Vote for Your MLA Leaders
Candidate Responses: Board Candidate Forum
The Nominating Committee asked each candidate for a response to this question:
A top issue facing health sciences librarianship is the perception of our value. Far too often, we learn of a health sciences library, hospital or academic, having space repurposed or positions eliminated. A few of these circumstances turn out positive, if addressed in time, but most often it appears that the library as a place is diminished and the value of the role of librarians under scrutiny. Many of our users have personal computing devices and go to the Internet as their first stop for information. To remain relevant in the customer experience and relevant within our institutions, we must pause, examine our environment and its direction, then take time to rethink and articulate our value and vision. While our institutions engage in patient care, education, and research, each has a unique focus and approach to these missions.
As a candidate for the MLA Board of Directors, I believe the association can play an important role in closing the value perception gap for member libraries and the profession. For example, through the creation of tool kits, the website could be the place to go for return on investment methodologies and approaches to cost/benefit analysis. The association could collect and communicate success stories and strategic planning methodologies that have benefited members. There may be lessons to learn from associations engaged in scenario planning. Scenarios that detail possible future directions could assist members in their strategic planning. Creating service models to support clinical and research agendas has been successful at my institution. The association should continue to provide member educational opportunities throughout the year, in a variety of formats, and encourage the adoption of new roles in our changing environments. If elected to the MLA Board, I believe I will make positive contributions and would be honored to serve.
Describing our roles and demonstrating our relevance and value to our customers is the most challenging issue we face. How many times have we heard, “I don’t need a librarian or library—I can find it on the web”? As health information professionals, we deal daily with the rapid changes in information and our profession as well as adapt to them. As a group, we watch for and embrace new roles and technologies as they evolve in order to improve our services and prove our worth to our organizations.
By listening to the ideas and issues from its members, the MLA Board can use a number of strategies to address this issue. First, build on our strengths—our publications, continuing education programs, and networking. These avenues can be used to strengthen our skills in marketing, change management, and leadership as well as share lessons learned and opportunities discovered. Expanding our use of social media to conduct classes, discussions, and meetings is a thoughtful way to use our resources. At the same time, I would like to see us broaden our partnerships with other organizations to further expand our skills and knowledge to better tell our stories to those outside the profession and find ways of partnering with our customers. For example, my experiences with the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy keep me abreast of changes in pharmacy education and help me identify new ways of working with my faculty; classes through other organizations expose me to new thoughts and ideas that I can bring back and apply to my health sciences community. Using those experiences, I would work with the MLA Board to further develop our strengths and new affiliations, reaching out to others with different perspectives. I would be honored to be given the opportunity to serve in this role.
Showing our relevance is the top issue facing our profession. Ubiquitous access encourages people to assume that information is free, seamlessly available, and that answers are easily discovered in a few smartphone screens. Resolving hard questions requires a librarian’s expertise to build complicated search strategies, navigate multiple databases, and get the right answer. In a recent meeting with a leader in our institution’s research organization, I was delighted that he so readily saw our value to his team and appalled that, beyond acting as a provider of journals and books, he had not even considered the library as a partner.
Happily, much of my career has been spent in the company of lifelong learners, who “get” what librarians bring to the table. Yet, first as a hospital librarian and now as an academic health sciences librarian, I have seen too many examples of how those who make the funding decisions are not the same people who use the library. I envision a time when health care practitioners, researchers, teachers, and learners, as well as those who manage the budget, cannot imagine doing their work without a librarian as a partner. I spend much of my time teaching and consulting with these same constituents. More and more of them realize that librarians have tremendous value.
MLA has made terrific efforts in helping us show our relevance—encouraging and celebrating members who explore new roles as imbedded librarians and informationists, engage in translational informatics and the development of data repositories, and build partnerships in scholarly publishing and research. My service in MLA sections and SIGs, my chapter, and my local organization have allowed me the privilege of using my enthusiasm and energy on behalf of my profession. As a member of the board, I would be honored to continue and expand that work.
Librarians are experts in access to and preservation of the literature. It is critical that we address the problems we and our users continue to encounter with incomplete coverage, unstable access, and variable quality of scanned articles in subscribed or purchased online content. Publishers and aggregators assure us of cover-to-cover access to content as we move from print to online to facilitate access, reuse spaces, and optimize dwindling collection funds. Too often, we find out through patron confusion and complaints that online access to content such as letters to the editor, retractions, or conference proceedings/supplements has disappeared or was never present, or that scanned backfiles are not of sufficient quality to replace the print that has been relocated or discarded.
We work hard to address gaps as they become evident by communicating individually to publishers about specific articles, but this effort has not motivated publishers to address the content issues more broadly. It is up to us to ensure that we get what we paid for by holding publishers to providing complete content with audit trails for retractions, but it is too large of a problem for any one librarian. The library community needs a systematic preventive approach with clear definitions of what is meant by coverage and guarantees with “teeth.” MLA has the relationships with vendors, database indexers, and allied representatives to other professional organizations struggling with this issue to lead the way in emphasizing scholarly communications, licensing, and solutions, such as pushing toward a public, written, enforceable commitment of vendors to standards for content availability. MLA could also encourage independent research to document the extent of this problem and, once efforts have been made to improve the situation, to test random samples of biomedical content to ensure continuing compliance.
Medical Library Association
Last Updated: 2012 November 02