August 1st marked one year working for the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the National Network of Libraries of Medicine. What a fascinating and challenging year it has been. Normally, it is pretty easy to write my reflection posts, but this time I had to mull it over for a couple of months to think about the most poignant lessons learned and what I’m looking forward to next.
I can relocate…and thrive. At first I was going to say I relocated and survived, but I’m more than surviving, I feel like I’m thriving. Some people have commented how brave and badass it is to move by myself to a new place over 1100 miles away from all that is familiar. To be honest, I thought I would never leave the East Coast, or at least not go this far across the country. But life is funny that way, and I don’t regret it one bit.I’m still adjusting, but there is something very empowering about stepping that far out of my comfort zone, and taking on this type of life adventure. Besides, I know quite a few of my fellow early career librarian colleagues doing the same thing. If they can do it, I can do it too.
To roll with the punches. In a previous post, I wrote about how my position changed within a few months of starting the job. Adaptability and flexibility have been key to being productive and effective in my work. A big part of what attracted me to this position was the autonomy, and the ability to be a “department of one” with state outreach and education. When my job changed and I now had to spend 50% of my time focused on the UNMC campus, I went from “lone ranger” to being an integral part of the McGoogan Library’s Education & Research Services Department. I now had to shift to thinking as part of this team, and provide input into the big picture of academic medical library services. I was also somewhat thrust into some “issues” as the library faculty and staff work through some growing pains as we forge towards more innovation and greatness. But it’s working out, and I’m looking forward to all that we will accomplish together while I’m here.
I can’t do it all (I know, it’s shocking but true). In my enthusiasm to take on these two .5 FTE roles, I said yes to so many things. To preserve my sanity, I have realized that I actually need to say no sometimes (go figure). I stepped down off one library committee so far, and I have adjusted some of my responsibilities. It is not a detriment or sign of weakness to ask for help or say that I am overwhelmed.
Goals for the Near Future…
Exercising Skills in Leadership and Strategic Planning. I currently have leadership roles in two strategic planning projects. One is with McGoogan Library. We are in the process of setting goals and objectives for the library for the next 1-3 years. As part of that process we have five strategic planning teams looking at different aspects of library services. I have been asked to lead the Outreach Team, and I said yes. My team will be coming up with strategies and recommendations for outreach activities (anything that happens outside the library’s physical space). The other project is with the Nebraska Breastfeeding Coalition, of which I am a member. NBC is also in the middle strategic planning, and I was asked to lead one of the working groups, looking at outreach to health professionals and how to best distribute educational materials to help improve breastfeeding support. I have been involved in strategic planning efforts in a previous job, but this is my first time being in a leadership role — and now I have two!
Enjoying the Moment. For the last five years, with grad school and my post-graduate fellowship, I was always planning ahead. Trying to be strategic in my activities to put myself in a good position to land a good permanent job. Now I have that permanent job, which I originally only planned to keep for 2-3 years then move on. But I’m tired…of job hunting and career planning that is. Being in that hyper-aware, resume-padding frenzy (okay maybe it’s not that extreme) takes a toll. I have a comfortable job, and I’m practicing valuable skills. I will enjoy this moment in time, and not think too hard about what’s next or how long I should stay. I am where I need to be for now.
Further Exploring My Non-Library Interests. A librarian is only one part of who I am or what I want to be. I also have interests in maternal and child health, and figure skating. Being in a smaller community has made it easier to take advantage of some opportunities with both of those interests. With skating, I have returned to coaching Learn To Skate, and I’m working on passing some more skating tests. With the health piece, I have become involved with Nebraska Breastfeeding Coalition, and have started some steps towards becoming certified as a childbirth educator. I look forward to making more community connections as I explore how my interests can best serve the needs of the Omaha area.
Being Kind to Myself. Better self care is a never ending goal. Besides the usual efforts towards more exercise, and better sleep and nutrition, I also recently started seeing a therapist. I know there is still a stigma to talking openly about mental health care. But so what? If I hurt myself physically and needed therapy to recover no one would bat an eye. I don’t have a mental illness (and no shame on those who do). Moving to a new place has brought on some self-reflection and new insight into myself, and I have identified some issues that would benefit from short-term therapy to make me a healthier and more whole person. It is weird opening up to a stranger, but you get used to it. And it’s nice to have an objective, non-judgmental person help me work through my issues and hold me accountable for self-care activities to counteract stress. So I look forward to getting better at consistently being kind to myself.
And here is where I would make the obligatory promises to write more often. But who am I kidding? Let’s skip that and I’ll just say until next time… 😉
“Change is the only constant in life.”
-attributed to Heraclitus, Greek philosopher
On May 1st — just eight months after starting my job — my job title and job description changed. I knew the change was coming… Originally I was hired to do full-time education and outreach for the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, MidContinental Region (NN/LM MCR) through a grant-funded position. After I accepted the position, I was notified that the funding for my position would be reduced by 50% in the next fiscal year (starting May 2016). Fortunately McGoogan Library (my “host library”) had money in their budget to make up the difference. So I’m still working full-time, and have benefits and faculty status.
So what am I doing now?
I continue to work half-time for NN/LM MCR. As an Outreach & Education Coordinator my job still includes promoting health information resources through:
- Exhibiting at conferences and health fairs
- Giving presentations and teaching
- Coordinating webinars and other distance education for a 6-state region
- Writing articles for local publications
- and more…
The other half of my job is as an Education & Research Services Librarian for University of Nebraska Medical Center. My responsibilities include:
- Liaison to Nebraska Medicine (hospitals, clinics, and cancer center). My primary focus right now is participating on the patient education committee, and providing library orientations for residents.
- Promotion of the Consumer Health Information Resource Service (CHIRS). I am managing a project to revitalize CHIRS and increase awareness and use of this service.
- Literature searches and systematic reviews (I’m currently collaborating on my first systematic review!).
- Serving on library committees.
- and more…
Sounds like two full-time jobs, doesn’t it?
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
It has been quite an adjustment going from one full-time position to two half-time positions. Even though I knew change was coming and decided to keep the position anyway, it’s still not exactly what I expected. There are moments when I feel a little overwhelmed and frustrated. But I enjoy the work that I do, and I see the opportunity to add a lot of valuable experience to my resume. This is a very unique position and I plan to take full advantage of all that it has to offer.
More updates to come!
Have you ever been in a situation where your job description changed? Did it turn out to be a difficulty or an opportunity?
Fall was a very busy time for me and all of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM) Coordinators. We have a lot of conference exhibits, presentations, and health fairs to attend to promote resources from the National Library of Medicine. I ended up exhibiting at 6 conferences and 2 community health fairs from September through November. It was fun and exhausting. As I get ready to do some more exhibiting in the next few months, I thought I would take a few moments to reflect on what I have learned so far.
1. Know Your Audience & Speak Their Language
We are often sharing information about the same resources at different conferences. However, depending on the audience, we may describe them in different ways. For example, MedlinePlus is a consumer health website with content geared towards the general public. When talking with other librarians, using the term “consumer health” works fine. But if I exhibit at a conference for physicians, and tell them about a “consumer health resource,” that doesn’t mean much to them. I have to call it a patient education resource because that is how they would use it – to help educate patients. I was politely chided by a doctor for calling the pages and printouts on MedlinePlus “articles.” When I said articles, he thought of PubMed journal articles. He calls them patient education handouts. He reminded me that I needed to speak his language so we would both be on the same page. Likewise, when exhibiting for public health, I refer to MedlinePlus as “health promotion materials,” and for the education field, it can be referred to as a “health education” or “open education” resource.
2. National Library of Medicine – what’s that???
Unfortunately, the National Library of Medicine (NLM) is not a household name ….yet. Often when people visit my booth, they don’t recognize the name of the library. Sometimes they have heard of at least one of NLM’s products – PubMed/MEDLINE, MedlinePlus, WISER – and I can use that as a way to introduce other related resources. Other times they straight up ask me, “What is the National Library of Medicine?” or look puzzled that a library is exhibiting at their conference. I can’t operate on the assumption that everyone understands the importance of libraries, librarians, or specific information resources. Hence the need for exhibits. Of course I am always happy to educate. On the flip side, it is very gratifying to hear positive feedback from people who had experience with NLM products or librarians and came by to just to say “thanks.”
3. Know which resources to highlight when short on time.
Conference attendees often don’t have a lot of time to spend talking to exhibitors. There are some who take time for in-depth conversation and have lots of questions. But most of the time, they just spend a few minutes at the booth. NLM over 130 different databases and websites, and I don’t have time to talk about them all. So I have to be ready with my “sales pitch” and identify a couple of resources that I think are most important for that target audience to know about. I have even had some people ask me “what is the most important handout I should take?” or “what is the most important thing for me to know about?” For example, for family physicians (and other related professions like physician assistant or nurse practitioner) I usually start the conversation talking about patient education through MedlinePlus and MedlinePlus Connect. If there is time, I tell them about InformationRX materials as well. For public health I usually promote MedlinePlus as well as PHPartners. Information on NLM’s mobile apps are really popular with health professionals as well. I also include handouts about other resources on my table, so they can browse, or case something else comes up in conversation.
4. Sometimes you need to make the first move.
Everyone has their own “style” of exhibiting. When starting out, I tended to lean towards just letting people come to me. If they were interested in stopping, great, and if not, that’s cool too. However, I have become a little more proactive. I definitely try to make eye contact with everyone who passes by (unless I’m already engaged in conversation), and say “hello” or “how are you doing?” This sometimes encourages people to pause who might have been on the fence about coming to my booth. In general, I’m not big on small talk. But you need small talk when exhibiting! Sometimes I go straight to explaining what NLM provides. Other times I start out asking a few questions: where are you from, what kind of work do you do, how are you enjoying the conference, what information resources do you use, etc. This can help me identify which resources to promote to that individual. It also helps people to open up and tell me more about how they use information. Sometimes if I start out asking “do you have any questions,” they will say no, but if we start talking, I find out that there are some information needs that I can help them with.
5. Do your homework.
Some of the conferences I exhibit at have been covered by my colleagues in the past. So I have access to reports and information on their experience exhibiting there. As I explore other conferences, I realized that I can (and should) ask questions before registering. I can contact the conference staff and find out how many attendees they expect (will there be enough people to make it worthwhile to spend XXX amount of money to exhibit there?). I can also ask if there are non-profit discounts on exhibit fees. Some conferences will advertise their non-profit rate, but other conferences you have to ask if they have one. In most cases NN/LM qualifies for non-profit rates because we are not selling anything, and we offer free services and resources.
These are just a few things I have learned. Have you ever exhibited for your library or organization? What are some things that you have learned in the process?
It’s been 4.5 months since I relocated to Nebraska. My handful of faithful followers may be wondering how things are going. Well…being new is hard!
Someone told me:
“Being new makes you tired. Very tired. You start to wonder if you’re getting old, but you’re not. You’re just new.”
So true! I was not prepared for the emotional and physical exhaustion of just being new. Granted, everyone’s experience is different. I think mine was compounded by the fact that a) this is my first major move ever, b) I moved here alone, and c) I immediately started a job that required a lot of outreach and interacting with people. Some aspects of the job take a toll too because as an introvert social interaction is physically and emotionally taxing to me. For example within the first four months, I exhibited at 7 conferences, gave about 5 presentations/webinars, and set up numerous meetings with people at the University and in local organizations to introduce myself. Looking back…maybe it was a bit much…just maybe…
In all honesty, these first few months I have spent a lot of my time off work binge-watching Netflix. I refuse to feel bad about it either. Gotta recharge that social battery somehow. But it hasn’t been all solitary confinement. So what’s a new (introvert) girl to do when acclimating to a new city far from home? Well here are some tips from my experience:
1. Give it time…however much time it takes. I had to come to the realization that it takes some time to make new friends and to feel “at home” in a new place. This means that yes I will feel lonely and homesick. But it’s not the end of the world. Besides it’s been less than 5 months. Also, I have learned not to compare myself to others. I know other people who have moved and seemed to adjust really quickly. Sometimes I wonder why can’t I be that way. But everyone handles change differently, and if it takes me a little longer to adjust, so be it. Besides it’s been less than 5 months (I have to keep reminding myself I haven’t been here that long).
2. Go out and do stuff…stuff that involves interacting with other people. Such a novel idea right? Trust me, I have not been holed up in my apartment 24/7 (as comforting as that sounds). I have returned to figure skating and found a local figure skating club. I hired a new private coach, and we’re working on getting me ready to pass some skating tests in February (fingers crossed). I even started teaching youth Learn To Skate classes through the club. I also enjoy yoga and ballet, and found local yoga and dance studios, but I haven’t been consistent. I’m thinking about trying belly dancing again if I can find a place for that. I have also gone to some events like BarCamp Omaha, TEDX Omaha, and I attended a poetry slam one evening and volunteered as a judge. As much as I am a homebody, I really do feel better sometimes after I go out to events and activities.
3. Have a travel budget for when you need to get away. I am in the largest city in Nebraska…but it’s still smaller than the DC Metro area that I’m used to. So sometimes I want to get away. Either to experience a larger city, or to visit family. My first priority has been to visit family. I went to Asheville, NC for Thanksgiving, and I’ll be back in the DC area for Christmas/New Year’s. I’m starting to think about where I want to travel next year though. Maybe somewhere outside the US borders….
4. Find someone that you can be honest with about how you feel. And when they say, “you can tell me the truth,” take them up on it. When you’re new, people are always asking you questions. “Are you settling in?” “Did you finish unpacking?” “How are you liking the city?” “What new places have you discovered?” Often this comes from new co-workers who want to make sure that you are happy, and that you’re not about to jump on the next plane out of there and not come back. They really mean well. But sometimes I’m not exactly happy, and no I don’t exactly love Omaha (yet). I don’t feel comfortable sharing my negative feelings with everyone because I don’t want to look like a Debbie Downer, or I don’t want to offend someone who is Midwest native and loves Omaha (i.e. most of my coworkers at the library), or I’m just a private person who does not wear all my emotions on my sleeve. But I have come across some folks who are transplants like me from larger cities and we have been able to commiserate about what we miss. My honest feelings about Omaha at the moment: I don’t hate it. And that’s good enough for now. Check back with me in 8 months.
5. Remember this is not forever. At least for me it’s not. I have met a few folks who moved to Nebraska recently because of their spouse’s job or family. They will be here indefinitely although it’s not their first choice. I will pray for them. For me, that’s not the case. I told my boss when I interviewed that I only see myself being here 2-3 years, getting some very valuable work experience, and then moving on. That’s what I’m thinking today…who knows how I will feel in a couple of years. I might be so in love with Omaha I never want to leave …..yeah, okay… But while I’m here I do want to embrace the experience. The Midwest is different…and has its own unique quirks. I definitely want to enjoy my time here. So while I’m making my list of places to travel outside the state, I’m also making my list of cultural and community events to experience inside the state as well.
So that’s how things are going so far. Sometimes I have to pinch myself because I can’t believe I actually moved out here. I was so adamant that I was never leaving the DMV area or at least never leaving the East Coast. Haha, God had other plans for me. But I have no regrets, and it only gets better from here….right?
(I should edit to add that I am LOVING my job. It’s just the relocation that’s taking some getting used to.)
Well I’ve been on the new job for 1.5 months now. What a whirlwind — time flies when you’re having fun! And it has been fun…and a bit challenging too.
As you know, I am the Nebraska/Education Coordinator for National Network of Libraries of Medicine, MidContinental Region. My responsibilities fall into a few different categories:
- Coordinate the calendar for our regional webinars, assess educational needs of our members, and lead in improving promotion to our target audiences. Sometimes I will host or present for webinars too. Also, maintain the Training & Education section of website.
- Serve on the NN/LM Education Task Force (this is made up of representatives of all the Regional Medical Libraries).
- Serve as ex-officio member of Education Committee for our local chapter of Medical Library Association.
- Administer the Professional Development Award for the MidContinental Region. This award is for librarians in our region.
Nebraska State Outreach
- Make contacts and build relationships with individuals, organizations, schools, community-based organizations, etc.
- Teach classes or give presentations on health information resources to health professionals, librarians, educators, and general public.
- Exhibit at professional conferences and community health fairs.
- Site visits and support to member libraries and information centers.
- Write a quarterly column for the Nebraska Libraries Journal (first article is due end of this month!)
- Contribute to the MidContinental Region blog and newsletter.
- Write articles on health information resources/programming for other publications whenever opportunity arises.
- Monitor assigned listservs to keep up to date with news on NLM products & resources
McGoogan Library of Medicine
- I am based out of this library, and a small percentage of my time goes to supporting the University of Nebraska Medical Center faculty, students, and patients. Fortunately, the library faculty are being gracious and allowing me to focus just on my NN/LM responsibilities for a few months. Later on this fall, I will receive some training and will start to contribute to reference desk shifts, literature searches, blog posts, website maintenance, and consumer health information services.
So that’s the general overview…now to the nitty-gritty. What have I been doing so far?
- Trying not to feel overwhelmed. I have been told to expect it to take a couple of years to really feel confident in this position. I believe it. It is a very self-directed and autonomous role. I have a logic model of goals, outcomes, and indicators to guide me…but many specifics are left to me to decide. My colleagues are very supportive though and there are plenty of people I can ask for advice (both in our region and other regions of NN/LM).
- Meeting people and building relationships. Sometimes these meetings are facilitated by mutual acquaintances, and other times I am cold-calling/emailing or showing up to community meetings. Recent meetings have included North Omaha Community Care Counsel, Omaha Refugee Task Force, the Director of the Three Rivers Library System, and a site visit to Southeast Community College library.
- Teaching/presenting/exhibiting. There are some conferences and health fairs I am scheduled to attend, and I have a few presentations lined up as well. Today I attended a community health fair, a couple of weeks ago I presented to the Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services Health Promotion Unit, next month I am presenting for two webinars on health literacy and health information resources (one focused on public librarians, and the other is for the Nebraska Cancer Coalition), and in November I will be presenting a webinar on Veterans Health info resources. I also have at least three conferences I will be exhibiting at later this fall.
- There are a couple of articles I am working on writing that are due…soon.
- Serving on a search committee. The MidContinental Region is seeking a new Health Information Literacy Coordinator to be based here in Omaha too (at another university). Come work with me if it fits your interest! I have been asked to be on the search committee. After going through three interviews this past spring, I’ve very excited to be able to sit on the other side of the table now!
There are other things I’m doing as well…but you get the gist of it. Sometimes I wonder am I doing enough…am I being strategic enough in my outreach…but for less than two months on the job, I think I’m doing pretty good. 😉
So those are my work updates….and I’ll be writing a separate post soon about the adjustments of relocating. Stay tuned!
Want to learn a little more about the MidContinental Regional Medical Library and the work we’re doing? Check out this article from NLM In Focus: Regional Medical Libraries Making a Difference: Focus on MidContinental Region (published last year).
And what an adventure it was. We traveled over 1200 miles through 7 states in two days. Enduring blazing heat, smelly manure fumes, a hostel that accidentally gave away our room reservation, tense moments with thunder/lightning/torrential downpour, and very monotonous scenery (think trees, cornfields, windmills, repeat). But we survived, and it was kinda fun. So happy to be done, and I don’t plan on driving that route again anytime soon.
Once we arrived in Omaha, I had to keep my guests entertained for their brief visit. The moving company hasn’t delivered my stuff yet, and my cable/internet hasn’t been set up yet. So with no furniture/TV/internet, of course we had to go see the sights of Omaha! Here are some of the places we discovered:
Of course we had to find the local public library! We took a peek into the Dale Clark branch, which has really cool murals on the walls of their stairwell.
The Missouri River runs nearby with Nebraska on one bank, and Iowa on the other. We explored some of the riverfront, visiting the Heartland of America Park (and found a few statutes along the way), and walking across the river on the Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge into Council Bluffs, IA.
We visited the Henry Doorly Zoo, which has some really nice indoor attractions (which is a definite plus on a hot summer day!). We especially enjoyed the Lied Jungle, and the Desert Dome.
We also learned that Omaha is the birthplace of Malcolm X. We went to visit the Malcolm X Memorial, but couldn’t get close because of some construction being done. Maybe another time…
The Bemis Contemporary Arts Center had an open house for the public to meet the resident artists, tour their studios and look at exhibits. There was a really cool exhibit by Brandon Ballengee called Collapse that was inspired by the Gulf Coast oil spill. I also enjoyed meeting some of the resident artists, and seeing what they have been working on. Bemis offers 3-month residencies that attract artists from across the world.
So those are the highlights of my week — busy, exhausting, and fun! So glad Alyse and Elijah could join me for a few days. It made the transition a little easier, plus it’s always so much more fun to have someone else along when discovering a new place.
Tomorrow is my first day on the new job. More updates to come!
Wow, I can’t believe it’s been four months since my last blog post. Winter is long gone and now it’s so hot. But I’m not complaining. I’ll take heat and humidity over cold weather any day! The past few months I’ve been busy with job applications & interviews, attending conferences, facilitating an unconference, giving presentations, and wrapping up my last year as an NLM Associate Fellow. I will do some additional recap posts…soon. But first, my most important hot news: I have a new (permanent) job!
I have accepted the position of Nebraska/Education Coordinator for the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, MidContinental Region. I will lead in developing an education plan for this region, and also lead in the promotion of our trainings and presentations. I will also be doing outreach to Nebraska health professionals, librarians, and the general public to promote National Library of Medicine products and databases, as well as other quality health resources. I will be based out of the McGoogan Library of Medicine in Omaha, NE where I will have faculty status and will also be involved in reference services to the University of Nebraska Medical Center (such as research support for faculty/students or consumer health info requests). So basically I’ll be really busy doing all the things I love. 🙂
This also means that I will be relocating from the east coast to the midwest. This will be an adjustment, but I’m excited! I have already found an apartment, and I am driving out there today. So many changes! I’m sure I will have plenty to write about. 😉
You may be wondering, what is the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM)? Well I’m glad you asked. The NN/LM is a program coordinated by the National Library of Medicine and has been in existence for over forty years. Its mission is to:
“…advance the progress of medicine and improve the public health by providing all U.S. health professionals with equal access to biomedical information and improving the public’s access to information to enable them to make informed decisions about their health.”
This program splits the U.S. into eight regions, and each region has a Regional Medical Library that receives federal money and is responsible for using that money to provide training sessions and outreach to promote awareness of, and access to National Library of Medicine resources and other quality health information.The MidContinental Region where I will be working includes Nebraska, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Wyoming, and Missouri. The Regional Medical Library (RML) for this region is the Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library in Utah. The MidContinental Region uses a distributed model to staff it’s region and the outreach coordinators are based in different states. So I will be based in Nebraska, but my other coworkers are based in other states in our region. We rely very heavily on technology to keep in touch and collaborate.
I’ve always thought it would be fun to work for a Regional Medical Library, and I’m really excited this opportunity is available. Well I need to go hit the road now. Stay tuned for more updates!