So recently my job title changed from Health and Life Sciences Librarian to Research Informationist, which is pretty cool, except that now instead of people assuming I spend my day shelving books and thinking about the Dewey Decimal System, they basically have no idea what it is I do. I’m pretty sure my friends and family have absolutely no idea what I do for a living. In fact, I’m not sure my co-workers even really know for sure. One of my colleagues suggested I ought to write about what a research informationist does, and since I haven’t blogged here in ages, I thought this would be a good time to spread the word of what a research informationist is/does. Right around the time I thought I should write this blog series, another research informationist, the lovely and talented Sally Gore, beat me to it by writing about it on her blog. But hey, you can never have too many research informationists talking about their awesome jobs, right?
With that, I give you the activities of my Monday.
- I spent a lot of time helping several people trying to figure out the NIH Public Access Policy. To vastly simplify, I would summarize the policy by saying if you get NIH grant money, you have to make your articles that come out of that funding available in PubMed Central (PMC), the open access repository of the National Library of Medicine. In truth, the policy and the myriad different things you have to do to comply with it are quite complex. NIH has recently announced that they would start enforcing the policy by delaying grant renewals to researchers who aren’t in compliance, so this means that I’m getting a lot of calls from people who are having to catch up on five years’ worth of article submissions. In theory, I like this policy and I think it’s really important in getting medical literature to clinicians and researchers who wouldn’t be able to afford it otherwise, but in practice, it’s really confusing for people because there are so many different ways you can comply and also lots of ways things can go wrong. I would like for it to be a lot easier for researchers to get their work into PMC so they and their staff don’t have to spend a lot of time freaking out about this. However, in the meantime, I help a lot of people who need to figure this stuff out and in so doing have become more of an expert on the policy than I ever wanted to.
- I’m working on a couple of search strategies for researchers who are writing systematic reviews. These are articles that essentially summarizes the body of literature on a particular question. This is nice because a busy clinician can then just read one article instead of having to go find the hundreds or thousands that are relevant to the question. Plus, when you gather a lot of data and consider it all together, you can get a better sense of what’s really going on than if you just had a small sample. However, identifying all of the relevant literature is pretty challenging, so it’s useful to have a librarian/research informationist help out as an “expert searcher” or as I like to think of it, a “PubMed whisperer.” Putting these searches together is pretty time-consuming, plus I help the researchers manage the workflow of analyzing the articles that my searches turn up. So today I helped out some of the researchers I’m working with on those articles, including getting them set with using Mendeley, a very cool citation management program.
- I’m a member of the Medical Library Group of Southern California and Arizona and the chair of their blog committee, so today I had to do some work with getting some entries up on the blog.
- Another one of my responsibilities is collection development, or buying stuff for the departments to whom I am the liaison librarian, which include public health, psychology, and some others. I’ve been so busy that I’ve kind of been putting off my ordering, so I have to find a lot of stuff to buy in the next couple weeks. You’d think getting to spend lots of money on books would be great, but it is less so when it’s in the context of work. Plus, I can never find exactly what I want. For example, my public health students ask a lot of questions about two fairly obscure and relatively specific topics: water consumption and usage in the context of health care, and food deserts (urban areas where it’s hard to find healthy food so people end up eating junk food and whatever they can get at convenience stores). So I wanted to buy some books that would help them out with this, but it’s harder than you’d think! This project will be carried over to tomorrow.
- I’m taking a very cool online/in-person course called Librarian’s Guide to NCBI. The course covers some bioinformatics tools that are particularly relevant to people doing work in genetics and molecular biology. As a research informationist, I think it’s important to be able to provide a high level of specialized assistance to researchers, so learning more about these tools is essentially adding some more stuff to my toolbox. I did the first week’s module today (although it’s the second week, so I’m already behind). Most of the material in this first lecture was stuff I pretty much already knew, but I played around a little bit with some of the tools and searched around a bit in NLM’s Gene database.
- I manage our four library school graduate students who work on our reference desk, and today we had our monthly training session. There’s really a lot you need to know to work at the reference desk of a busy biomedical library, and these students do a fantastic job, but the learning is never really over.
- Email. I answered a gazillion emails. The email never ends.
I did some other random stuff, but that’s the main stuff I did today. Phew. 🙂