Several years ago, I was invited to be a part of a journal club that discussed topics related to exercise physiology. It was here at the Med School where we have no such formal program and/or research taking place, but there was still a group of researchers and doctoral students with an interest in what happens to the body when it exercises. Not that surprising, they were mostly cyclists. I’ve often found cyclists to be among the most curious group when it comes to ex phys. They’re completely absorbed in the whole lactate threshold thing.
The first day that I attended the group, I was greeted with, “Oh good, Sally is here! Sally is the expert. She’s the one with the degree.” At the time, this said a lot to me in terms of how researchers view one another. You know what you’ve studied and you’re an expert in the discipline that you know best.
I’ve gotten a lot of traction out of this story since that day. I’ve often used it when asking my colleagues how often, if ever, they’ve been invited to a research meeting and called out as the information expert. Sadly, it doesn’t happen nearly enough. I’ve often wondered if that day would ever arrive when I was seen as the expert from the Library.
I wondered it until today. TODAY I was invited to a meeting by a group of folks considering a grant application and several times during the meeting, people said that I was there because I was the expert in the areas that they knew nothing about, e.g. information management, information architecture, website design, and all sorts of other things related to technology. They used the word over and over, “Sally is the expert.” The others were experts in nutrition and public health and mindfulness. I was the expert in information collection, presentation, dissemination, and the technology necessary for this to happen.
Walking back across campus afterward, I remembered the journal club story and couldn’t help but think how far I’ve been able to reach into the research community, in a relatively short period of time, simply by getting out and meeting people, working with them, building a small portfolio of projects and deliverables, and building a small list of names that I can drop for effect. To me, more than anything, this is the goal of the informationist program. The specific skills and their associated value that we can bring to research teams is recognized from the very beginning. In fact, this particular team was stuck with writing part of their grant ~ even deciding whether or not to pursue it ~ without consulting an informationist. Down the line, if necessary, we can talk about the nuts and bolts of how I could be included in the team, but really I already feel a part of it. They needed my expertise now and knew to include me.
Someday has arrived and I’m convinced that our professional future is wide open for these type of experiences to happen more and more often. Let’s grab them!