A couple of weeks ago, Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, issued a gracious and thoughtful statement on the announcement of Donald Lindberg’s retirement as Director of the National Library of Medicine. Dr. Lindberg has held this post for more than 30 years and as any and everyone knows, the past 30 years in libraries and/or information science has seen monumental change. Dr. Collins lauded Dr. Lindberg’s leadership throughout this time. He also said this:
Trained as a pathologist, Don re-invented himself as an expert and groundbreaking innovator in the world of information technology, artificial intelligence, computer-aided medical diagnosis, and electronic health records.
Doctors seem to do this all of the time or at least they seem to be able to be many things at one time. We celebrate doctors who are also writers, doctors who are also artists, and doctors who are excellent teachers. We think little of showcasing their ability to be multi-talented. In this statement, Dr. Collins praises Dr. Lindberg for being able to be something else besides a doctor, or better put, to be an expert in medicine AND an expert in informatics.
I share this because I was recently speaking with a doctor about how I was an expert in library science and something else. More specifically, I was explaining how my expertise in library and information science lent itself to being an expert in something else. And when I said this, the doctor looked at me somewhat quizzically. “Really?” she asked, the implication being, “I can’t even imagine.”
I was hardly resentful about the encounter because to tell you the truth, it happens all of the time. While we don’t bat an eye at the fact that doctors can be multi-talented, the challenge is always there for us to convince them that they’re really not the only ones on whom this characteristic falls. And that’s part of our job. There’s no use grousing about it or getting all bent out of shape. Instead, we need to simply get out there and demonstrate that librarians can be experts in lots of things, too. Sometimes, we can even re-invent ourselves as experts in completely different areas without forsaking our expertise in librarianship.
As we celebrate the many skills and talents of our patrons, let’s celebrate them in ourselves, too.