Snapshot: Elaine Martin
posted February 15, 2013 1:42 PM
Managing a $5 million budget and more than 40 staff members, Dr. Elaine Martin '05DA is the director of Lamar Soutter Library Services at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the New England region's director of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine. When she is not building a library for medical students in Liberia, managing the Lamar Soutter Library, or participating in a dozen research projects, she teaches LIS 434 Medical Librarianship, LIS 404 Principles of Management, and LIS 532G Scientific Research Data Management at GSLIS as an adjunct professor.
Q: How do you get everything done in a day?
As a high-energy person, I like to work hard and I enjoy challenges of which there are no shortage in my field. I apply a goal-oriented methodology to getting things done. I make lists about making lists.
I hire staff that are able to implement my vision of how the library should function. They aren't afraid to take risks and can work with ambiguity. They know that if I put an idea out there, it will happen. They know that I'm committed to the job and to them for the
long term. When people know that you are going to be there for the long haul, it's easier to make things happen. I am fortunate to
have a dedicated library team.
I'm also fortunate to have a supportive husband and son. Having such support has made all the difference.
Q: You've moved rapidly up the library ladder. For example, you advanced from a reference librarian to director at the University of Washington Health Sciences Library and Information Center in only three years. What are the secrets to your success?
While I fell into the field of medical librarianship through serendipity, I wanted to be a library director from the beginning. I had a strategy about how to shape my career. In addition to acquiring the necessary skills and education, I was willing and able to make significant life changes, such as relocating my family across the country, to get there.
Q: In light of ongoing budget cost-cutting measures, how do you think academic centers and hospitals will be able to meet the growing information needs of health-care providers?
My library is embracing the technological changes that bring information to the point of care. A lot of libraries are doing things they don't need to do anymore. We need to accept that our budgets are never going to grow. Libraries need to reallocate resources to do what they should be doing. We are making those changes. For example, we began shifting staff resources away from tasks like cataloging toward managing our online institutional repository. We have also made the commitment to train staff in emerging areas, such as big data and E-science management.
While we have a consumer health library open to the public, we are looking to create information resource centers on the hospital floors so patients also have immediate access to information.
My goal is to continue moving librarians outside of the library to respond to information needs at the place and time they are needed. Simultaneously, there is an opportunity to transform the physical library to a collaborative space for students and faculty.
Q: As the New England region's director of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, what types of research projects are you currently spearheading?
We have several research projects under way. For example, we are currently building an online public-health library that will enable
state health departments' public-health professionals to access full-text electronic resources. Google isn't enough. We've
negotiated special pricing for the resources with publishers. While a national public health library initiative is needed, we are going
state by state to build a case for its success and currently have 14 states on board. Ultimately, we seek to provide such services on the local level.
In addition, the Lamar Soutter Library was chosen, along with Johns Hopkins and several other leading academic institutions, by the National Libraries of Medicine to embed an informationist (a librarian with clinical or research background) to partner with medical researchers on a breast cancer screening project. Our aim is to share our success about the librarian's data-management value to clinical research, which will hopefully encourage medical researchers to allocate funds for embedding librarians in scientific research. Information about informationist Sally Gore's work can be found at http://librarianhats.net/about/.
LIS 532G: Scientific Research Data Management, which has debuted this spring, is the first step in providing today's librarians with the tools they need to do their jobs in today's libraries. We would love to expand this course into a certificate program that will fill the need for data-management specialists.
Q: On the other side of the world, you've been re-building Liberia's health-care system by creating a library for medical students because all the doctors fled from the country during the war. What have you been able to achieve so far?
Over the past year, we built a medical student library by providing textbooks to support the curriculum and space for students to study. We also provided basic library skills training for the Dogliotti Medical College Library staff.
However, significant challenges still need to be overcome. Basics that we take for granted, such as electricity, clean water, and air conditioning, are lacking. There's no Internet access, and we're still relying on a manual system to check out books. The staff commutes two hours by foot each way on dirt roads to get to work during daylight hours. Most of the staff only has basic literacy skills. While we've made some progress, we now need to start addressing the systemic problems to make this library effective. An ongoing commitment is needed from Liberian and American partners.
Q: How did obtaining a doctorate degree at Simmons help your career?
Obtaining a doctorate was necessary for my job. Since I work with other doctors and medical researchers, it's been important for my colleagues to recognize that I do what they do. We all conduct research, manage large departments and budgets, have faculty appointments, and guide strategic vision. To establish credibility on committees, I needed the educational credential to have a voice at the table with my peers. For example, I was cochair of the Women's Faculty Committee and am a member of the Faculty Council and Educational Policy Committee. I was recently promoted to the rank of associate professor. Obtaining the doctorate degree was definitely worth it.
Interview by Jennifer Moyer