Tag Archives: libraries

Candy Cane No. 9!

9 Dec

 December 9 – Go, Libraries, Go!

I love a mobile library, a bookmobile, and biblioburros! Several years ago, my neighbor introduced me to the Mobile Library Mystery Series by the Northern Ireland author, Ian Sansom. The Case of the Missing Books got me hooked! I love the Little Free Library movement and book trading posts. I loved James Whitmore’s character in the movie, The Shawshank Redemption, as he pushed his book cart down the prison rows, stopping at each cell to ask, “Book?” Yes, I love any and all of the creative ways that libraries and librarians and plenty of plain citizens (or fictional convicts) bring books and literacy to their communities. 

Today’s Candy Cane celebrates the beauty of mobile libraries. Ebook Friendly’s list of the 10 Most Extraordinary Mobile Libraries is a real treat. As the website notes:

From donkey-drawn trolleys to huge ships, you’ll see here outstanding vehicles that are designed to carry the most important cargo in the world – wisdom.

Take a moment out of your busy day to marvel at these and celebrate the wonderful gifts of literacy and books.

More tomorrow …

Postcards (aka Sketchnotes) from Texas

14 Apr

As I reported in my last post, I was off to the Texas Library Association’s annual conference in San Antonio last week. In a nutshell, it was a terrific meeting. As I usually spend my meeting and conference times with other medical, science, and/or academic librarians, the chance to mix and mingle with LOTS of kinds of librarians was great. I talked to many community college librarians, several school librarians, and even sat next to the retired librarian of The Alamo while waiting to get Henry Winkler’s autograph. I also visited lots of children’s book publishers and attended a few author talks and poetry readings. I gave my work time to my sessions, but outside of that, sought out some different fun.

I plan to post the slides and a synopsis of my talk on emerging roles in eScience in a later post. This morning, I wanted to share my notes from a talk given by Lee Rainie, the Director of the Pew Research Center’s* Internet & American Life Project, entitled, “The Future of Libraries.” This was the first talk that I attended at the conference and as it turned out, it set the stage really well for my own talk, as well as others that I took in.

The challenge facing libraries and librarians, Rainie  stated, was the need to grapple with several big questions regarding the future of:

  • Knowledge
  • Pathways to knowledge
  • Public technology and community anchor institutions
  • Learning spaces
  • Attention (and its structural holes)
  • Franchise

By “the future of franchise,” Rainie meant that we really need to discover and articulate the characteristic(s) of libraries and librarians that make them unique from all of the other entities in an information-heavy world. What makes us special? The answer(s) differ according to context, of course, but the need to know what the answer is and to be able to clearly communicate it to stakeholders is critical to our success.

If you know the work of the Pew Research Center, you know that they’re all about performing surveys to give a picture of our society and where we stand on politics, the media, religion, healthcare, and other social trends. Thus, after stating the “big questions,” Rainie offered the results of numerous polls to help us see how and where libraries and librarians stand today, and how this knowledge can help us shape our future. And as he stated, there are some real points in our favor, not the least of which is that by and large, people still love libraries and they still love librarians. When most every other institution has lost the confidence of the American people, libraries and librarians have not. Americans still believe that libraries are important to their communities (91%). They believe that they’re important for promoting literacy, providing access to technology, and for offering quiet and safe places (for adults and children). Rainie called these our pillars for success and based on them, proposed several areas where our future may lie:

  1. Knowledge creation, interface, and dissemination
  2. Information searching, aggregating, and literacy
  3. Information access (technology, security, property issues) 
  4. Learning space (without forgetting the role we play in providing quiet and safety)

One really interesting point made, to me, was the question of the role(s) libraries and librarians might play in attention allocation. What can we do to fill the gaps that exist in a world where people constantly multitask (called “continuous partial attention” by Linda Stone) and “snack” on information? How can we prepare resources and develop services that work effectively and efficiently in such an environment? Good questions to think about!

Finally, one of my favorite quotes from the talk was, “Be a smart node in people’s networks.” When people have questions or concerns today, situations involving a need for information, they turn to other people. People turn to their networks much more than they turn to institutions. Be a node in the networks. I loved this description and could see clearly how it fit with so much of what I’ve discovered working on teams, being embedded in projects, and getting out of the library so that I know more and more people. As I said in my own talk about emerging roles in eScience, data is but one half of the eScience picture. The other involves networks. Hearing Rainie’s quote, I felt pretty good about the track that I’m on for my future as a librarian.

TXLA_Future of Libraries_Page_1  TXLA_Future of Libraries_Page_2    TXLA_Future of Libraries_Page_3  TXLA_Future of Libraries_Page_4

Sketchnotes from Lee Rainie’s talk, “The Future of Libraries”, #TXLA14

*Data sets from the Pew Research Center are available for download. Visit their website for more details.

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!

Change is Inevitable, but is Transformation?

12 Dec

Maria Sibylla Merian [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

My colleague, Mary Piorun, is defending her doctoral dissertation this afternoon. (Woohoo!! Go, Mary! Go!) To help her get ready, a bunch of us listened to her give her presentation earlier this week. Her topic is on transformational change in organizations, in particular, this type of change in academic libraries today. I found it to be pretty interesting stuff, not just as it relates to our work in eScience and data management (the focus of Mary’s research question), but the bigger topic of how organizations change, in general. Transformation suggests significant shifts in one’s thinking, behavior, environment, etc. How do such changes happen? What are the components of the change and how do leaders usher their organization through them? Don’t ask me, ask Mary. She’s the one who’s spent the last several years reading and thinking and writing about it. You can reach her at… 

But seriously, as a librarian in today’s changing environment, as an exercise physiologist who encourages behavior changes around exercise and diet, and as a member of a committee at my church called the “Transition Team,” I can’t help but be curious about how and why we change. And how and why we don’t. 

We often hear that change is inevitable and I won’t argue that, but there are lots of different levels of change. Compared to changing an institutional mindset, choosing a salad for lunch is pretty easy. Relatively speaking. Libraries – at least my library – are undergoing some significant, likely even defined as transformational changes. We have reorganized a few times since I came on board 9 years ago. We have made some big shifts in the services we provide and how we provide them. However, the latest changes require a different level of shifting and adjustment. We are, in many ways, redefining what it means to be a librarian on this campus. This is certainly the case for my role as a librarian here. I do very different things today than I did a couple of years ago. I think of myself and my role in very different ways than I did then. I operate with a different mindset – some days clearer than others – than I did before. As Mary outlined the process of this kind of change during her talk, I could see how it has played out in my own career the past years.

I remain curious, though, of how many times and how many levels of an organization have to go through this process before the whole of the institution experiences transformational change. I asked Mary this question and she said that it’s an area that certainly needs research. As a result of leadership taking us through transformation, I may experience a real shift in my understanding of who I am as a librarian. Similarly, our library, as a whole, over time, will hopefully achieve the same. But what’s next? Who is next? Because we are an organization within a larger institution, it seems to me that our work isn’t finished here until we can change the whole of the institution in how it perceives the library and librarians. It’s a big job ahead, no doubt.

Maybe we’ll get Mary to take it on as soon as she finishes up that defense! 

Add it Up

10 Oct

The theme for this month’s international Open Access Week celebration is entitled, “Redefining Impact” and will focus on alternative metrics (altmetrics) and the emerging realization that there are better ways to measure the reach of one’s research than simply how many times a published article about it is cited. Publication certainly has value, but in today’s world with so many faster, far-reaching, and varied means of communication, scientists and others in academia need to recognize – and track – how well their work is or isn’t getting to its intended audience (and, perhaps, beyond).

Similarly, with funding harder to come by and the cost of everything rising exponentially, e.g. healthcare, education, food, clothing and shelter, the pressure is on from administrators, funding bodies, and the general public for these expensive endeavors to demonstrate their value. If the NIH gives a scientist several million dollars to carry out research, the expectation is that the outcomes will be worthy of that grant funding. If you pay $100,000+ for a four-year education, you expect to walk across the stage four years later with more than a piece of paper claiming you have a degree. More and more, we want demonstrable value for our investments.

countable quoteIn such an environment, we have to begin to investigate these altmetrics. For libraries, the traditional practice of tracking gate counts, circulation statistics, reference transactions, collection size, and other straightforward numbers that measured … well … numbers, it is past time for looking at alternative means to really answer the question(s) of our worth. As Steve Hiller, director of assessment for the University of Washington Libraries noted in an article for Information Outlook last year, we need to ask, “What makes a library good?” We need to look at these traditional metrics and ask if they’re truly yielding measures that matter. (Information Outlook, 16(5), Sept/Oct, 2012) 

Yet, value is a difficult thing to measure in numbers, of course, and this is what makes the task so difficult and, often, elusive. There are many articles and blog posts and online discussions on the topic of assessing the value of libraries, written by people with much more expertise in the area than I have. If you’re interested, I’d recommend Megan Oakleaf’s white paper, The Value of Academic Libraries, that grew from the ACRL-commissioned study of the same name, as a starting point.

In this post, I want to ask instead how we measure not the value of libraries, but librarians. What are the altmetrics that we need to collect on ourselves to demonstrate that the work we do matters to our patrons? As an academic librarian, I’ve built my portfolio of those tools that we tell researchers to build themselves. I have my ORCID profile, my ResearcherID, and my ImpactStory. I’ve registered this blog with ScienceSeeker. I have a LinkedIn account. I put my presentations on SlideShare. I tweet prodigiously (@mandosally).

These things have been successful in raising my profile within my profession. They’ve garnered me a small band of loyal followers, invitations to speak at conferences and to be part of webcasts, the opportunity to teach classes to a number of library staffs, and the odd-but-thrilling connection with a few real celebrities. It’s all wonderful stuff and I wouldn’t trade a bit of it. But… what does any of it say regarding my value as a librarian to the research community that I serve here at the University of Massachusetts Medical School? How do I measure that? What altmetrics are there that I can track and collect and show to my administrators to prove to them that I am, in fact, adding value to the work of the people that I serve and thus, ultimately, to the library?

I thought of this question earlier in the week when I was putting together a traditional altmetric profile (how’s that for an oxymoron?) for a faculty member here. As part of OA Week, we want to give a presentation on altmetrics and my library profile just isn’t going to cut it for an audience of researchers, so I asked Dr. Sherry Pagoto if I could use her as a guinea pig to set up all of the previously-mentioned profiles for her. Her reply was, “Cool! Yeah, I’d love to see this data (I think!).  I’ve been wanting to set this kind of thing up but haven’t gotten to it, so this will be fun!” Later, when I had her ImpactStory profile pretty well done, I tweeted it (of course!) and it prompted this “transaction”:

Sherry ImpactStoryTo me, this is an unequivocal demonstration of my value as a librarian on that particular day. I did my job and I did it very well and I have the proof, in a tweet, of this fact. Great, isn’t it? But short of taking screen shots of tweets and email replies, short of catching conversations with grateful patrons on video and posting them to YouTube, short of saving notes and phone messages and journal entries describing “good days”, how do I systematically capture all of this “value”? It’s a challenge. It’s perhaps THE challenge that any and all of us who work in information, innovation, and intellect, and the service roles that operate in those realms, face. It’s perplexing.

This week I’ve been reading Kim Dority’s book, Rethinking Information Work, and I really resonated with her sentiment that ultimately we are all self-employed.

And believe it or not, this is good news. Because if we understand that regardless of our current employment situation we are solely responsible for the well-being of our careers (and paychecks), that means we can take control. We can focus not on lifetime employment, but on lifetime employability.

One thing that I often find myself saying to colleagues, particularly newer grads from library schools, is that when you successfully embed yourself in the work of your patrons, your own value – and your job security – rises much more than if you were only trying to prove your value to your library directors and managers. This is because, if you want to talk numbers, there are more of them than there are library directors and managers. The word gets out that you’re worth having around – that you can do this and that and the other thing that they never knew before. And suddenly, you have done for yourself what can’t easily be captured on any annual evaluation, but is worth much more. You have made yourself employable, regardless of any circumstance. In a time of tight budgets and job cuts and the very real struggles of librarians to keep their libraries open, this is likely the biggest asset you can have.

Perhaps for a long time, librarians depended upon their libraries for their value. We counted on the intrinsic value of the institution to give us worth. Perhaps today, however, it’s the institution that is dependent upon those of us who work in it to bring that value back. And this is why, I believe, we need to shift the discussion from measuring the value of libraries to measuring the value of librarians. Those are the altmetrics that I’m still waiting to see emerge.

The Future is Now

30 Aug

(This is the second part to last week’s post. If you missed that one, you can read it here.)

We said our goodbyes yesterday. We shared donuts, coffee, memories, and hugs, and then our colleagues of the past many years moved on. The next chapters in their post-LSL lives have begun. And for those of us still here, we’ve a bit of a blank page staring us in the face, as well. But like my former colleagues, our new journey isn’t completely without structure. There is a plan. There are ideas. There are theories that we will now attempt to put into action. As I’ve repeated often, no one knows all of the answers nor how it will all turn out, but in this post, I’ll shed some light on the big-picture plan, and where and how we hope it will lead us.

Manage Your Day-to-DayI’ve been reading a book this week entitled, Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind (ed. by Jocelyn K. Glie). It’s the perfect Kindle book for those times when you’re forced to spend hours in the dentist’s chair and on the couch, battling a nasty infection. It’s a great collection of tips from a lot of recognizable voices in the creative world. A product of 99U, the brainchild of Scott Belsky and his company, Behance, it’s a web-based clearinghouse of all things for creatives. Personally, I’m hanging my hat on the idea that creativity will be the thing that fixes and/or saves a lot of things in our society and workplaces, and if not, learning about it and adopting many practices of creatives makes me feel a lot better about myself and my work, so if for no other fact than that, I keep up.

But back to the book. The title “99U” comes from the quote by Thomas Edison, “Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.” In the intro to the book, Belsky writes, 

For too long, the creative world has focused on idea generation at the expense of idea execution. … To make great ideas a reality, we must act, experiment, fail, adapt, and learn on a daily basis.

While he limits this thought to the creative world, I expand it to the world of libraries, education, and health care; three large and powerful institutions that merge in my academic health sciences library workplace. Implementation is always the sticking point. Putting theory into practice is hard work. It’s messy. It’s risky. And it’s bogged down at every step, it seems, by the roadblocks of resistance to change, fear of the unknown, or perhaps the most sinister bedeviller of all, apathy. So often, in an unceasing world of work stress, after awhile people simply no longer care. We just want to hold on until we can find the exit door to retirement or the winning lottery ticket. And that’s pretty sad, because for many of us, those options are no longer. Personally, I never imagine being retired. I don’t see it as a possibility in my future. But rather than let this be some kind of depressing bell toll on my work life, I’ve chosen instead to see it as a call that I’d better find and/or make my work life something that I darned well enjoy because I’m going to be doing it for the rest of my life. Whatever it may be.

So how does this fit with the changes in my library now? Well, for one, it’s a message that I’ve been reminding myself of daily. It’s not the easiest time to believe it, but I’m saying it anyway. I’m believing it anyway. I’m writing it here to those who read this blog, colleagues and friends, who are facing the same. As the current president of my regional chapter of the Medical Library Association, I’m preaching it to folks in the pews. They may be sick of hearing it now, but I’m going to keep on saying it… the future is now! If you honestly believe that health sciences libraries and librarians are of value in health care, then the time is now (actually, it was about a decade or two ago, but… better late than never) to put some of our big ideas, our new ideas, our challenging ideas, into practice. We must redefine who we are and what we do, in the mindsets of both ourselves and our patrons. This is not because there isn’t value in our past, but rather that our past is not going to make it in the now or the future.

Am I completely comfortable with this idea? Heck no! In fact, when I sit and think about how different my job is today, I can really struggle with the ideas that I both like the new work and that it feels like it’s taking me further and further away from what I once thought I’d do as a librarian. But that struggle is my struggle to redefine. And if it this is hard for me, I can only imagine how difficult the challenge is for someone without a 24-7 dedication to the institution of libraries and the profession of librarianship. Challenge. Capital “C”. 

At the Lamar Soutter Library, we’re bringing “4 Rs” to meet this “C”. This is a pretty different approach, i.e. a big change for a big challenge. It involves the nurturing of new librarians, those recently out of their graduate programs, by giving them hands-on, professional work in an area that interests them, i.e. health sciences librarianship. It brings together those of us with long term experience and expertise, with those who are fresh out of school, filled with energy and ideas and a desire to implement some of the things that they’ve learned. On paper, it’s a win-win. Those of us who need help in our new endeavors will get it through our library fellowship program. Library fellows will get a full-time, professional job where they can both learn and contribute from the get-go. And our profession, overall, will gain in the recruitment of new blood, new energy, new people to work and serve and hopefully, one day, lead. 

As like last week, my Library Director, Elaine Martin, prepared a presentation that describes the fellows program in detail. She’s graciously posted it on her slideshare account, making it available for others to view, utilitze and comment (Implementing the 4 Rs: Moving Forward and Defining a New Model of Librarianship). You’ll note that first and foremost, this change is about providing opportunities for new health sciences librarians. “Why?” you might ask. Why opportunities for them when we’re struggling to keep our own jobs? Well, maybe because if we don’t invest in our future now, there will be no profession tomorrow. People have been bemoaning the fact that we’re dinosaurs for too long. One way to silence those critics is to invest in the future. Was seeing people lose their jobs in order to make room for the future difficult. 110%. It was hard and it was sad and I didn’t cry crocodile tears yesterday when I said goodbye to one of my closest colleagues during my tenure here at LSL. The feelings of hurt are very real, but the hope for a different, more effective, more relevant future is what I’m holding on to now. And I believe that this program has a chance to get us there.

We’re placing an emphasis on research and professional development in these fellowships. We will address “mission critical areas” in their day-to-day training and work, but will also provide an environment where they will be expected to grow as professionals and this includes gaining experience in doing research. (I have tooted this horn forever, so you can guess that it’s a BIG happy spot in the program for me.) It is at last seen as a priority that, as a profession, librarians must be competent at doing the kind of research that will, over time, build the body of evidence necessary to prove our worth and value to evidence-based administrators. Enough with the “we search better.” Prove it. Enough saying that we have a place in getting health information into electronic medical records, that we have a role in data management. Get out there and do it and then do the research necessary to evaluate these programs so that we have something concrete to stand on when we sing our praises.

When are we going to manage doing this in already overloaded schedules? I don’t know! But I know that I like the idea of operating much more like the patrons that I serve (granted, they are researchers); constantly questioning, constantly researching, constantly watching and constantly stressing about where the next dollars will come from, the next grant opportunity will raise its head, the next opportunity, in general, will arise. As an exercise physiologist, I learned a lot about eustress; good stress. Eustress is the kind of stress that we need to help us grow. Muscles need to be stressed in order to get stronger. So do our minds. There may well be something to be said for embracing this kind of stress in our work today. Stability is grand while it lasts, but over time, it leads to a sense of complacency and entitlement that may well prove our downfall. Maybe it’s good to have a little stress, not so much in the area of work overload, but in that of pushing ourselves into new areas, knowing that if we don’t, we’re done. 

To close, I want to return all the way back to the beginning, where I mentioned that book. I’m reading that book because I absolutely know that one of the skills I have got to master in my role as an informationist, as an embedded librarian, is efficiency. I have to learn to set boundaries, plan a schedule and stick to it, take care of the big things first, and know how to say “yes” and “no” appropriately. I need to be a whole lot better at managing multiple, complicated projects at the same time. I need to articulate reasonable goals (in time and in skill) for myself and those I seek to work with. I need to take the time to know (even catalog) the things that I do really well, utilize them the most, and improve on the areas where there are gaps that can prevent success. 

I once heard a doc say that the hardest thing about developing and implementing an EHR system is that it’s like trying to change the engine of a 747 while it’s in mid-flight. You can’t stop what you’re doing long enough to make the changes because you risk crashing the plane. But you have to figure out how. So do we. 

And now I’m off to a meeting of one of our Transition Teams, the one charged with coming up with how we will provide needed reference services without staffing a service desk, a pager system, or an “on call” librarian system of any kind. Our recommendation to the Management Team is due October 1. Out of the box thinking, folks. Let’s go!

NOTE: If you or someone you know is interested in applying for our new fellowship program, the announcement is now available on the Human Resources site of the University of Massachusetts Med School. If you have any questions, you can feel free to contact Elaine Martin and she’ll be more than happy to answer your questions. 

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

6 Jun

I’ve been away from work for almost a week, spending time with my father and doing those things that make people say, “Oh, you are such a good daughter,” despite the fact that I wasn’t feeling like one. Watching your parents age, as well as helping with things that come along with the aging process, is difficult. It can bring out both the best and the worst in you.

outofficeThe time away also made me miss my Librarian Hats blog. I missed time with my teams and I missed time in the library. I missed my projects and the work that I’m doing and the weekly sharing of that with all of you. It’s great to get away. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m hardly one to shy away from a break from work and I’ll never turn down a good vacation, but it’s also a really nice feeling to know that I’ve come to a place where I enjoy my work so much that I miss it when I’m away. Fortunately, I know a lot of people in this profession who feel similarly. It’s a nice bonus for being a librarian.

Last week, before leaving town, I had the chance to speak at a staff development day for the librarians at Tufts University in Boston. I always like getting to meet colleagues outside of the health sciences and/or medical library world. While Tufts Medical School librarians were present at the event, so were others from their different libraries, making the meeting a great chance to hear about some ideas, projects, innovations and tools that I don’t usually stay up to date on. Discovery tools and on-demand purchasing are the kind of topics that don’t make their way across my radar, so it was a nice opportunity to hear about them.

Two librarians shared their experiences being embedded in different programs and projects. Regina Raboin, Data Management Services Coordinator and Science Research & Instruction Librarian for the Tisch Library at Tufts described her work as part of the faculty teams for 4 different undergraduate courses. A couple of things that Regina said that really struck me, (1) “I was part of the team” and (2) the courses that she was embedded in were all multi-disciplinary in nature. A couple were in environmental studies and the other two were seminar courses. In other words, the classes involve bringing together faculty from different parts of the campus – different schools, different disciplines. This reminds me of what I’ve experienced in my work as an informationist, i.e. all of the studies and projects that I work on require a lot of different kinds of people with different skill sets in order to be successful. I wonder if this isn’t an important key to librarians finding a home on research teams. When the team is made up of people from lots of backgrounds, no one discipline and/or skill set dominates. Team members naturally look to the expertise of the different members, making the skills of the embedded librarian and/or informationist not stand out as such a foreign thing, different from everyone else.

Jane Ichord, a clinical librarian for the Hirsch Library of Tufts Medical School shared her experience being embedded one day each week, attending rounds and working with the pediatricians and other providers at one of their hospitals. Jane also mentioned a few things that I wrote “blog” next to in my notes, my reminder to myself to expand on the thought in one of my posts here. First, she said that when she was first asked to take on this role it was several years ago and while she really wanted to do it, the administration and structure of her library at the time were not in the right place for it to happen. More recently though, things changed and she was given the okay to pursue the role. One cannot stress enough how important this is in the success of embedded librarian programs. Library administration has to be supportive in time, structure, direction, and mission for these programs to work. Librarians wanting to become embedded have to feel empowered to make a lot of decisions on their own. They have to know that it’s okay to be away from the library. They have to be assured that their bosses trust them to build relationships. I feel really fortunate in my current position that this is true, but like Jane, it wasn’t always the case. We weren’t always ready for me (or others) to take on this role. However, when I heard my director say that she would give me the role of informationist on the mammography study whether we got the NIH grant or not, I knew that she was fully supportive of the work. It’s that kind of attitude that gives a librarian the feeling of autonomy necessary to become fully embedded in a team.

Lastly, Jane said regarding her Mondays at the Floating Hospital, “It’s changed my life. Well, it’s changed my work life.” When it comes to my own experiences as an informationist, I can’t say it any better. I have the job today that I always wanted in a library, even when I didn’t know it existed. Heck, even before it did exist! And I’m happy to be back at it today.