Wow, the first year of my fellowship at NLM went by so fast! I had lofty goals to document so many moments and experiences here on this blog….and it didn’t quite happen. But as they say “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Right? I will be continuing the NLM Fellowship for a second year, and this time I will be “stationed” at an academic medical library. Hopefully, I will be able to take the time to share a little more about my second year activities.
But first to reminisce a little about my first year. How do I put into words just how awesome/challenging/thought-provoking/illuminating this year has been? This was an interesting year that included a 16-day government shutdown, multiple snow days, and NIH Bear running loose on campus. Below are some of the reflections that I shared at the farewell reception.
My favorite memory:
During the first five months the Associates participate in a curriculum, where we take classes from the leaders and staff in various divisions and departments of NLM. I really enjoyed the opportunities for hands-on activities during the curriculum. Some of the highlights for me were creating sample Medical Subject Heading (MeSH) descriptors, decision-making exercises for selecting and preserving library materials, and washing books in the Preservation Lab! I appreciate staff taking the time to share a “taste” of the awesome work they do everyday.
What surprised me about NLM:
There is so much more to NLM and its mission than I had realized. It was fascinating to learn about the research and development activities, and the variety of professional backgrounds that NLM staff have beyond library science. There is a lot of non-traditional library work taking place here. The typical reference work and collection development and management is only a small part of what goes on here. There are staff researching and developing tools and products related to natural language processing, electronic health records, disaster and emergency response, gene sequencing and much more!
What I learned about myself:
- As a sort of capstone activity to the end of the first year of the fellowship, we are required to give a 20-minute presentation about one of our projects to a large group of NLM staff (including senior staff). Through that experience I learned that I can overcome my stage fright and give a solid presentation despite my nerves. This was the first time that I didn’t feel nervous while presenting and that is a HUGE victory. I am so appreciative to those who helped me to prepare, and to my attentive and supportive audience on the big day. I received compliments on my confidence, presence, and communication and presentation style. I’m actually looking forward to future public speaking opportunities!
- I didn’t share this thought at the reception, but I also learned that I need contact with patrons. I can’t spend all my time in a cubicle or just interacting with other library staff. I need to see and speak with the people directly using and benefiting from our services. When I left the public library, I was burnt out from interacting with the public because I spent 4-6 hours everyday at the information desk. That was too much. However, while at NLM I only received about an hour a week of direct interaction with the public (when I led library tours). That was not enough. So hopefully in my second year, I can discover what that happy medium should be.
This year has been a very unique and life-changing opportunity. NLM is a place full of passion and innovation, and the staff support of the Associate program is amazing. This experience has helped me to feel more confident and prepared to enter the healthcare field as an information professional. I feel honored to have been chosen, and I will be forever grateful.
Looking to the future of NLM!
On Wednesday, the National Library of Medicine hosted a symposium: “NLM 1984-2014: Voyaging to the Future.” The day-long symposium reflected on the past thirty years of NLM accomplishments and innovations under the leadership of our director Dr. Donald Lindberg. Topics included training future leaders, funding and building informatics, information for consumers, outreach partnerships and more. You can watch a recording of the symposium here. The purpose of this event is not just to pat ourselves on the back; it’s a precursor to the new long range planning that will begin next year. NLM is seeking feedback from its stakeholders and user community. There is also a new Voyaging to the Future blog where you can provide your feedback. NLM wants to here from you! Please take some time and visit the blog to share memories about your experience with NLM or its resources, and also to provide your input on what you think NLM’s priorities should be going forward. Your voice counts!
Strategic Priorities of IMLS Funding
Also looking to the future is the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Yesterday, IMLS held the second of three stakeholder meetings geared towards providing insight into funding priorities, particularly for the National Leadership Grant program. The first meeting in April focused on access to digital content, and yesterday’s meeting focused on learning spaces in libraries. There is one more meeting scheduled for June 5th, 9am – 4pm CT, that will focus on STEM learning in libraries. Librarians and the general public are invited to watch the presentations live online and join in the discussion through Twitter using hashtag #imlsfocus. You can find more information and recordings of the meetings here.
Global Accessibility Awareness Day
I just learned yesterday that May 15th is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). This day is dedicated to raising awareness and educating people about digital access and the users of technology with different disabilities. The GAAD website contains links to various organizations that have special events or activities planned for the day. There is also a list of exercises to do to “walk in the shoes” of those with disabilities, such as going mouseless for an hour, checking the color contrast on a webpage, or trying out adaptive software tools. You can follow Twitter conversations on this topic with the hashtags #GAAD and #a11y. I’m definitely marking my calendar for next year so I can be prepared to join in the promotion and to check out local public events.
Side note: In celebration of GAAD, Deque Systems is offering one month of free access to their course “Web Accessibility Fundamentals.” Free registration is available until June 15th. You can register here.
The Associate Fellowship Program usually records a webinar about the program every two years or so. The webinar features a presentation by the fellowship coordinator and the current Associate Fellows, and time for Q&A from the audience.
It has been three years since the last webinar, so I took the initiative to organize a new recording as one of the activities for the redesign of the website.
My responsibilities included:
- Picking the date & time
- Reserving the virtual room (we’ll be using Adobe Connect), and the physical room
- Reserving a live captioner for 508 compliance
- Recruiting someone to run the computer & Adobe Connect during presentation
- Facilitating a discussion on webinar content with the fellowship coordinator and current first-year associates
- Reaching out to second-year associates to present on their experiences
- Making a final list of topics for the presentation and creating a sign-up sheet for associates to choose which topic they will cover
- Creating draft PowerPoint slides for everyone to contribute content on their topic & reviewing the final slides
- Publicity: posting info on websites, listservs, Facebook groups, and Twitter; also sent emails to over forty library school student groups to ask them to share with their school listserv
Today is the moment of truth.
We will hold the webinar today, May 8, at 2:00 pm EDT. The webinar is free and open to the public. Login info is on our website. If you are a current library science student or recent grad interested in medical libraries, I encourage you to attend. The presentation will feature information about the Associate Fellowship Program, and the personal experiences of current first and second year Associates. A recording of the webinar will be made available afterwards as well.
I’m excited to be involved in this event. But also nervous that my publicity efforts were not effective, and maybe no one will join us in for a live audience.
So please come — with questions!
Hope to “see” you there. :)
Those who follow my blog may know that I tend to stay overly busy. It’s so hard for me to say no to new opportunities (especially if it might not come around again)! So, in addition to working on two big projects, and leading a weekly public tour of NLM, I also asked Kathel (fellowship program coordinator) to approach the NIH Library, and ask if I could help out and receive some reference experience. I don’t have much experience with reference and literature searching in a health sciences environment, and I felt like I would feel more comfortable in my next job if I could leave this fellowship with more of that experience under my belt. I thought maybe I would be allowed to do a couple of hours on the desk each week. Well I had a meeting with the library director and the head of information services. They have invited me to spend one day a week at their library for the next three months. I will be involved in all aspects of their reference (face-to-face, chat, and email), and will also be able to attend leadership team meetings, trainings, and other staff activities. How awesome is that? I will start in May. NLM’s Reference & Web Services also provides reference training and experience for the Associates (two hours a week on the desk), but I wanted to try a different environment.
Maybe you’re wondering, what is the difference between National Library of Medicine and NIH Library? I’m so glad you asked.
- NLM is the largest biomedical library in the world, and it serves the public locally and around the world. The “public” includes everyone from consumers and students to researchers and health professionals. In addition to providing more “traditional” library services and resources, NLM conducts research, development, and training in biomedical informatics and health information technology. NLM also coordinates the 6,000-member National Network of Libraries of Medicine that promotes and provides access to health information in communities across the United States. For more info, check out their fact sheets.
- The NIH Library is a biomedical research library that primarily serves the staff of the National Institutes of Health and selected U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies. Limited services are available to the general public as well.
So they are each important libraries, and I’m excited to be able to experience both worlds! :)
I was away all last week for my Spring Practicum. The practicum is an opportunity for Associate Fellows to spend a week at a health sciences library of their choice anywhere in the country. During the visit, they observe library operations, learn about the institutional environment, meet with with the director, librarians, staff, and sometimes members of the institution’s administration. Sometimes an Associate may complete a project or give a presentation as part of the practicum. There may also be social activities like going out to dinner with library staff.
I selected the Lister Hill Library of the Health Sciences (LHL) at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). LHL is one of the resource libraries of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine. This library attracted me because they have an academic health science library, clinical library, and patient resource library — all my areas of interest in one place! I also wanted to learn more about UAB’s merger of all the campus libraries into one organization to serve the whole campus. I will share more details about my experience in my next post. I really enjoyed the visit — the LHL library faculty and staff are great, and the workplace culture is awesome!
Other highlights of my trip were connecting with friends. I met up with Sabrina, one of my friends from my ARL Initiative to Recruit a Diverse Workforce cohort. We visited the Civil Rights Institute and Kelly Ingram Park. Thanks to the wonders of social media, my Twitter friend @laurendodd saw a post on LHL’s Facebook page that I was in the area. We had never met in person, but have been following each other on Twitter for a couple of years. On the spur of the moment, she invited me to come hang out with her and a group of her librarian friends. I had a good time and appreciate the hospitality.
Now I’m back home, and getting back into the swing of working on projects. The proposal letters from second year hosts have arrived. Ahhh! More decisions to think about. I’m still looking for jobs, but at the moment I’m leaning more towards continuing into a second year of the Associate Fellowship. There are two host sites that I am particularly interested in. I just have some thinking to do, and I need to talk to them to find out a little more about the libraries and their projects. Decisions, decisions…
As I mentioned in my previous post, NLM is currently interviewing candidates for the next cohort of Associate Fellows. Several of the interviewees have reached out to ask for interview prep advice, so I thought I would write a post about it. I know it’s a little late since interviews have already started. Don’t worry, I did respond to them individually, so they know everything that I’m about to say. This is a mix of things related to the fellowship as well as my current job hunt.
Know the organization
Take time to put those librarian research skills to work, and look up information about the organization you are applying too. This info can include:
- Mission, vision, and goals statements
- The strategic/long range plan
- Newsletters or news items on the website
- Background info on your interviewers
- (or in the case of the National Library of Medicine — fact sheets)
I think self-awareness is very important. Take some time for reflection and be able to explain:
- Why you want this job (besides just “I need the money”)
- How your skills line up with the job description
- Your strengths and weaknesses
- What previous supervisors and co-workers think of you
- Your professional goals
- Your motivating factors and workplace values (you may not receive questions about this, but it should help form the basis for some of the questions you ask the interviewers to determine if the job is a good fit for you).
Practice, Practice, Practice!
Interviews take practice (or so I’ve been told). This is probably my weak point at the moment. I haven’t been reviewing my responses in advance as thoroughly as I should. There is no way to anticipate every single question the interviewer(s) may ask. However, there are some common questions that almost everyone uses in addition to those specific to the job. Thinking ahead will help your thoughts to be more coherent and your communication more polished.
- Mr. Library Dude provides a great resource for commonly asked library interview questions and questions for you to ask the interviewers.
- Here is a good article that was suggested to me on How to Answer the “Tell Me About Yourself” Question.
- Mock interviews are a good tool, and something I will be putting to use in my current job hunt.
- Come up with some (true) stories from your work experience that illustrate how you respond to situations or solve problems relevant to the job.
This is specifically for those applying to the Associate Fellowship program. Don’t hesitate to reach out to current and alumni Associates at any stage of the application and interview process if you have questions about the fellowship or interview preparation. We are expected to be ambassadors for the program and recruit others, so we don’t mind sharing our experiences and answering your questions. :)
Did I miss anything? What are you suggestions for interview success?