and a few months of a quieter summer life in their libraries, those of us in medical schools rarely notice the ticking of the academic clock. Our students never leave, but just roll from one clerkship to another; one lab to another; one class to another. When I first started working in this environment, it took a little while to figure this out. I kept waiting for people to go away for the summer. I kept waiting for the parking lot to be a little bit less full. It’s true that during the height of July and August, there’s a little bit of a lull, but mostly we just keep rolling. Roll on!

One of the dates on my calendar is an upcoming talk at Tufts Medical School’s library, part of a staff development day for the University’s librarians around the idea of embedded librarianship. I feel like I’ve talked so much (and written so much) about my new(ish) role the past 9 months that I could do it in my sleep, but after writing that poetic welcome for the opening of “One Health” a couple of weeks back, I fear I’ve set my bar quite high in terms of public appearances. I should’ve known better. Regardless, the pressure is on to do something new – to share some new thoughts, ideas, and experiences; to hopefully offer some encouragement and/or inspiration for my colleagues in this area.

Embedded-Librarian This being the case, I’ve been spending a good bit of my early morning and evening reading time taking in some of the writings on the topic that I’d put aside for awhile. One of these is David Shumaker’s book, The Embedded Librarian, that came out last year. David is a member of the faculty at the School of Library and Information Science at Catholic University. For a good while, he has written “The Embedded Librarian” blog and much of his book is an expansion of the thoughts, ideas, interviews, and more that he’s shared on the blog. If you’re interested in this topic at all (and I imagine that if you read my blog, you must have some interest), I recommend it. I’ve found it to be a keeper, one for your professional bookshelf or, in my case, my Kindle.

In defining “embedded librarianship,” and in particular, distinguishing it from traditional librarianship or liaison librarianship, David captures a characteristic that I’ve been struggling to put a name to:

Embedded librarians go a step further than responsiveness – they anticipate. A senior academic administrator I interviewed recently described the embedded librarian she works with as a ‘fount of ideas.’ A corporate administrator told me his embedded librarian suggested ways of accomplishing tasks that others on the team wouldn’t think of – ways that save the team time and effort. Embedded librarians don’t wait to be asked. They use their close working relationships to identify needs and find solutions.

Along with the talk at Tufts, I’m also putting together my part of the presentation that I’ll be giving at Science Book Camp for Librarians next month. Its focus is upon interviewing researchers. Part of what I want to share in these talks (and here) is the idea found in this quote. It’s about anticipation. It’s about building on relationships. It’s something that Daniel Pink calls “problem finding.” I’ve also been reading articles in psychology books on attentive listening. I think it’s kind of that, too. I’ve been reading articles on narrative medicine, the practice of getting patients to tell the story of their illness. I think there’s some of that in it, as well.

It’s a bit of all of these things, this thing that I can’t quite put a single name to. It’s the marriage between your skills and expertise, and your patron’s need. It’s being able to readily identify that relationship and then act on it. It’s the next step after someone invites you to a meeting to discuss doing a literature review. It’s the, “And … what else?” The trick is that 9 times out of ten (or maybe 99 out of 100), the researcher doesn’t know the answer to that question. S/he hasn’t a clue. It’s the informationist’s and/or embedded librarian’s job to know. It’s our responsibility to be able to listen for the opportunities. And if I’ve learned one thing in these past months, it’s that there is NO shortage of opportunities. People are awash in a sea of information, communication breakdown, and disconnection.

I came away from the annual meeting of the Medical Library Association with a bubbling research question centered on our readiness to do this work, as well as the barriers that prevent us from doing it. Stay tuned for updates on where I go with this, but for now just take it as a comment that I see some interesting questions/issues around our abilities and desires to take this next step.

If you have any thoughts, suggestions, or models of what this elusive characteristic is called, I’d be delighted if you share them in the comments to this post.


Words into Action

17 May

My blog post for this week is hanging out on the NAHSL blog. I hope you’ll pop over and give it a read. It’s a reflection on librarians and research. You’ll find several really interesting posts there from other colleagues reflecting on the sessions they attended at the Annual Meeting of the Medical Library Association last week in Boston. Good stuff!

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Welcome to New England

6 May

As the current chair of  North Atlantic Health Sciences Libraries, Inc. (NAHSL), the local regional chapter of the Medical Library Association, I was invited to give a welcome to the attendees of One Health, the “federated international meeting incorporating the 2013 Annual Meeting and Exhibition of the Medical Library Association (MLA ’13), the 11th International Congress on Medical Librarianship (ICML), the 7th International Conference of Animal Health Information Specialists (ICAHIS), and the 6th International Clinical Librarian Conference (ICLC).” Our meeting began Saturday evening, here in Boston, and I offered the following welcome yesterday morning.

I want to thank the many, many people who have stopped me in the rooms and halls of the Hynes Convention Center to tell me how much that they enjoyed my words. I had a great time writing the poem and am happy to share it, per your request, here. Enjoy!

Listen my colleagues and you may hear
The distant call of Paul Revere
On this early morn, the first Sunday in May
His voice and mine are here to say
We bid you good welcome, good times, and good cheer.

I say to you friends, “If you have traveled
By land or sea, from towns near or away,
Hang your hats by the doorpost, take heed the gavel
And receive its clamor as a signal to stay,
One if by land, and two if by sea;
This is the rule to follow if ye
Commence to go forth and take in the charm
Of every Middlesex village and farm,
And the sites of New England within a yardarm.”

We bid you grand welcome, with no muffled roar
Enjoy good sessions ‘long the Charles River shore,
And as the moon comes over the bay,
Be sure to get out, see the ICA,
Beacon Hill and the famous Common,
And the place where they tossed the tea to the bottom
Of the Harbor deep, and the fight was on.
History abounds in this fair city
Take it all in, to not be a pity.

Meanwhile, your peers from west on the Pike
Worcester and Springfield, and places alike
We too break the silence around these parts.
And muster our greetings, as we embark;
On sessions and speakers and meetings aplenty,
And nary an excuse for your stomach be empty.
For local arrangers, they await your call,
All set to give guidance on how to reach Faneuil Hall.

And do, if you can, climb the steps of Fenway Park,
With its old creaky chairs, it’s an historic landmark.
You’ll have a fun time, no matter the cost,
It’s still early May, the season’s not lost.
But don’t startle the pigeons that make their nests,
On the hanging rafters, above all the guests.
The roof gives you cover, the roof gives you shade,
And don’t fear the loud masses, it’s a Sox-loving brigade.
Catch a glimpse of the monster, green and tall,
Homers fly highest over that wall,
Then pause to watch, as the ball sails over the crowd
To bounce on the street aptly named Landsdowne.

Yes here you can visit churchyards a plenty,
Where famous figures, now lie deep and still,
Adams and Hancock and old Preacher Mather,
Who up in Salem caused such a clatter
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.

(Oops… wrong poem. Sorry.)

Their watchful eyes linger, even today
Keeping us true to their Puritan way,
And seeming to whisper, “All is well!”

But growing impatient, I feel the swell
Of my fellow NAHSL members, wishing I tell
The truth, my friends; that our region it spans
From shoreline to mountains, cross lots of farmland.
Boston’s but one place, and yes, it is louder,
Yet in Connecticut, you’ll find folks prouder
Mustering cheers for that team from the Bronx
Battle cries rising ‘tween Yankees and Sox.

From Stamford drive north, the coast you can trace,
Past Norwalk and Bridgeport, to New Haven and Yale,
Who’s hallways and dorms, a few presidents did grace.
You can stop off in Hartford and take in the site
Of the very room, very desk where Mark Twain, he did write.
See the tall ships line Old Mystic’s harbor,
It’s the same town from that movie that starred Julia Roberts.

And though it be small, the smallest of all,
Rhode Island can claim its own famous wall;
A cliff walk you wander and ogle without guilt,
Upon mansions like those that the Vanders-bilt.
Little Rhodie has beaches and islands, great jazz and folk fests,
That draw the likes of Dylan and Joni, Duke, Dave and the best.
For years they have gathered, the crowds on the lawn,
To take in the music from dusk til dawn.

But then there are those who live north of he-ah,
Where there’s moose in the mountains and lobstahs off the pie-ah,
Way up in Maine, or “down east” as we say,
They’ve got a history of women showing the way.
It started with Margaret Chase Smith back in ‘40.
Women in Congress from Maine proved no shorty.
From Olympia to Susan, the United States Senate
Knows the people of Maine through some very strong women.
And continuing right along in that vein, some 30 years almost it’s been,
With the whole world watching, we all got to see,
A small gal from Freeport break every myth,
Winning marathon gold, Joannie showed girls don’t quit.

Vermont and New Hampshire, too often it seems,
Get lumped in together, like they share the same themes.
But they’re really quite different, both equally proud
Of the unique qualities they’ve each been endowed.
Vermont has Green Mountains, good cheese and ice cream
And a strong little faction always wanting to secede.
They’ve got a good streak of tough independence,
Of “do it yourself” and “don’t be a nuisance.”
Quaint little towns and quaint covered bridges,
And people who can take it when the weather gets frigid.

New Hampshire, however, has mountains quite high,
With trails above tree lines, and peaks in the sky,
Wild rivers and bike paths, and even some beaches,
It’s got a penchant for drawing young folks in their fleeces.
It’s a place to play in the great outdoors,
It’s the first place I landed here, despite there being no Gore’s.
New Hampshire has snow like you can’t believe,
And in spring when it melts, the mud is obscene.
But despite its small size and no roads running East-West,
It’s a part of New England some claim is the best.

Now you know the rest. In the books you have read
How this country began when the British all fled.
How the Patriots showed them, no question at all
That they’d fight for their homeland, they’d answer the call.
And this spirit lives on in our region today,
New England’s quite proud of the ideals we convey.
We’re proud to be leaders in hi-tech and health,
We’re proud to have schools that embody such wealth.
We’re proud of old libraries. We’re proud of old art.
We’re proud of our nature, and being known for kind hearts.
We’re proud of FOUR champions – Sox, Pats, Celts and Bs,
We’re proud you can marry whomever you please.

And though recently shaken on a day we hold dear,
We’re most proud of those who stood up to fear.
For in that odd week, filled with hatred and terror,
The true spirit of Boston became clear as ever.
And all of New England showed all of the world,
How we still stand together, when darkness unfurls.

So throughout this week, as you visit us here,
I hope you’ll absorb every bit of our cheer.
Each bit of our history, each bit of our charm,
Each bit of our character, drawn from village and farm.
On behalf of the members of NAHSL, I say,
Welcome to Boston. Enjoy your stay!
And should you be sad when this meeting is over,
Come back and see us again in October!
Our annual conference will be on the Cape,
And I promise you now, that I will not rhyme another word.

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Welcome to New England by Sally Gore is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at .

Who is your hero? – PART II (the sequel)

2 May

Thanks to those who shared their thoughts and comments regarding this topic. It’s clear that we all feel pretty fortunate to have one or two people in our lives who inspire us, who we look to for support, who we admire despite their flaws. In fact, sometimes it’s the fact that they have flaws that make them the most appealing.

So as promised, I’ll reveal my own hero. I’m definitely no different in that I have several people – or parts of different people – that I depend upon for guidance in work, in play, in life in general. However, a few years ago I crossed paths with someone who really did change me in a bunch of ways. I don’t know if she knows this. I’m fairly certain that she didn’t set out to do such. Still, when I trace back over the time since we met, something shifted in my perspective and thinking and level of creativity that day.

Sally and Suzy

Suzy and me. (Thanks to Brandy King for taking this picture at the MAHSLIN Annual Meeting a couple years back.)

My friend, Suzy Becker, is a self-described authorstrator – an author, illustrator, cartoonist, humorist, teacher, mentor, speaker, entrepreneur, all-around creative soul AND a pretty darned good person in general. I met Suzy after my spouse, Lynn, sat next to her at an open house for upcoming classes at the Worcester Art Museum (they were both teaching that term), came home, gave me Suzy’s business card, and said, “I think you should take her class. I think that you’re from the same tree.” As it turned out, Lynn and I both took Suzy’s class that fall. It was a day-long workshop on writing/drawing your illustrated memoir. I loved it. That was November 2010 and I literally have not stopped drawing pictures, thinking about creativity, and seeing how all of those things fit into my work (and life) since. I was already a writer, so I’m not giving Suzy credit for that, but she did inspire me to write more and to write differently. In a good way.

There’s something else that happened when we met, though, that has also played an integral part in how I approach work (and again, life). Suzy was/is, by far, the most accomplished person that I have ever known. In particular, she’s the most accomplished person my age that I’ve ever known. That’s different than being one who has achieved a lot. She’s done both, but I’ve known plenty of achievers and it’s not the same as being accomplished. For me, achievers follow a certain trajectory. Accomplished people complete and/or fulfill certain aspects of their lives, whether or not they set out to do such. Perhaps it’s merely semantics, but for me the subtlety is significant. For me, accomplished people make the most out of situations. They may well set personal goals for themselves, but they truly embody the idea that the journey is as important as the destination.

To me, Suzy Becker is an incredibly accomplished person and taking Daniel Coyle’s advice, I stare at her to see who I want to become. I also take Jessica Hagy’s advice, admiring the real and imperfect, and noting what Suzy does well and what she doesn’t do well. And I learn from it. As I said to a group of librarians at the University of Rochester’s medical library during a workshop I led back in January, “Whenever I start to think that I’m really good at something, I look at Suzy. It keeps me humble, because never in a million years will I be accomplished like that.”

But you know, you never get any better at anything if you always look to those you’ve already surpassed. You don’t run faster by always picking races where you’re a lot faster than anyone else. You don’t get better at playing the mandolin if you stay in the beginner’s class. Heck, you don’t even get better at answering questions, teaching classes, giving presentations, or any of the many things we do in our work unless you challenge yourself to do so. And sometimes the best place to find that challenge is in another person.

The other interesting thing that happened when I met the accomplished Suzy Becker is that I realized a really accomplished person is a pretty regular human being. She knows and/or has met a lot of people that I admire tremendously. She moves and operates in a different world than I do, yet it’s just a regular world, too. Now what this realization did for me, you might find kind of odd, but it gave me an incredible amount of confidence to contact other accomplished people (as well as a bunch of over-achievers, people that you really need to know in our work). I met Rosanne Cash and Alison Brown. I shook the shaker egg onstage with Ruth Moody. I tweet regularly with Amy Dickinson. And I’ve found a place in the departments and projects of researchers that I admire and enjoy working with.

Knowing a really accomplished person also gave me confidence to accomplish my own dreams. I joined a band. I have a piece of sculpture in an art show that opens this Saturday. I’m standing up on the big stage at the Hynes Convention Center on Sunday morning and giving a grand “howdy do!” to everyone attending the international One Health conference. I write this blog every week and a bunch of people read it. I’m taking a class on how to be a rockstar scribe.

And none of it is much about achieving anything. Not a bit of it matters much on an annual review. It’s more about making work and life something that’s fulfilling. For me. And the funny thing that I’ve noticed is that when my life came to be about fulfilling more than achieving, a lot of other people that I know (and don’t know) have enjoyed it, too. And that’s been perhaps the best part.

So big thanks to Suzy for allowing me to stare at her – whether she knew it or not. (And I sure hope she’ll still answer my email!) And check out her books. You’ll enjoy them. I guarantee.