Tag Archives: sales

Hop on the bus, Gus!

6 Feb
Really, she was both. Be both.

Really, she was both. Be both.

Quick update (as promised) on my post from last week. As you might recall, I had a meeting scheduled with the folks from the Community Engagement Research (CER) Section of our Center for Clinical and Translational Science. I’m delighted to report that it went really well! Members of the team came with both with ideas in mind and a willingness to listen to my own thoughts. I came away from the hour with several concrete projects; suggestions that I now take to my library director for her approval and input on next steps. Together, we need to figure out some of the nitty-gritty before I jump right in. We need to think about things like how much time I can realistically give to this work, how I should track my time, how I should track the tasks, and other things that will help us down the line when we hopefully move from my being supported financially by the library, to being supported financially by researchers and their grant funding. Planning this out now will definitely help in the future.

As this was my first real shot at this new aspect to my embedded role, I want to capture a few things I’ve learned so far and share them here, in hopes that they might help others traveling the same road:

  • Go with What (and Who) You Know: When charged with the task of drumming up business for you and/or your library, start off by going to people you know. Go to people you have some kind of relationship with already. This is probably Sales 101 (a class that I never took in college), but it certainly makes for an easier – and affirming – event when you walk into a meeting where people are happy to welcome you straight away. I also found it helpful to me that I chose an area of research that I’m both familiar and comfortable with.
  • Plan Ahead: This applies to both sides of the table. I found that it was immensely helpful to me to write out a brief description of my new role, why I asked for the meeting, and some questions that I wanted the CER folks to think about before we met. I did this, you might recall, at the request of the person coordinating the meeting, but it turned out to be as useful, if not more useful, to me than to those that I wrote it for.
  • Hang Around: While my proposal was only one item on the meeting’s agenda, when asked if I wanted to stay after I finished my part, I said yes. Good thing I did, because it resulted in 3 more project ideas being hatched! While I listened to the discussions and planning of other items, I easily saw places where I could help – things that neither I nor the others in the meeting had thought of before. I would ask, “Have you thought about …?” and “Are you going to do …?” and in the asking, we discovered new ideas.
  • Follow Up: Even though I’m waiting for the meeting with my library director, I’m keeping the communication with the Team going. Yesterday afternoon, I wrote up my notes of our meeting and drafted a proposal to work on the things we discussed. I sent it to the Team members for comments and suggestions, and heard back last evening from one of the researchers who offered a couple of lines that helped clarify an item. Today, I followed-up with links to a report, a journal, and an article I found that were all relevant to one of the topics we discussed. (I also invited one of the researchers to my upcoming birthday party, but that might stretch the bounds of comfort for some of my readers here! For me, it’s part of the fun.)

All-in-all it was a terrific meeting, filled with possibilities, and it left me feeling pretty successful in my first sales pitch. Stay tuned as we move ahead!

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:


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?



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:


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



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?

Making a List

13 Dec

Any gift-giving occasion often prompts us to make lists. The same can be said for markers in time, particularly the end of a calendar year. As we’re almost to the mid-point of December, it’s double-duty list-making time, as many are planning what to give others for the holidays, as well as making resolutions about what they might do or change or accomplish in the New Year. I grew up celebrating Christmas and making my yearly list to Santa Claus, asking for whatever I wanted him to bring me. I asked for a bicycle one year, a pogo stick another, a Hoppity Hop a third. These are things I remember. I also remember getting some really cool gifts that I never thought to ask for. Once, my dad gave me a small, square, metal box with plastic drawers, each filled with a treasure like brand new Pink Pearl erasers, scissors, a tiny stapler, and colored pencils and crayons. I still have that box. My mom co-opted it from me years after I’d received it and used it to organize her embroidery thread. That’s it’s purpose, still today. Other surprises include a djembe from my partner a few years back and sewing lessons last year. The latter was not a surprise, per se, but I was surprised that I could actually operate a sewing machine. It’s great fun!

In Informationist-landia, I’ve been making a list of things – services, skills, areas of expertise – that I can bring to a research team. We did this exercise, somewhat quickly, as we prepared the supplemental grant application that ultimately landed me on the breast cancer intervention study, but I’ve been working on it more since then. You might recall that the whole group of funded informationists did this exercise back in early November when we gathered here in Worcester. I shared that list in an earlier post. Now however, as I’m about to embark on this work full-time, I need to really become familiar with this list. I need to practice articulating it to those on campus with whom I hope to work. I wrote to a researcher just this morning and mentioned the change in my role. I also asked her if we could grab a cup of coffee sometime so that I can share more about how this role could benefit her and others in her department.

As much as I cringe at the thought of it, this is about selling something; specifically, it’s about selling myself. I don’t much like that thought. I’m fine with self-promotion and I have no real trouble talking to people, but there’s something about the word “selling” that leaves me queasy. It’s not really fair, as I know plenty of honest, decent, nice, funny, every-other-kind-of-pleasant-attribute-you-can-name people who sell things for a living, but for whatever reason, I can’t get past the image of myself with slicked back hair and a bit of a sleazy smile, pulling the wool over a researcher’s eye as I convince him/her that I’ll deliver 180 articles per gallon of coffee and index from A-Z in 4.2 seconds. Best deal this side of Pecos, Texas, pardner.

Considering I’m short on both Brylcreem and sleaziness (thankfully), I’m willing to consider sales in a different light. Fortunately, in just about a month, one of my favorite business authors has a new book coming out that will (fingers crossed) help me do just that. In January, Dan Pink (MLA members might recall him as our keynote speaker at the annual meeting in Washington, DC a few years ago) offers us, To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth about Moving Others. Per the website, Pink’s book can help the employee “pitching colleagues on a new idea”. That is, after all, exactly what informationists and embedded librarians are doing. We’re trying to convince our patrons, our colleagues, that library services go well beyond access to articles, database searching, and inter-library loan. One item on my list: Dan Pink’s new book!

Another salesperson that comes to mind is likely one of the greatest of all times, Steve Jobs. Plenty has been written about Mr. Jobs, both during and after his lifetime, much of it detailing his brilliance at pitching new ideas, new products, entire new ways of living. He was a master. As I’ve been reading and thinking and writing about the task of convincing researchers of their need for an informationist on their teams, I’ve often thought of a particular, quite popular, quote from an interview with Jobs that appeared in a May, 1998 issue of Business Week:

Jobs Quote

It’s true, isn’t it? And it was the genius of Jobs and Apple that they consistently, over the years, give us things that we never knew we needed before we saw them, before we had them in our hands, before they became integrated into our lives. Can you remember typewriters and carbon paper? Can you remember dial-up modems? Can you remember not having a cell phone? Can you remember when music came on vinyl records? Can you remember when you had to actually buy a CD in order to hear your favorite band? Desktop computers and iPods and iPhones and email… we can’t function without them nowadays, but it really wasn’t that long ago when we didn’t have any idea that they were indispensable to our lives. But Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and other giants of Silicon Valley changed our world over the last few decades. They changed it for good, both in that it will never again be the same, and in the sense of making it better. Some things, anyway.

We may be lacking such a visionary in our profession today (or maybe not), but individually we can each work to have a vision of what researchers need in terms of information management and organization, data management,  information literacy, etc. We can formulate a vision of what we each bring to the picture and then, paint that picture for those we hope to work with. Maybe researchers just don’t know what they want from us yet. Maybe it’s our job to show it to them.

And now…

… as it is the time of giving and receiving, I wanted to share a story that is for me perhaps the very best example of receiving something that I didn’t know I needed before I got it. It’s also a story of the real meaning of this season – whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or even Festivus. Regardless, the Season is about sharing gifts with one another, be they material or otherwise. And oftentimes, the ones we least expect are the most special…

When I was in college, I worked in the dining hall. These were the days before Aramark or Sodexo or other large corporate big-box food service entities. They were the days when students still ran the dining hall; where we worked side-by-side with a handful of adults, cooking and serving and running the dish line. It was, in all seriousness, one of the most fun jobs that I have ever had in my lifetime. It was akin to belonging to a large fraternity. I did belong to a sorority in college, but D-Hall was a separate group. We had fun at work and we had fun outside of work. It was a blast.

After a year or so of working on one of the serving lines, I got promoted to the position of Cook’s Aid. The job was what it says, I was an aid to the cook’s in the kitchen. The cooks were full-time working adults. They supervised us, watched out for us, mothered us (in the case of Mary, the chief cook), and barked at us (in the case of the two guys who were retired Navy cooks). I loved working with them.

During my junior year of school, over the winter break, my mom was killed in a car accident. I went back to school a few weeks after it occurred, grateful for classes and a job that filled up time. When Christmas break was looming the following year, I was working one of my last shifts during finals when Robin, one of the cooks, found me as I was clocking out and took me to a break room where she gave me a small, fully decorated, Christmas tree. It was the kind that would fit on the top of my dresser back in the sorority house. She had tears in her eyes as she gave it to me and as she told me how worried she was that I was going to go home and find no tree. She knew how hard that Christmas was going to be. She knew that I needed a tree to get through it. I didn’t know that, but she did. And she was right.

It’s a story that really hasn’t much to do with being an informationist, unless you think about the fact that being an informationist means being a person. And sometimes people do the kinds of things that show us the very best of the human spirit. I wish everyone this spirit throughout the Season and into the New Year.

Thank you for reading my blog the past few months. I’ve received so many kind words and thoughtful responses to things I’ve posted. It’s a real gift.

~ Sally