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Professional Development Award: The Evolving Librarian

Guest Author: Lisa Huang, Central Park Campus Library, Collin College, McKinney, TX

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I am grateful to the National Network of Libraries of Medicine South Central Region (NN/LM SCR) for providing the Professional Development Award, which enabled me to attend the all day workshop “The Evolving Librarian:  Responding to Changes in the Workplace and Healthcare” held at the OU-Tulsa Schusterman Library, in Tulsa, OK on April 18, 2013.   The workshop was taught by one of the leaders in medical librarianship, Michelle Kraft, senior medical librarian at the Cleveland Clinic and current candidate for MLA President-elect.  Kraft is also renowned for her Krafty Librarian blog http://kraftylibrarian.com/.

Kraft discussed current and emerging forces shaping the healthcare landscape such as the Affordable Care Act (ACA), electronic health record (EHR), local community benefit, new tax laws, numerous technological changes and evolving expectations of administrators and library clients.  The Great Recession has accelerated these issues as hospitals are being funded differently now.  Non-profit hospitals must turn a profit to stay afloat due to increasing technological costs of the EHR implementation.  Kraft’s lecture was immensely informative and explained why the local hospitals have accelerated their community engagement efforts to maintain their tax exemption.

I was struck by the similarities of funding between Collin College, a community college district, and hospitals.  Collin is no longer being funded by student enrollment numbers; funding is dependent on graduation, completion, and retention rates of students.  For hospitals, funding is dependent on patient satisfaction and success rate of providing health care services instead of the number of services performed or provided to patients.  Compounding these changes is the shrinking number of personnel as institutions have their reduced staffing.  Kraft encouraged the attendees to re-evaluate traditional time honored activities such as cataloging books for hospital libraries with a small print collection.  Libraries must evolve with society and its nomadic client expectations of on demand services and resources.

An issue addressed repeatedly at the workshop is that librarians need to demonstrate value to their home administration because libraries are expensive or as someone calls them, a “black hole.”  Administrators are not sure about the value of libraries because they do not bring in money; librarians need to change the perception of the library as an asset.  Amid fiscally challenging times, the notion of libraries as time honored institutions is antiquated; libraries are up for staff reduction or closure.  Kraft argued that librarians need to re-align library operations and goals with the administration’s goals, regardless if you work for a hospital, academic health sciences center, or a community college.  Libraries need to conduct qualitative research that measures their return on investment and the impact of all their services such as literature reviews, library instruction; or, the value of their books to the clients. ROI calculators and library narratives should be common knowledge for librarians. Librarians tend to shy away from research or simply don’t have the time to conduct research, but they need to conduct mini-research projects to demonstrate value and track impact.  Possible projects include literature searches that lead to improved patient care or decreased length of stay.

Other takeaways from the workshop:

  • The need to be aware of healthcare legislation changes from the local to national level.
  • Staying abreast of new roles for librarians such as data management, emerging roles with the EHR, patient education, and embedded librarianship. The profession is evolving and new identities of librarians are being written.
  • Be flexible as change is constant and inevitable.
  • Understanding when technology is disruptive or you’ve allowed it to be disruptive in your library?

I appreciated the opportunity to attend this workshop and much appreciation goes to Stewart Brower and the OU-Tulsa Schusterman Library staff for their gracious hospitality.

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