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April 17, 2014 / LibGirl09

In Search of Reference Experience

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! :)

April 8, 2014 / LibGirl09

Trip to Birmingham…and Thinking About What’s Next

The view of the clouds on my flight to Birmingham

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!



I visited a couple of civil rights historical sites. Here I am at the Kelly Ingram Park — the site of important civil rights demonstrations in Birmingham in the 1960s.

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.


A distant view of Birmingham’s Vulcan Statute — the largest cast iron statute in the world.

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…


April 7, 2014 / LibGirl09

My Advice on Interview Prep

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)

Know yourself

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.

Ask Questions

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?


March 19, 2014 / LibGirl09

Why Are We Even Here? (or The Purpose of Interviews)

stage lights_123rf

Interviews make me feel like I’m standing alone on stage under a bright spotlight.
(Image copyright 123rf Stock Photos)

It’s interview season for the Associate Fellowship Program, and it is reminding me of everything I was thinking/feeling a year ago, and what I will be thinking/feeling in the next several months as I (hopefully) start interviewing for jobs. Although I want to help those AFP interviewees, I’m also preaching to the choir with this one.

I will be honest, interviews scare me sh–, um, I mean shoe-less. I am just one of those people that get nervous very easily. And when I am really nervous, it affects me physically. Think shaky hands and voice, sweaty palms, and possibly even….tears. Now I don’t say all that to embarrass myself (although I just did), or to start a therapy session. I just want to let you know, reader, that if interviews unnerve you, then I know how you feel. If you happen to be one of those super relaxed and uber-confident people who don’t get phased by interviews then I envy you….and you can get off my blog right now (just kidding…sorta).

Sometimes I think it would be easier to just submit a cover letter and resume, and let the hiring committee make their decision based off of that alone. It would definitely be less traumatic for me. However, I have to remind myself that the interview is important for multiple reasons.

On the interviewers’ side, it allows them to assess:

  • communication skills
  • critical thinking skills
  • ability to explain your work experience & future goals
  • self-awareness
  • personality (and whether yours is a good match for their workplace)

On the interviewee side, it allows you to:

  • tell them how awesome you are
  • learn more about the position, job duties, and the company
  • observe the workplace culture and decide if it’s a good fit for you

So the next time you’re sitting in that hot seat … or being blinded by that spotlight …  or [insert other equally uncomfortable situation]  just remember to breathe, relax and be yourself. Don’t forget to ask your questions too — the company is on trial being interviewed too.

As for overcoming the nerves and anxiety? Well I’m still working on that one. If you have any sure-fire techniques that have worked for you, please share!

I know being prepared is supposed to be able to decrease anxiety.  I think I can do a little better in my interview prep. I’ll talk about that some more in my next post.

For further reading:

March 19, 2014 / LibGirl09

Halfway Done — Already???

hourglass_123rf crop

Copyright 123rf Stock Photos

Yes, it’s true, my fellowship is halfway completed. I have six months left to go…actually it’s more like 5.5 months now. It feels like it was just yesterday that I was submitting my application. In reality, it has been a year since I received the news that I had been selected for an interview. Now the interviewees for the 2014-2015 cohort have already been selected, and I am receiving emails asking for interview advice. How the time flies.

We just finished the curriculum portion of the fellowship at the end of February. Normally, we would have been finished by the end of January, but the government shutdown and some of the snow days pushed it back.

Now I am focused on spring projects.

  • Project #1: Redesigning the Associate Fellowship Program website. The website is primarily used to recruit applicants for the program, and there is general discontent from many users about the design and content. This project involves assessing user needs, developing a content matrix and gap analysis, creating a mockup for the new design, communicating with a developer to make the design happen, editing/adding content, launching the new site, and gathering feedback. Right now I am working on user needs assessments and the gap analysis. I’m really excited about this project, and looking forward to the finished product.
  • Project #2: Creating mapping files for MedlinePlus Connect, which is a service that enables health professionals and patients to receive information from the Medlineplus website through their electronic health record systems. A mapping file creates a connection between specific medical codes and relevant resources from MedlinePlus. I’m working on mapping files for dietary supplements.

I’m also spending some time applying for jobs. I would really prefer to stay in the DC area, but I’m also looking within four hours driving distance as well.  So far I have applied to two jobs (I know, only two). I have a few applications I’ll be working on this weekend though. I need to start putting more energy into the job hunt. The next five months will fly by before I know it.

February 17, 2014 / LibGirl09

Throw Away that 5-Year Plan & Other Advice


Copyright 123rf Stock Photos

As part of the Associate Fellowship curriculum, we had an “Administrator Views & Discussion” session with four staff who are Chiefs and Deputy Chiefs of two divisions within the National Library of Medicine. This was an opportunity to for us to ask questions about management issues, and to have an open conversation about their experiences. I really enjoyed this session and wanted to share some of the advice we received.

On motivating your employees:

  • Set expectations for job performance and provide additional training when needed. Be consistent as a manager and hold all employees to the same standard.
  • Communication is important. Let employees tell you what they need to be successful in their job.
  • Work can become repetitive. Managers need to make sure their employees have variety in their work to keep it engaging (special projects, working groups, etc.).
  • Don’t be afraid to push, even if staff are uncomfortable with changes. All jobs will change in some way over time (e.g. implementing automation tools).
  • Encourage employees to experiment and not be afraid of failure.
  • Know what is going on in other areas of an employee’s life that can take away their enthusiasm from work (personal health, family issues, etc.). Be understanding of those temporary situations that prevent them from giving 100% to their work.

On teaching staff to be problem-solvers:

  • Teach employees to not dump all the problems on their supervisors. First, have them define the problem, then list several solutions. Finally, go to supervisor with their recommended solution.
  • Learn how to ask good questions to help your staff work through a problem and solve it themselves. Let them own their solution. Be okay with different approaches. Your way is not the only right way.

On managing your friends & peers:

  • Be prepared for a grieving process when you are promoted into a position where you are managing your friends/peers. Sometimes these friendships will continue, sometimes they will not.
  • Don’t form any cliques.
  • Be aware that people are looking at you more closely (actions, behaviors, clothing, etc.).

On developing career goals:

  • Throw away those 2-year or 5-year career goals! (All four presenters agreed with this statement).
  • Go where your heart/head/interests take you. Be open to new opportunities.
  • It’s more important to know your motivation factor. What excites you about working?
  • (As a manager, you still need goals for you and your employees to work towards in accomplishing the organization’s mission. But personal long-term career goals, not so much).

What are some good tips that you have received about working in management?
Do you have a long-term career plan? Why or why not?

February 14, 2014 / LibGirl09

Specialist in Consumer Health Information

I received an exciting piece of mail last week. My certificate for the Consumer Health Information Specialization has arrived! I’ll be adding that to my resume. :)

The goals of the CHIS program are to

  • improve health information services for consumers,
  • create partners in the delivery of consumer health information, and
  • increase access to consumer health information courses.

Participants include medical librarians, public librarians, and allied health professionals. For more information, visit the MLA website. In order to receive the Level II specialization, I had to earn 24 credits. I completed most of my courses online through the Southeastern/Atlantic Region of the National Networks of Library of Medicine. Check out their schedule of upcoming courses here! You can also take in-person and online classes from other Regional Medical Libraries, or at MLA conferences and chapter meetings.

Consumer Health Information Specialization (Level II) Certificate

Consumer Health Information Specialization (Level II) Certificate


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