That is the response I get from many librarians when I tell them I’m interested in medical librarianship. Health sciences, medical and hospital libraries are the red-headed step children of the library world, apparently.

I began to notice a trend during the first semester of library school. When I would tell the other MLS students what I was interested in pursuing, they all seemed so surprised. It made me wonder what it was about medical librarianship that caused such a strong reaction. Maybe it’s the science and technology that is off-putting. I know that it’s hard to get a lot of English majors excited about data analysis, informatics, and databases.

While working in the public library, my basic work week included: cutting out a million + 1 construction paper stars for a preschool story time craft, perusing Pinterest for teen program ideas, creating interactive displays for my public patrons and general collection management/public services duties. I excelled in whatever I worked on, but it wasn’t necessarily challenging. Even if I had planned for 25 kids and 75 showed up, or someone challenged a YA book because of content, I never felt particularly overwhelmed. Even though by all standards, I was swamped with work, it was “fun” work.

The work that I do now is immensely more challenging and I actually go home at the end of the day with questions to be answered by Google (or more specialized databases). I no longer make crafts, rarely do I get to make a display, and the “advisory” lists I create are now literature reviews for clinicians.  Instead of reading books entitled ttyl, I’m picking up Health Informatics for Medical Librarians.

While a good majority of my classmates are taking “Designing and Implementing Programs for Children and Young Adults,” or “Resources and Services for Early Learners,” I decided to delve into the more technical world of library science. There are a few brave people who are following the same path, but when I talk to the vast majority of my classmates they appear to be interested in public libraries or just general “academic libraries.” Few are interested in health science libraries, and even fewer want to work in a medical/clinical environment.

So, to get to the point, why not medical librarianship? Because for most, it’s not seen as “fun.” Unless you already have an interest in the health sciences, it’s not an easy transition from children’s programming to literature searches.

I should know, I did it.

Thankfully, my background in the health sciences and my passion for medicine gave me a leg-up. However, for many would-be-librarians, the prospect of searching for the effects of ivermectin on geohelminth frequency, or using PubChem to resource bioactivity data for 2-tert0butylhydroquinone is not only daunting, but down right uninteresting.

What can we do to change the way future librarians look at medical librarianship? Marketing! Many of the library students I talked to didn’t actually know what my job entailed. When I started to explain to them that I was able to utilize emerging technologies in instructional sessions, interface with clinicians through electronic media, research elusive zebra diseases, and even create some dynamic displays that promote subsets of medical literature they became increasingly interested in medical librarianship as a potential field.

“But Aroundthestacks, why do you want more competition for those already coveted positions?!”, you may ask.

Because I want to see information professionals working with health professionals to provide the best possible care! I don’t want medical librarianship to be a last resort for unemployed MLS grads. Instead I want courses taught within MLS/MLIS programs that prepare students for work in healthcare. Without the proper preparation, new grads will be faced with unfamiliar medical terminology, over complicated scientific databases, and a dim view of the role librarians have in healthcare as a whole.

I want LIS students to be excited about medical librarianship! I want them to see how valuable they can be to medical professionals, researchers, and medical students. I want a new generation of physicians who are comfortable searching the literature and utilizing evidence-based medicine in their practices. Librarians can complement physicians, especially when helping them to navigate the murky waters of medical literature and they have to be able to see that this partnership can work, but that has to start in graduate school…


Supplementing Your Library School Education

If you aren’t overwhelmed by your library school classes, you may consider supplementing your education via a variety of alternate channels.

1. MOOCs

What is a MOOC? If you’re a gamer, you may be thinking of certain MMORPG’s right now, and you wouldn’t be completely wrong in doing so. A MOOC, or massive open online course, is an “online course aimed at large-scale participation and open access via the web…[usually through the use of] interactive user forums that help build a community for students, professors.” Finding out about different MOOCs for MLS/MLIS students can be difficult if you don’t know where to look, but fortunately there are a few MOOC providers that make it easier. The first of which is Coursera, an education company that partners with universities and other educational organizations to bring free courses to the masses. Another MOOC provider is edX. Though edX has some really interesting courses, many are not aligned with what you will be learning in library school. If you are planning on working in a specialized library, however, taking some of the courses available through edX could help prepare you for types of instructional literacy you may be required to understand. One of the very last MOOC providers is Udacity, whose catalog is currently very limited. Most of what they have to offer is more aligned with the hard sciences, but it can provide a welcome break from reading about information retrieval systems.

Another excellent way to find out about MOOCs is through your university. There are lots of top universities offering free, open access courses. Stanford, UC Berkeley, MIT, Duke, Harvard, UCLA and Yale all over some form of MOOC content. There is even a University based in the UK called The Open University, that offers all of its courses through distance education.

File:MOOC poster mathplourde.jpg

2. Free-to-View Webinars

Librarians love webinars and library school students are no different. If there is a way to make a presentation a webinar, librarians will find it. One of the best sites for finding free webinars is Webjunction. Webjunction maintains a list of current webinars and has links to archived sessions as well. Another site that you can find information technology webinars on is Cisco’s Webex. Webex contains webinars that you can even view on your iPad, so if you’re not at a University or don’t have access to a computer capable of running a web session, you can go mobile!

Checking with your local university or library is a great place to start too. Many academic librarians offer webinars for new students, or as a resource to students unfamiliar with library resources.

You should even consider creating your own webinars via screencasting if you have learned something of interest in class. This will help you solidify the ideas and concepts you learned, as well as disseminate that information to others. The video below will show you some screencasting basics!

3. Podcasts

Podcasting has been around for awhile, but it’s still an excellent way to disseminate information. If you have a long commute or need something to listen to at the gym, a library science or information technology podcast may be right up your alley.

A list of podcasts you may find interesting:

4. Self-paced Learning Modules (eLearning)

If the speed of MOOCs are a little too intense, you should consider an online self-paced learning module. These learning modules offer interesting courses, which you can take at your own pace. This means that you can finish the course in a weeks’ time, or over several months as you have free time. One of the benefits of these self-paced courses is that you are not at the mercy of others!

The Library of Congress (because it is amazing) offers a few online modules and so does the National Library of Medicine. Another option that you can always look into are the resources available to you through your university. Some colleges and universities have created simple modules to assist students in finding resources, but they can also be helpful to library science students!

A great list of free library-related eLearning sites can be found at Library 2.0.

5. Professional Development Programs

If you are already working at a library, your professional development team should have a list of opportunities for you to check out. Local libraries can also be part of exchange programs, which would allow you access to libraries you may not know much about!

Check out a short list compiled from neflins23things professional development list:

  1. Start your own blog
  2. Learn about new technologies (Web 2.0)
  3. Start a library science RSS feed to keep current
  4. Explore social media sites and familiarize yourself with new media
  5. Experiment with photosharing and editing
  6. Understand how to utilize current web tools and communication tools
  7. Browse collaboration tools and consider starting your own Wiki
  8. Build your own search tool using Google Co-op
  9. View videos related to library issues, create your own
  10. Subscribe to a podcast, or two…or three!

Check out more of the list from Neflin23things

Your library doesn’t have a professional development team you say? Consider starting one! What better way to learn than through your own actions!

6. Subscribe to listserv’s and RSS feeds

If you’re short on time, consider subscribing to a library science listserv or curated RSS feed list. Creating a list of RSS feeds in The Old Reader is easy (similar to Google Reader), or even check out Feedly if you prefer a different view of your RSS feeds. Most of these RSS readers are available on a mobile device, so even if you’re on the go you can still be connected.

Email may be more your thing and if that’s the case, subscribing to listservs allows the information to be delivered “right to your front inbox.” The Library of Congress (did I tell you how awesome it was yet?) has a wonderful list of library related listservs for you to peruse, as well as some other LIS resources to get you started.

7. Leisure Reading

Last, but not least, read about what interests you! Check out the 50+ Articles Every Librarian Should Read and curate your own list of articles you think would benefit other MLS students.

LibSchool Texts

The shelf of a library school student

Finding the Unfindable

I have a new obsession. Yes, it is library-related. It happened a few weeks ago when I was reading a book at work. I noticed a citation for a conference poster and it got me thinking about the materials that aren’t readily available. I traced the poster back and then read up on searching for conference proceedings. It was then that my new love appeared.

Grey literature.

What is grey literature? According to the ICGL Luxembourg definition and Wiki:

Information produced on all levels of government, academia, business and industry in electronic and print formats not controlled by commercial publishing i.e., where publishing is not the primary activity of the producing body. –ICGL

Gray literature…refers to informally published written material (such as reports) that may be difficult to trace via conventional channels such as published journals and monographs because it is not published commercially or is not widely accessible –Wiki

This includes materials such as reports, clinical trials, conference proceedings, posters/slide presentations, reviews, social network data and preprints. The list really does go on though…



So why is grey/gray literature important? As an academic health science librarian, my patron base tends to be on the up-and-up when it comes to information literacy. Years of medical school, nursing school, and the hard sciences have honed their search abilities and the questions they come to me with are the questions they have already tried to answer. Simply searching Google or Pubmed doesn’t help, since they have already tried both (plus a few others) before coming to the library. Most of the researchers who visit the reference desk need to find a single piece of elusive data or a conference paper about a rare disease that was presented at a conference in India, in 1984.

This is where knowledge of the “grey areas” really helps. Knowing what databases are available to you can reduce the number of searches you perform, which will ultimately save you time.

The more I read about grey literature, the greater my obsession with it grew. Soon it was boiling over and I needed to create something that would allow me to organize all of the knowledge I had recently acquired. I decided to create a LibGuide about Grey Literature in the Health Sciences. It hasn’t been as popular as my other LibGuides, but it is in its infancy. I’m going to be adding more pages about searching for visual material (posters, images, videos, etc..), but I am learning about this as I go. I have even convinced my library school team to do a “review of methods” and literature review based on the question, “How has the Internet and open access publishing affect grey literature?”

So exciting!


The “spectrum” of research.

50+ Articles Every Librarian Should Read

A few days ago I was putzing around on r/Librarians and I came upon the following:

“Just wondering if anyone knows of any books / articles / websites that are essential, or at least very useful, for anyone who wants to know the field?”

I went about my day helping patrons, attending meetings and working on promotional materials and yet all the while I was thinking about what I had read regarding librarianship. Throughout the day I spoke with my coworkers, asking them what they had read while pursuing their MLS/MLIS and even what they would recommend to me as an aspiring librarian. After collecting a fairly extensive list from coworkers, other blog posts and my own experiences I decided to post the collection I put together*.

  • Anderson, Rick. (2011). The Crisis in Research Librarianship. The Journal of Academic Librarianship. doi:10.1016/jacalib.2011.04.001Are Librarians Still Important? | Scholastic.com. (n.d.). Retrieved May 16, 2013, from http://www.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3757441
  • Willen-Brown, Stephanie. (2008). The Reference Interview: Theories and Practice, Stephanie Willen Brown. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. University Website. Retrieved May 16, 2013, from http://unllib.unl.edu/LPP/willenbrown.htm

*Pardon the APA formatting, I will come back and clean these up as I have time. Also, please let me know is any of the links don’t work so I can fix them.

A link to the Zotero Collection: 50+ Articles Every Librarian Should Read
Join the “Librarian Must-Reads Zotero Group!

It’s Like Wiki for Libraries

Every librarian knows that there are some questions we get asked routinely. Questions like, “How do I cite…?” or “What database would I use to find…?” And while we can easily find the information for the patron, I always find it more helpful to teach them to fish from the get-go. If they aren’t in a time crunch, showing them a LibGuide you have created that answers their question is a fantastic way to teach them to “help themselves.”

What is a LibGuide? According to the Springshare site, a LibGuide is, ” [a] librarian created [portal] to high quality research information.” But what does that mean exactly? Well, it means whatever you want it to mean! LibGuides are customizable content guides that librarians and support staff can create to aid patrons in research.

LibGuides open up a world of possibilities for so many different types of libraries. A few examples:

– Public libraries can use the site to promote Banned Books Week, help organize their Book Club, and put a spotlight on special collections or rare books.

– Academic libraries provide citation resources via LibGuides, as well as exam preparations and helpful library tutorials.

– Special libraries can use LibGuides as a way to curate special collections, promote resources to specific patrons, help with specific hobbies and highlight services they provide to their community.

– Even school libraries can get in on the action by creating guides for specific courses, making resources for different areas of study, and using a LibGuide as a presentation tool.

Creating a LibGuide isn’t difficult…

[LibGuide Creation]

and the benefits to your patrons can be HUGE!

Question(s): How many of you use LibGuides already? What do you use them for, specifically? Link to your LibGuide in the comments!


I know the last post was a personal update, but I wanted to let people know why I had not posted in awhile.

If you have ever been interested in medical librarianship, but have not had the opportunity to shadow a medical librarian…this is your chance! This post will be a mini-tour + eShadowing opportunity all rolled into one.

A little about where I work:

“The mission of the A.R. Dykes Library of the Health Sciences staff is to work collaboratively with individuals and organizations seeking high quality health information within the University of Kansas Medical Center and throughout the state of Kansas.”

The library itself follows five (5) strategic initiatives, these include:
1. Instruction Plan
2. Collection Development Plan
3. Intellectual Property Use and Protection Plan
4. Collaboration and Outreach Plan
5. Facility Plan

Each of these initiatives is critical to the success of the library and they have been implemented via programs the library hosts, training staff receives and excellent communication from administration.

The library serves not only the medical and educational communities of the University of Kansas Medical Center, but also the community itself. The library is public access during certain hours and patrons are welcome to use computers when available. Since the location is in a very urban environment, we serve a diverse group of patrons.

You didn’t come here for all that, did you? You want to see the good stuff. Well, allow me to take you on a small mini-tour of my office/reference area and I have also included some pictures of the library (downloaded from our Sharepoint, taken in 2006). Some of the interior pictures show older layouts. The stacks are no longer downstairs, as they have all been moved to the 2nd floor.


Street Side Lobby

Library Interior (2006):
Main Floor

Stacks are now on 2nd floor

Testing Center Computers

Atrium Area

Reference Area (where I work):
Reference Area
Reference Side

My Little Cubicle


What I see everyday

Like the mini-tour? I will try to update my Flickr stream with new pictures as often as I can. The building itself is really beautiful and I like the layout. There are two elevators in the building that will take you to the second floor, but I enjoy walking up the spiral stairway in the middle.

So, on to the eShadowing? Right this way….

The library opens at 7:30, but I don’t start until 8:30. The drive to work isn’t bad, but the parking is awful. I have been walking from the parking lot to work everyday instead of taking the shuttle, but on days when the weather was bad I did take advantage of the employee shuttle system. So a breakdown of a typical day (so far) would be:

8:30-8:45- I get to the library, check my calendar (We use Outlook) and email. Normally I have a few meetings scheduled. The library has a lot of separate entities within itself that we deal with. I have taken an interest in the subject guides (LibGuides), outreach, small app identification taskforce and professional development (Kansas City Local Library Exchange).

9:00-10:45- I spend time at the public services desk where I: answer reference questions (e.g., “How do I access this article on PubMed?,” “Can you help me find articles about _____?,” “What journals are open access?,” etc..), sign people in to use the public computers, aid patrons in locating the proper materials (e.g., “I need to find books related to autism research in public schools.,” “I can’t find this book in your stacks.,” etc..), field questions via phone, help at the Pager Warehouse desk (e.g., “I lost my pager and need a new one.,” “How do I set my pager to page forwarding?,” etc..), provide directions to places around campus and assist in general circulation duties. I do not have to shelve books here, as we have student workers who deal with all of the shelving and checking-in of books.

11:00-12:00- I may attend a “Lunch ‘n’ Learn” which is where a group of us sits in on a webinar over lunch or discusses a particular program the library may be dealing with. A few days ago I attended “OCLC/Firstsearch.org/WorldCat” and “RML Open Access” webinars with several of my coworkers. Yesterday, we had a “Lunch ‘n’ Learn” where we discussed LibGuides. We talked about how to promote them, what other subject guides patrons/students would be interested in and what we should be doing going forward.

12:00-1:25- If I haven’t already taken my lunch, I may take it at this time. The “Lunch ‘n’ Learn” could be at this time as well. If not, I may spend more time helping at the public service desk (providing “refulation” as it’s called here) or working on a solo project. Currently, I have been compiling a list of web tools and mobile apps that we could be promoting. Another project has been an ongoing one regarding the Kansas City Local Library Exchange. Working with a coworker, I have been creating a flowchart to use in our promotional materials and also an internal work-flow chart for us.

1:30-3:30- The afternoons are busy, so I tend to migrate out to the public service desk. I work on projects from there and provide more in-depth reference to patrons (e.g., law firms needing reference help, physicians wanting access to O2 resources for research, etc..)

3:45-4:45- This last hour or so, I begin to wind down. I wrap up projects, get clarification about issues I may be having or check through my task list to see if I can complete anything else before I head home.

4:50-5:00- Walk from Dykes to the parking lot and head home.

Since this is only my first few weeks, I haven’t had too many projects to get my hands dirty with. I’m chomping at the bit to start some more complicated tasks, but I also understand the importance of learning the public service desk tasks. Hopefully in the future there will be enough time for me to complete both the public service tasks and personal projects I look forward to taking on!

If you have any questions or would like me to continue to do some eShadowing (as I work my way deeper into the labyrinth that is medical librarianship), please feel free to email me at aroundthestacks [at] gmail [dot] com.

Local ingredients!

Teen Iron Chef

On October 22, from 2-4 p.m., I held a teen program at the library. To my surprise, 14 wonderful teens showed up to put their culinary skills to the test. I was a little worried at first, as my judges were dropping like flies! Thankfully, my patrons really stepped it up and I had four volunteers before noon! They were troopers, tasting all of the insane combinations my teens came up with. Not only were my judges wonderful, but the community itself donated a huge chunk of the supplies. Fahrmeier Farms, located just outside of our town, donated three MASSIVE boxes of produce for the kids. The boxes contained green peppers, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and turnips! Half of the kids had never seen a turnip, let alone tasted one. It was a great experience for the teens and  The University of Missouri Extension donated some education materials for the kids to take home. Each of my teen participants went home with some fresh produce, a small cookbook, a book from my “prize cart,” and brochures about healthy snacks. The program was a spectacular success, one which I will definitely try again.

14 teens in one room, all getting along and being creative! Pics or it didn’t happen, right? Well here you go…

From the judges point of view I set the competition up a little differently than I normally do. Most of the time I have my programs scheduled down to the last second. This time, however, I decided to “go with the flow” in terms of time. I didn’t tell them how much time they would have to create each of their dishes, except for their appetizer. The “Quickfire Appetizer” round was their first challenge and I definitely made them dive into the competition. Each of the teams (anywhere from 1-3 kids) were told that they had to create an edible appetizer for the judges. They could only use 3 ingredients, it had to be able to be consumed in one bite and they had 15 min to do it! The kids really stepped it up, a lot used fruit to make their dish.

I would totally eat this!

The next round was the “Entree Trivia” round. I actually borrowed this idea from another library and it worked really well. I created a series of trivia questions geared to middle school age kids and each team was asked three questions. If they got a question right, they were allowed to choose an ingredient that no other team was allowed to use after they had picked it. This forced the kids to create dishes that were unique. The entree round was the longest at 30 min, but I made them all clean up their chef’s stations. I told the kids the judges were also counting cleanliness in their total scores! The donated ingredients were a hit, a group tasted turnip (they thought it was an onion) for the first time! I thought it was amazing that some of these kids were trying it for the first time!

The final round was the “Healthy Dessert” dish. I was trying to promote healthy, local/seasonal foods and so the rules of the dessert round were a bit tricky. Each team had 25 min to create a dessert using ANY ingredients, including the ingredients that had been off-limits before. The only stipulation was that they had to utilize one vegetable in their final dish. I figured that, since the kids had been able to taste the majority of the foods, I would have a few who sweetened tomato juice, used sweet potatoes as a paste or marinated the turnips in a sweet juice concoction. The kids really struggled with this challenge though. A few took the challenge literally, dipping vegetables in chocolate sauce. My judges were troopers though, and took a bite of EVERY dish (no matter how crazy) the kids came up with! Kudos to them!

If you have any questions about the shopping list, getting food donations or planning the program. Shoot me an email and I will be more than happy to share my resources with you. I have the trivia questions already typed up and the “itinerary” for the program saved. I even have the judges ballots I will let you have. I will post everything on Scribd when I get to work on Tuesday.

A judge looks on at the chaos before her.