November 22, 2009

Library Routes Project

I got wind of the Library Routes Project through Twitter and thought it would be great to contribute. I wish I had found something like this when I was applying or just starting library school!

Welcome to the Library Routes Project!

The idea is to document either or both of your library roots - how you got into the profession in the first place, and what made you decide to do so - and your library routes - the career path which has taken you to wherever you are today. As well as being interesting of itself, it will also provide much needed information and context for those just entering the profession or wishing to do so.

My path of becoming a librarian was definitely brewing in the background over a few years before I realized it. I wish it had hit me sooner, but I think a series of events led me to this career:
  • 2002-Read Punk Planet article (article not available online, unfortunately, but I have the paper copy saved in my files) about radical librarians and how social change and activism are possible within librarianship
  • 2004-Saw friends working at libraries during undergrad and kept hearing positive things
  • 2005-Started to really enjoy research and finding information for courses in my major and in general on the internet
  • 2007-Began working at a health food/supplements store and excelled at providing reference services for people having questions about health conditions and remedies

After graduating with a B.A. in Communication Arts, I started looking for marketing/outreach positions, mostly with non-profits. There was a lot of competition, and since I didn't have a degree specific to marketing or advertising, it was even tougher. I applied to a couple corporations for somewhat similar or management positions, but found I didn't have enough interest in any of those jobs to make myself go to the next round of interviews because it just didn't feel right. I then saw a notice that the natural health food store near my apartment was hiring, and I wound up there; I figured in the meantime at least I'd be helping people and I would get to learn a lot about Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). I started to think about going back to school since I felt my degree was too generalized to find a more specific career, and everything libraries just started sticking out for me, including noticing how much I liked helping customers find information. Luckily, I had just moved to a city with a library school at a major university, so I applied and now here I am. I obtained a position in my program's department first, and then a graduate assistantship at the library, so I left the store and immersed myself in LIS.

As far as my route to my current position (Part-time Outreach Information Specialist at the Community Outreach & Education Core at the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center at the University of Arizona) -- which entails outreach, web design, and reference -- started off as an internship during my last semester of school, and turned into a part-time/temp position until I find permanent employment. It's a great fit for me since I have a background in outreach and an interest in design and technology -- not to mention the experience in reference for health resources from the health food store. Most of my tasks involve web design, for making the sites look nicer, for organizing the information and resources better, and to design and organize in a way that would obtain the interest of the community and researchers (outreach).

When I first started library school, I was more focused on trying to figure out what kind of library I wanted to work in, rather than what kind of position I would want; I think the latter is more useful unless one really wants to specialize in a certain type of librarianship.

For new or potential students, I'd really recommend first figuring out what you'd like as far as positions or even just position duties, and then look at related job advertisements, which can tell you where to fill in the gaps for what classes to take or maybe where to do an internship. It's also great to have an internship that is flexible where you can get nearly any kind of experience you want, as mine had been. I was able to suggest to my supervisor that I create a tutorial for students in Keep Engaging Youth in Science summer internships, as well as present instructional sessions about how the designated librarians for their course (myself and a SIRLS student) could assist them in research. I've also been able to be very creative with web design and making the sites more interactive and up-to-date. Although I'm not fully settled yet in a permanent position, I love what I'm doing now and am gaining valuable experience as well as tangible work samples to add to my portfolio.

That about sums up how I became interested in librarianship and wound up at my current position; not the most romantic story, but I suppose it was a logical journey!

November 21, 2009

Event planning & promotions presentation for PLG-UA LIS Skillshare

I presented this on Tuesday, November 17th at the Progressive Librarians Guild - UA Chapter LIS Skillshare.

I have about 8 years or maybe a little more of event planning experience (including outreach/promo/marketing/pr), so I thought I would share my accumulation of skills. Since I've done educational events, festivals, music shows, library student group workshops and a symposium, community social events, and fundraiser events, I wanted to capture all event types for the attendees, but of course all the information could be relatable to libraries (public, academic, or otherwise).

November 17, 2009

Patient Share

I was just reading NPR's Patients turn to online community for help healing, and it's reminding me of my contribution to a group project for IRLS 608, Planning & Evaluation of Library & Information Centers. Unfortunately, I think someone in my group took our website down that we used to present our project (not sure why since we did a great job and got an A on it). Anyhow, I needed to come up with a new service for our fictional health sciences library (follows). I really think there is a lot of benefit in 2.0 for libraries and wanted to make that a main component of my new service, especially since our pretend library really wanted to further expand and promote digital resources.

VII. New Service Proposal

As explained in our marketing plan, recent surveys collected and analyzed by the library revealed that many users (patients, students, instructors, and physicians alike) desired to learn more about first-hand experiences of patients’ narratives on health related issues, such as experiences with illnesses, reactions and side effects to medications, therapy treatments, successes with Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), and other health related topics. This realization has led to the planning of a new library service that will allow users to publish their thoughts in an interactive forum hosted and monitored by the library staff. Our new service is called Patient Share.

There is a lot of important information in anecdotal information that can be lost when empirical evidence is preferential from being considered more reliable. Not only can students and physicians learn more about what individuals are specifically experiencing, but other patients going through similar circumstances can relate to each other on a more personal level, rather than looking at just charts, graphs, and statistics. This new service will help improve research ability for all and will be easy to use and maintain by incorporating Library 2.0 software. Each patient will have an individual profile with a unique login, where personal information including demographics, lifestyle habits, and family history can be posted. Due to issues of privacy, profiles will be anonymous, and patients can enter simply a first name or a pseudonym. Through these profiles, patients more recently diagnosed with diseases can look up others similar to them taking courses of action they have similarly chosen or are interested in and see what has been successful and what side effects might be; likewise, individuals can contact each other and ask questions, connect, and create a community of support. Students and physicians can search through the database of profiles, tagged entries, and filled out forms for detailed, anecdotal evidence about conditions and treatment. Patients might be more likely to disclose information when in an anonymous, personalized, and comfortable setting, making this information increasingly useful.

Intended impacts will affect patients, practitioners, and the library. Through this new service, patients will be able to connect with others to form a virtual community, make informed decisions on treatment, and have a confidential avenue to express thoughts and emotions. Practitioners will be provided with an extensive resource of detailed experiences with various diseases and treatments to better understand the patient experience and what methods are working. Information from this database can be combined with Evidence Based Medicine (EBM) information to promote well-rounded research. Through this service, the library will increase communication between the community, the hospital, and the university, and the library’s place within, as noted in the goals of the Barbara Gordon Health Sciences Library. This service will draw more direct attention to the library from all of these groups, as the library is the focal point and home base of Patient Share.

Our marketing surveys revealed that not only did users want to learn more about first-hand experiences to enrich research and informed decision making, but also to connect with people going through experiences to be able to better monitor long-term progress. Patients also wanted more information about where to turn for community and for an easy-to-search resource, as most pointed out that when one first receives a diagnosis, a mind-set for heavy research in medical literature is not always possible. Finding human stories – first-hand narratives – would be comforting and simple to navigate. Because the library specializes in databases and we are interested in improving our virtual presence, which is another of our goals, we chose to create this virtual community of 2.0 anecdotal information to benefit patients, practitioners, and our university library.

Based on the communication process in the marketing plan, we will be incorporating a number of methods to inform the campus and community about Patient Share, both for participation and research purposes. First, we will have signage promoting the service with a URL to an information web page, so users can consider this method of research while using other materials. We will also have flyers explaining the service throughout our library and in appropriate areas of campus and the community. Our new position, Digital Initiatives Librarian, will also serve as a liaison to attend college and departmental meetings, as well as community group meetings relevant to this new service to garner support and interest in Patient Share and other offered services. The Barbara Gordon Health Sciences Library will also maintain a variety of listservs to inform and educate stakeholders about news and our services based on specific subjects; Patient Share will be advertised through listservs pertaining to this service for potentially interested parties. We will also have a listserv community members can join who are not affiliated with the university. Last, we will also be promoting ourselves through our website by listing highlights on the home page, such as “Database of the Month,” which Patient Share will be included in.