Tag Archives: embedded librarian

How do I spell success? R-E-P-E-A-T

19 Mar

I was away on vacation last week, enjoying a wonderful few days in Old Montreal (Vieux-Montreal), thus my post is a bit on the short side this week. When we arrived at the hostel where we were staying, I promptly locked my work iPod in a locker off the main room and refused to look at it until Sunday evening, the night before returning to my cubicle. Vacation is about getting away and while I’ve been as guilty as anyone in terms of not leaving work behind during these respites, this time I decided that I would (and could) do just that. I’m hardly so important – nor my colleagues so incompetent – that I can’t leave work for a week or two without any serious catastrophes occurring. And as expected, nothing happened in my absence that required me being here. It was a nice break.

When I did peek at my email on Sunday night, I saw one note that was worth reading – a note from an investigator that I’ve been working with to put together a proposal for a new project. He was writing to let me know that it was a go. YES! It’s a really different project, compared with others that I’ve worked on to date, and I’m looking forward to learning some new skills and working with some new colleagues. Great news!

Then on Monday, I got a phone call from the project manager of the mammography study, letting me know that the principal investigators wished to continue supporting part of my time, i.e. keeping me on their team for a few more months as we write a paper together and work on hosting a panel at the Clinical Translational Science Center’s annual research retreat in May.

These two bits of news, for me, are real indicators of the progress I’m making in demonstrating the value of embedded librarian services here on campus. Repeat performances spell “success”!

My fantastic new laptop that I picked up while on vacation in Montreal! Cool, eh?

My fantastic new laptop that I picked up while on vacation in Montreal! Cool, eh?

ONE Partridge, ONE Pear Tree

19 Dec
The Partridge Family first cast, 1970. Public Domain

The Partridge Family first cast, 1970.
Public Domain

I had lunch yesterday with a friend who used to work at UMass Medical School. We hadn’t seen each other in awhile and so we began with the usual and mutual ritual of catching up. She has a new job, something that I somehow missed an announcement for months ago. We talked about her projects and tasks and the pros and cons of working remotely. Then we talked about my year, my own new roles, changes in the library and in our staffing, the new structure and directions we’re heading. My friend works in a technology-heavy world too, thus she knows of the challenges that libraries, IT, higher education, medical education… all of us are facing lately. 

One thing that she asked me in particular was how had I managed, over the past year, to build new collaborations and projects. “How do you get people to say, ‘Yes,'” she asked. It’s a great question. Roger Fisher and William L. Ury had a best seller in the 1980s that answered that very question. But the art of negotiation that they teach in their book is something different from what my friend asked. What she was more interested in is how to get buy in, trust, respect, and the “thumbs up” from your boss to try and/or to develop new things. Here are some of the tidbits of experience that I shared, with a little holiday twist for you, just because…

12 Drummers Drumming

Bang that drum! For the past 12 months, I have talked and talked and talked about what I do. In doing so, I have kept my Library Director, my supervisor, and my co-workers in the communication loop. This becomes all the more important when you spend less and less time in the library and more and more in the presence of the teams that you’re a part of. “Out of sight, out of mind,” cannot happen. Use all the means at your disposal to be both heard and seen. Emails, social media, shared reports, and face-to-face meetings every now and then keep folks from forgetting you or worse, thinking that you’re not doing anything.

11 Pipers Piping

Pipe up! Know what you can do, be able to articulate it clearly and succinctly, and then… DO IT! Much of the work that I find myself doing is not work that I think many people initially thought about a librarian doing. They were in the dark about the skills I could bring to their project or team. You’ve got to tell them. Don’t kid yourself. No one else will.

10 Lords-a-Leaping

Take a flying leap! Take risks. Try to do some things that maybe you’re not completely sure that you can do at the moment, but you’re positive that you can learn how in the future. Think creatively, just as we wish our patrons to think of us. When it comes to information, data, and knowledge management, there are so many services that we can offer and so many needs that we can fill. Go after them.

9 Ladies Dancing

Keep moving! Without a doubt, this has been the most filled year of work that I’ve ever experienced. It’s been challenging, it’s been exciting, and it’s been downright exhausting at times. But that’s how change goes and I wasn’t the only person and/or aspect of my library that experienced change this year. We’ve all gone through some big changes that resulted in a lot of dancing around to make sure everything is getting done. Hopefully, as we grow into our new model, we’ll have a few more seats along the wall to rest.

8 Maids-a-Milking

Milk it for all it’s worth! Receiving an administrative supplement grant from NIH/NLM was a big deal and we made sure that people on campus and in the larger library world were aware of it. It’s a thin line to walk between promoting something and bragging, but I think we’ve done a pretty good job of sticking to the promotional aspects, using the award as clout to secure some other opportunities. Librarians aren’t always very comfortable with tooting their own horns, but sometimes, that’s just what you have to do.

7 Swans-a-Swimming

Swim against the grain. Assuming newer roles in our profession is not always readily accepted. Within our own ranks, we often argue and grumble over having to do new things, make new changes, and assume new roles that we don’t necessarily want to do. If you find yourself going against the fray, do your best to seek out colleagues and peers who are supportive and positive. Doom and gloom breeds doom and gloom. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Avoid the negative.

6 Geese-a-Laying

Lay an egg! Make some mistakes, or rather accept the fact that you will. I made some this past year. I had more than one hand-slap-to-forehead moment, those times when you can’t believe that you didn’t see something and/or understand something a certain way. It happens. To everyone. Enjoy the company.

5 Gold Rings

Find some gold medal champions! I have benefited tremendously from a couple or three researchers on my campus who know me, like me, and respect what I can do. They are my advocates and I never hesitate to use them for such when it’s needed. Convince a few people to take a chance on you, then come through for them. When you do this, you’ll have people in your corner for the long haul.

4 Calling Birds

Tweet! Tweet! TWEET DAMMIT! Social media – be it Twitter, Linked In, Tumblr, Facebook, or blogs – is a revolution for disseminating your work. These tools allow you to tell more people, more easily than every before, what you’re up to. They allow you to demonstrate both process and product. They let you share your expertise (and your amateurism, as Austin Kleon reminds) with such a wide audience that you’ll never know who you might net. Did I have any idea that Amy Dickinson would become an advocate for me as a librarian? Heck no! Who could have imagined it? But when she introduced me as such to the audience at the Lenox Public Library that night in August… well, THAT was one awesome highlight of my year. Stop thinking that social media is about nothing more than cute kittens. It’s your key to a powerful network of people who can help you grow professionally in countless ways.

3 French Hens

Go abroad! Maybe not literally, but do cross the waters that separate you from those you think you can help. Go to talks and meetings and other arenas where you can learn about what the people that you want to work with do. Don’t wait for invitations, but search the daily announcements of open forums and go. I have done this over the past year and one thing I’ve learned is this… we all share an awful lot of the same problems and talk about the same issues when it comes to communication, information overload, and addressing challenges that a bit of organization might improve. These are opportunities to identify the talking points that will connect you with people and groups that you may think you have nothing in common with. Trust me. You do. 

2 Turtle Doves

MAKE some quiet time to think. Doing something new, particularly becoming comfortable and good at it, requires time. Time to think and time to read and time to plan. I have a card over the desk in my studio that reads, “Practice Takes Practice.” Yes, this is one of the hardest things to do when you’re on the dance floor all of the time, but it’s really essential to both grow your role and maintain the relevance of it (not to mention, maintain your sanity). Over the past year, I’ve found a number of quiet corners in research buildings, out of the way places where I can go for an hour to read a few chapters of a book that will give me some new ideas or teach me a new skill, articles that will get me up to speed on a topic that a research team is addressing, or write a blog post that I hope will be useful to my friends and colleagues. 

And ONE Partridge in ONE Pear Tree

It only takes ONE! This is the bit of advice that my friend found most useful. Find one champion, one partner, and one project that you can pour all of your efforts and energies into, in terms of your new role. Make it work. Make it happen. Make it a success. Many, many times, just one success is all that you need to get the ball rolling. We got one grant and the success of that gave me an awful lot of confidence and grist for my argument mill when it came to persuading others that I could bring something of value to their table, too. When you’re feeling like the change is too big and the frustration too great, just focus on one thing. One partridge in one pear tree. 

I want to thank you all for following along with my adventures this past year. A safe and happy holiday season to all!

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.

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The $64,000 Question (Odds and Ends)

27 Feb

My week of birthday celebration is behind me now and what a week it was, filled with a party and a holiday and a lecture to a data management class and a professional group board meeting. One is hard-pressed to complain about a full, fulfilling life. Thanks to all of my friends and colleagues near and far who helped me celebrate well.

The full schedule left me with a bunch of notes in my notebooks, things that I don’t have the time to expound upon right now, but I want to offer as “odds and ends,” in case you might find something useful in any/all of them.

First, the word of the week appears to be EMPATHY. It’s come up in two different books that I’m reading; Dan Pink’s, To Sell is Human, and Lee Lefever’s, The Art of Explanation. I recommend both, by the way. Pink’s book offers advice on moving people, getting them to buy what you’re selling – a service, an idea, or an area of expertise. Lefever’s is about… well, it’s pretty self-explanatory … the art of explaining things to people. It’s an art, he argues, and thus something that we can learn to do. For both of the author’s, a significant key to success in these areas is empathy. Being able to put one’s self in the mind and shoes of another helps to get our point across.

It seems a pretty good message for me as I seek to find my place on research teams. The better I understand the people that I’m trying to sell on the idea that they could use an informationist on their team, the better my argument will be. Likewise, the better I can explain what the heck an informationist is in the first place, the better I’ll not appear to them as an alien from the planet Librarius.

I have the opportunity to give a lecture next week to students in our graduate program in Clinical Investigation. It’s a course on Team Science and the faculty member teaching it said to me, “You’re always going on about how it’s important to have an informationist on the team. Come teach my class one day.” It goes without saying that I’m working up my empathetic nature so that I can both explain and sell this group of clinicians and researchers on the idea. Stay tuned for a report of how well I do.

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I really enjoyed giving a lecture last week to the students taking the Data Management Planning class in Simmons College’s GSLIS program. It’s a small class and the majority of students are auditing it, as they are already professionals working in the field. We had a great discussion about the skills one needs to find success as an embedded librarian. I’ve posted my slides from the lecture to my Slideshare account. As you might imagine, they are more visual in nature than textual, but you may be able to get something from them.


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On my embedded days, when I’m not in meetings, I often search out a quiet spot somewhere on campus (not in the Library) where I can work uninterrupted. We have a new research building on campus and during this transition time when people are slowly moving in to the new lab spaces and the cafeteria has yet to open, there are many good places that fit the bill. Yesterday morning I was sitting in what will eventually be a bustling lunch area, preparing for the weekly team meeting, when a few students came and sat at a nearby table. Recalling an assignment that I once had for a writing class, I eavesdropped on their conversation and took a few notes. They looked like this:

Conversation

Ignore the “Also overheard…” bit in red. I just found that really funny and worth a doodle. No matter how new an HVAC system, it seems we just can’t help but complain about the temperature in a room. Must be encoded in our DNA.

No, the part I want you to notice is what I heard the students saying AND the question it prompted me to write. I don’t have an answer for them. Do you? Is a plan the same thing as a solution? If I went up to them and talked to them about creating a plan for managing their data, would this be helpful? I’m not sure and my lack of sureness left me with the question, “Have we got a solution we can offer?” As you note, it could be “masterful,” if we can create it. (By the way, that was a quote from one of the students. Not my word.)

EDITORIAL: A Colleague emailed me after I first posted this, telling me that my notes didn’t make sense. He was right. Here’s a bit of clarification – They said, “I could have saved a whole day of work if there were standards and consistency in file formats.” Then one said, “That’s a masterful idea if there is a master table.” But such a table doesn’t exist and they don’t have time to go back and make one now. Do we have a solution for them that helps them now or can we just make suggestions for the future?

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Finally, I’ve been looking for a tool that will help me keep my projects and tasks and ideas and such in order. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to trade in my notebooks. (As a matter of fact, I got a fresh supply of Field Notes journals on Sunday, courtesy of my wonderful spouse.) No, pen and paper and doodling will remain a staple for me, but I need an online tool to help me organize a working schedule and working demands that aren’t quite as routine as they once were. Yesterday, I stumbled across Curio 8 and downloaded the free 25-day trial to my Mac laptop. In a word, “Whoa!!”  It’s pretty rare nowadays to find something that you can figure out how to use in about 10 minutes. It’s not a high-powered project management tool, but that’s probably to its advantage for me right now. I don’t need a lot of bells and whistles, but rather something that I can put into use quickly and easily. I have a feeling this is it. Is anyone out there using it? If so, I’d love to hear your feedback before I decide on purchasing. It’s not overly expensive ($100), but I like hearing from others before putting my money down.

That’s it for this week’s check-in. Oh! Except to say that I realized this morning that you can enlarge the font size on an iPad to make reading an ebook on it easier. Is this a new feature? Nah… but my 50 year old eyes are!

Where the Rubber Hits the Road (Part II)

30 Jan
A fantastic recording, btw!

A fantastic recording, btw!

When we first saw the request for proposals that ultimately secured the supplemental grant for an informationist and brought me into this work, we began to think about the roles I would take, the tasks I would assume, and the skills I would bring to a research team. In short, we put together an argument for the value of having an informationist on a research team. It’s no secret that this is an argument in the making. One of the main reasons that the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health funded the program was to study the role and to evaluate its worthiness. Making our case was somewhat easier in that we had a template, i.e. the requirements of the RFP. Still, it was a new concept to our researchers and thus we had to invest some time and effort towards explaining what we hoped to achieve in this new partnership.

Since I began working on the mammography study in September, I’ve also been talking to other researchers on campus about the possibility of working with them. For the most part, I’ve leveraged relationships already formed between myself and certain researchers and/or departments. When trying to make my way in this new arena, I’m looking for all of the help I can get. At least with established relationships I have a head-start on arguing for the importance and relevance of the library. I’ve also taken advantage of attending meetings, symposia, and other forums where researchers present their work. One of these was the Community Engagement Symposium last November, hosted by our CCTS Section of the same name. I attended this event intending to try and talk to a couple of people in particular. When that didn’t happen, I used the meeting’s evaluation form to both thank the organizers of the event (who, by the way, I knew thanks to past collaborations) and to state my desire to meet with the leadership of the Section to talk about possibilities of being an informationist for them. Some time passed, but then a couple of weeks ago I got the following email from one of the organizers:

Sally,

Thanks for coming to the Symposium!

You had requested a meeting to discuss forming partnerships for the library work of informationist. We are wondering if we could set up a time for you to talk with us as a group. We have a meeting on Feb 5 from 1-2. Would you like to join us? Or, is there a better time?

Thanks!

Amy

WOW!! GREAT!! I was delighted with the invite. I shared it with both my library director and my immediate supervisor, and they were really pleased, too. Then, a week later I got another email:

Sally,

So that we could make the best use of our time, could you please share with us:

  • 3-5 questions that you would like to discuss
  • Background information on this new work

Thanks!

Amy

My immediate response was, “Uh oh.” I’m not sure why, but it was. Despite the fact that I’ve been doing this work for a few months now AND that I’d asked for the meeting, the thought of having to articulate the who, what, and why of it all gave me pause. Instinct, perhaps. This is all still new, not only the work itself but the selling of it to others. I’ve been reading and writing about being entrepreneurial, but now is the time to put all of that learning to work. How will I do?

I thought about my response for over a week. I traveled to the Miner Library at the University of Rochester Medical School last week to lead a workshop on these very things. As I spent almost a dozen hours driving solo to and from Rochester, I had a lot of time to talk to myself and formulate some ideas on how to proceed. This morning, I sat down and wrote my response. What do you think? If you were (or are) a researcher, is it enough to set the stage for a meeting? If you’re a librarian, would you present other skills or ask other questions? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below. In the meantime, I’ll prepare myself for this opportunity – one that I really am excited about. And next week, I’ll report back on how it went.

Date: 01/30/2013

Proposal: To provide informationist/embedded librarian services to the Department of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine, specifically, though not limited to, projects related to the UMass CCTS Community Engagement and Research Section.

Background: Informationists are librarians with a disciplinary background in biomedical, behavioral or biological sciences, as well as library and information science. Medical librarians began serving as informationists in the clinical setting approximately 10 years ago, but more recently have begun to find a relevant place embedded in research teams and/or projects.

In the summer of 2012, the Library successfully collaborated with two principal investigators at UMMS, as well as their research team, to receive a supplemental grant from the National Library of Medicine. The award, an “NLM Administrative Supplements for Informationist Services in NIH-funded Research Projects”, was one of eight awarded nationally. It provides funding to support an informationist, or in-context information specialist, who serves the research team by offering expertise in the areas of data and information management.

For 18 months (Sept 2012 – Jan 2014), I’m serving as a member of the research team on the grant, “Promoting Breast Cancer Screening in Non-Adherent Women” (R01 CA-132935, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health). I’m devoting a quarter of my scheduled work time to the project, undertaking projects such as developing data management tools (a data dictionary and data request form), providing an in-depth literature review and report on the issues facing researchers and internet technology professionals when building and implementing research tools, assisting with a systematic review on the effectiveness of telephone intervention protocols for preventive screenings, and instructing the members of the team in advanced searching techniques and bibliographic management.

As we prepared this proposal with Drs. Luckmann and Costanza, Elaine Martin, Library Director, became convinced that this was both a relevant and exciting new opportunity for the Library and decided to commit to the service. I’ve been given a new role in the Library, informationist or embedded librarian, and charged with seeking out other opportunities where I can be integrated into research teams to provide library, information, and data management expertise as needed.

With an educational background in both exercise physiology and library science, years of providing support to the UMMS research community, and additional work as an exercise physiologist for a couple of Sherry Pagoto’s studies, I feel there’s likely not a better fit for me on this campus than the Department of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine and/or the UMass CCTS Community Engagement and Research Section. When we meet on 2/5, I’d like to talk about this further and answer any questions you might have regarding the work I’m doing now for the Luckmann/Costanza study. Additionally, I’d like to hear your thoughts and experiences regarding how (or if) you think an informationist could be of benefit to your team(s). Specifically:

  • What is your current process for obtaining relevant literature and other supporting information for preparing grant proposals, thinking of new research projects, staying current in your research areas, etc.?
  • Could members of the Department benefit from regular training in areas such as searching the literature, managing and organizing information, and/or improving communication between team members?
  • Do you have an established protocol for training new members to the Department or projects in the above-referenced areas? If not, would you be interested in having such?
  • How do you currently communicate and share information between team members?
  • When beginning research projects, do you establish standards for data collection, management, and sharing? Are these methods sufficient for your work?
  • Has anyone considered writing a formal systematic review on the topics studied by your group? If so, have you considered the benefits of having a dedicated librarian involved in such an endeavor?