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Can a Librarian Make You a Better Student?


Attention students: librarians want you to know that libraries still exist and have value. In fact, a student/librarian partnership could results in better outcomes. 

Jean Shipman, director of the Eccles Health Sciences Library at the University of Utah University of Utah checks in with Jane Blumenthal, associate university librarian, and director Taubman Health Sciences Library at the University of Michigan. You'll learn things you never knew about the role of the library in the modern era. 

Announcer: These are the conversations happening inside healthcare that are going to transform healthcare. The Healthcare Insider is on The Scope.

Blumenthal: I am Jane Blumenthal, Associate University Librarian and Director of the Taubman Health Sciences Library at the University of Michigan.

Shipman: And I'm Jean Shipman, Director of Eccles Health Sciences Library at the University of Utah. Okay. Hi, Jane, thanks for stopping by today. And I know that your library is undergoing a lot of renovation and reshaping of what the library will be in the physical space. Could you articulate a little bit about what the changes are that you're witnessing?

Blumenthal: I'd be happy to, Jean. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about my current favorite project. We are really excited about the changes we're making in our building. About six months ago, we moved 98% of our collection to a storage facility about three miles away. We have staff there that pull books and journals and scan articles or chapters and email them to any faculty member who requests them. We also deliver to any library on campus.

But our core work, the work of our informationists and the informationist associates, which has been very place-based in the library, is now free of physical location. So we've always gone out and met faculty and students where they are, where they're working, in the clinics, in the labs, wherever we need to go. Now that's even more of an emphasis because we're going to be living in converted hospital rooms for 18 months while the building's being renovated. So we're very excited about getting out the message that the library building is closing for 18 months, but the library is open and we are welcoming people to continue to collaborate with us as we go through this transition.

Shipman: So what you're telling me is you're having a library without any books for 18 months or you're not even having a library for 18 months. So how will you work with your staff and your users to ensure that they know where to go without a physical entity to direct to?

Blumenthal: We're using a lot of methods to get the word out. First of all, we're emphasizing that the library's not closing, just the building. Many of our resources are already in electronic format. That is, of course, at any medical center, what people prefer. So that's not a very hard sell.

We are using our liaisons to each department to share the information with faculty, students, residents, clinicians, whoever is in that area. We're encouraging them to share it with people they are working directly with on projects. We're working with the publicity department in each of the schools and the hospital for them to use their regular channels to push the information out to people. And we've, of course, use all the campus outlets, newsletters, the web page, the library web page. We're basically plastering the place electronically. We're also putting it up on our Facebook page, and using our Twitter channel, and sending out emails, and doing just about anything we can think of to get the word out.

Shipman: I like that "anything I can think of" because I enjoyed your video that showed the last book being secretly taken out of the library in a briefcase and put in the storage with two cops and everybody behind it just protecting that last, sacred book.

Blumenthal: Well, that was a fun video to make and it really was paying tribute to our print collections that served us well for so many years even though we're moving beyond them now.

Shipman: Well, that's excellent. How do you envision you as the library director working with staff if they're in different locations? What kind of means are you going to use to communicate and share?

Blumenthal: We're lucky, actually, that all of our staff are going to be based in that same area on what was the old Children and Women's Hospital of U of M Health Center. We're going to use the time to really do some continuing education and some staff development activities. So we're going to ask the librarians, the informationists, to share what they're doing with the staff and with their colleagues to really start to build a common understanding for everybody of what exactly it is we're doing and why.

Shipman: And when you come back into your new space, what will be different? I mean, what do you see?

Blumenthal: Well, it will be a lot smaller. As we move out, we're leaving behind three floors, approximately 60,000 square feet. We're coming back to part of one floor being officially the library and that will be about 17,000 square feet. But what we'll have in the building is a lot of study space for health sciences students. A lot of quiet study, a lot of group study, a lot of collaboration space. A few more classrooms scattered around. So the library won't be running them, won't be responsible for them, but they'll still be there for use.

And the most important thing that everyone is most excited about is the coffee shop will be right outside the library door. And so we expect we're going to see a lot of people.

Shipman: I'm sure you will. And what do you think will be the biggest challenge of the 18 months?

Blumenthal: I think the biggest challenge is going to be constantly reminding everyone that the library is not closed. That they can still get to the information resources, they can still contact the same people they've been working with. They still have access to the same services. And everyone knows that when we tell it to them, but there's always the group of people who disregard information until it's immediately relevant. And so the day they need something from the library and they walk over and it's fenced off and they're stripping off the outer walls, they will suddenly go "Oh, I guess I should have read those emails."

Shipman: How many days on the beach do you plan to work during this time? Seriously, are you going to consider telecommuting for staff during this period?

Blumenthal: It's an option for staff whose work is suitable for off-site work. But we are encouraging people to work on campus as much as possible. The University library policy is one day a week max for teleworking and only for those staff who sign an agreement and whose work can be monitored. So we actually won't have that many people who fit that qualification in the new way of work that we're doing.

Shipman: I'm hoping that as you're working through this, you remember to share with the rest of us all the pain and the fun and the glory that you're getting out of this experience.

Blumenthal: Well, you've seen the pictures of our empty shelves already, right?

Shipman: I have.

Blumenthal: And the videos. And how you move over 400,000 books in six weeks and all that good stuff. Yes, we'll continue to share that. You'll get sick of hearing from us.

Shipman: Okay. Well, we'll expect to see you on our website, keeping us up-to-date with your status. Okay. Thank you very much for the interview.

Blumenthal: Thank you.