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September 7, 2014 / Christian M.

Farewell NLM!

"Entrance to the National Library of Medicine, October 9, 2008" by Sage Ross - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“Entrance to the National Library of Medicine, October 9, 2008” by Sage Ross – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons

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.

Thanks NLM!


One Comment

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  1. Lesley Looper / Oct 8 2014 6:27 pm

    I’m glad you had such a great experience! I look forward to reading more about the year ahead!

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