AHSL Librarians Take Their Show on the Road

AHSL Librarians Take Their Show on the Road

By Ellen MossUniversity Communications
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Jennifer Swift Martin coaches students Bryce Bricker and Angie Arvallo.
Jennifer Swift Martin coaches students Bryce Bricker and Angie Arvallo.
Librarians Sandy Kramer and Jennifer Swift Martin
Librarians Sandy Kramer and Jennifer Swift Martin
Jennifer Swift Martin coaches students Bryce Bricker and Angie Arvallo.
Jennifer Swift Martin coaches students Bryce Bricker and Angie Arvallo.

You'll find Arizona Health Sciences librarians in lots of places on The University of Arizona campus, but one place you'll never find them is behind an information desk.

The Internet has changed the way people search for information and in order to continue to help people find the best information possible, the Arizona Health Sciences Libraries, or AHSL, is sending its librarians into colleges and classrooms.

"With everything moving to the Internet, there is less business with people coming through the doors of the library," said David Howse, associate librarian at AHSL. "But we still need to understand people's information-seeking needs."

The libraries are working to accomplish this goal, and others, through their liaison program.

"With more electronic materials available, it didn't seem like a good use of time to have a librarian sitting at a reference desk," said Gary Freiburger, director of AHSL, explaining why the liaison program was initiated. "So we wanted to send them where the users are."

The librarians have offices in the UA colleges of medicine, pharmacy and public health, where they spend at least part of every day. AHSL plans to have a librarian in the College of Nursing in the near future. Having a permanent place in these locations gives faculty and students quick and easy access to the librarians.

Annabelle Nuñez, the first AHSL liaison librarian, said that after she set up a work space in the College of Public Health in the summer of 2007, it wasn't long before she was busy helping students and faculty with all sorts of projects.

"They liked the idea of just being able to pop in and ask a question," Nuñez said. She added that having an office located on the way to the bathroom, a well-attended workplace pit stop, helped her gain more visibility.

"Location is everything," she said with a laugh.

Soon after setting up in the College of Public Health, Nuñez "had more business than she could handle," said Freiburger, and now there are five liaison librarians who work outside the library.

The librarians work closely with the faculty and students in their respective colleges to help them find quality information for their research and for grant proposals. The AHSL librarians also are getting more opportunities to work in classrooms and be part of the curriculum, Howse said.

"We spend a lot of time looking for teachable or coachable moments," he said, adding that librarians can help find lots more information than the list that pops up on a typical Google search.

"What this explosion of informaion has created is a need for guidance," Howse said about the wealth of information available online. "It's our job to raise awareness and provide guidance toward stronger material."

He said that while searching a journal database may take a little more time than Googling, it's worth it.

The concept of the liaison librarian isn’t new, but AHSL has taken it a step farther by setting up satellite offices and becoming more integrated in the colleges, Howse said.

Librarians Jennifer Swift Martin and Sandy Kramer have become so integrated in the research at the College of Pharmacy that they've been named members of a research team that just won a grant to study the evidence of pharmacists' value in patient care.

"It's quite exciting," Swift Martin said about her involvement in the study. "Usually librarians just do the prep work."

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