Monday, August 20, 2012

PaLA's College and Research Division: Connect and Communicate Series

Last week, I participated in a new online discussion series from the Pennsylvania Library Association's College and Research Division, called Connect and Communicate. This session focused on technology in the classroom, and used Adobe Connect to connect librarians across the state for an hour (noon- 1:00 pm) to chat and share ideas. (To read the discussion notes, click here). While I have used Adobe Connect before, and attended professional networking events, this was the first time I had the opportunity to see what tools professional librarians are thinking about and using on a daily basis. It was a new perspective for me- as a student, I often think about tools that I personally use, or tools that I'm supposed to learn about. Seeing what my future colleagues are using, enjoying, and disliking, was a great way for me to see what I am already comfortable with, and what I need to learn more about.

The specifics: Librarians are using tools in ways that I had not considered; for example, one librarian mentioned using iPads as a way to teach "untethered" classes. He uses a computer to project onto a screen, but rather than stay tied to that computer, he is able to carry around an iPad with the same screen to show students specific, one-on-one examples. He can also move around to monitor students' understanding, a key aspect that is often limited when standing at a desktop. Librarians are also using video editing software to create short demos on how to use databases, for students to access virtually whenever a librarian isn't present to help. One thing that these academic librarians weren't loving, however, was clickers- they felt that clickers were often limiting, and controlled the lesson with stagnant questions that couldn't be adapted to fit the changing needs of the group. The conversation about technology lasted at least 45 minutes, and could easily have gone on for hours more.

What I learned: There's a lot of new, game-changing technology out there, and professionals want library students to be involved in learning about it, and sharing that knowledge! We are their future colleagues, and they want to know what we think. Also, many of these librarians were instructional librarians- they are teaching information literacy classes to students, and appreciate feedback from students on what worked, and what didn't. Joining an online discussion is an easy way to get involved with professional associations; you can participate as much, or as little, as you want. Also, you skip the awkward networking conversations and questions, because there is a specific topic to be discussed. For me, this was definitely an hour well-spent, and I look forward to participating in the discussion on September 11th!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Awesome Alumni: Digital Resource Librarian Brian

Brian attended Drexel from the fall of 1996 to the spring of 1998. While at Drexel, he interned at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, assisting cataloguers in a cataloging project. Since graduating, he has worked at Manor College, the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies, and Muhlenberg College. Brian has also published articles on mobile learners and distance education, as well as presented his findings at conferences.

What is your current job? Digital Resources Librarian, Bucks County Community College. Faculty Rank: Associate Professor.

How did you find your job? I began in 2001...and I can't recall how I learned about the job back then...maybe the ALA list?

What does your typical day look like? Is this what you expected when you took the job? The position, like all librarian jobs at Bucks, requires all librarians to wear many different hats- an aspect I love. So while I'm responsible for the ILS and the library web site, I'm also working the reference desk and conducting information literacy sessions for classes. Additionally, I serve on various college committees as well as teach a course. I think it's also important to mention that my job duties (even my title) have changed over the years as I have been allowed to pursue my professional interests. This is something to be valued and something I was not aware of when starting my career. 

What do you enjoy most about your job? I like the variety a lot, but above all, helping students achieve what they need is very gratifying. Additionally, as an academic librarian, I am immensely grateful to work at an institution with faculty rank and status (not to mention working on academic year appointment!).

What are some of the common misconceptions about your job/area of librarianship? I suppose to those completely outside education, they think I read a lot...cute. But the greatest misconception students and fellow faculty have is that we're too busy to be bothered. Quite the contrary, we're here to be busy serving their needs. 

What was the most valuable thing you did or learned while in library school? I think trying my hand at a wide variety of courses helped shape my career path.

What inspired you to choose this career? As an undergraduate majoring in history, I spent a lot of time in special collections. So initially, I was drawn to special collections. As I began my career, I quickly shifted to systems work, web site development, and working with students. 

What do you wish you had learned more about? I remember meeting a systems librarian while I was still at Drexel who explained that when it comes to specifics about systems work, she only knows what she needs when she needs it. The idea being that one needs to be flexible and adapt to the changing environment. 

Any tips for current students? Feel encouraged to explore all the variety this field has to offer!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Alumni Interview: Clinical Information Analyst Melissa

Melissa attended Drexel from 2008 to 2010 as an online student. By taking advantage of reduced student rates, Melissa was a member of SLA for a few years, as well as ALA and ASIST, but now that she has graduated and has to pay full membership fees, feels the need to be more selective about joining professional associations. Currently, she is a member of the Medical Library Association (MLA), and plans to one day join Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). She highly recommends that current students take advantage of student rates, conference stipends/grants, and association listservs, because they offer an excellent opportunity to learn about the professional world.

While attending school, Melissa worked in a corporate library, a hospital library, and a law library, mostly working with technical services and knowledge management. During her last quarter at Drexel, she took the Healthcare Informatics class (INFO 648), and really enjoyed it. Melissa was "...very impressed with the overall quality of my online experience. There are challenges to being an online student, but the convenience and flexibility can't be beat. I had many excellent professors who challenged me to do my best and I find myself silently thanking them on a regular basis as I confront the many situations at work that have some aspect of "information management" at their core."

What is your current job? Clinical Informatics Analyst at Olympic Medical Center, a small hospital in Port Angeles, WA. 

How did you find your job? I was extremely lucky that this job was being advertised right at the same time that I was planning to move to Port Angeles for family reasons. I applied and was competing against other people who had actual clinical experience, but I guess I interviewed well! I also had excellent references and had just taken the Healthcare Informatics class at Drexel.

What does your typical day look like? Is this what you expected when you took the job? My days bounce between sitting at the compeer, puzzling out some issues with the electronic medical record system (mostly issues caused by the interaction of imperfect end-users interacting with imperfect computers!) and going to meetings. It is rare to have a day without any meetings, whether it is sitting down with a clinical manager deciding on what their SharePoint site needs, or participating in a regular team meeting, or presenting about a topic (like Information Security) to a group of administrators. The word Analyst in my title is very apt, as I do a lot of problem-solving and "reference interviews" with people who are experiencing issues.

I am learning a lot about healthcare information technology (hardware and software), and I am getting more familiar with clinical processes and the way medicine works. Those were things I expected I would learn. What I didn't expect is just how much my librarian and knowledge management background would be relevant! I was recently assigned to be Primary Support for SharePoint, which is the hospital's main platform for collaboration and Internet functions. This is both scary and exciting, because it has so much potential from a Knowledge Management perspective, but it takes a lot of time and energy. I am also on the Education Committee, so I bring my "librarian" self to those meetings, but it constantly frustrates me that we don't have an actual medical Librarian or Hospital Library!

What do you enjoy most about your job? I enjoy solving problems for doctors and nurses (and support staff) which enables them to provide better patient care and possibly save lives. I also enjoy being able to collaborate with others on various process involvement projects, because it's like solving future problems (preemptively!) There is also more to learn, and that is very satisfying. 

What are some common misconceptions about your job/area of librarianship? That "informatics" is the same as IT. Nobody really understands what "clinical informatics" means, or what we do (until we help them with a problem...and then they know who to call! But they still couldn't explain what informatics means.) To confuse matters even more, our Clinical Informatics team just merged with our Applications (software) team, so now there is a "software" team and a "hardware" team under the umbrella of Information Services. However, informatics is not just about software, it is largely about people and how they do their work (processes and workflow). But since we usually help people with problems that stem from computers, we end up getting labeled as IT.

What was the most valuable thing you did or learned while in library school? I'm extremely glad that I ended up pursuing the Knowledge Management/ Competitive Intelligence concentration. I have used the skills from those classes on many occasions. I also am thankful for learning about the structure of relational databases, and the main principles behind Information Architecture and website design. I think library school also instilled a deep appreciation for the value of providing excellent customer service. 

What inspired you to choose this career? Ironically, my very first library job was as a Library Assistant at a hospital library, but that was a job just for the sake of getting a job- until I feel in love with it during my tenure! My boss encouraged me to go to library school, so I did, but I did not think I would end up back in a hospital setting.

What do you wish you had learned more about? I actually wish I had learned more search skills! However, after some years of work experience (but not necessarily search experience) I know that after a certain point you can't learn it in school. You just have to jump in the pool and start helping your customers even though you don't think you know what you are doing! I call myself a librarian, when the situation warrants, but I often feel like I'm not a "real" librarian because I'm not doing long Boolean searches in obscure databases to find articles or books for grateful patrons. But I don't let that bother me too much- because I really love what I AM doing for my "patrons".

Any tips for current students? Learn about informatics! And especially consider going into the field of healthcare in some capacity, because we need more people with our skill set. It's one field where jobs are available these days, too (although it helps to have even a small bit of experience with something healthcare related, so volunteer, or cultivate healthcare connections in your network).