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The Welch Medical Library Celebrates 75 Years

November 3

Remarks: David Nichols, Randy Packard, Peter Agre. Mountcastle Auditorium, 3 p.m.

Reception: West Reading Room, 4:30 p.m.

All Hopkins employees welcome.


The Welch at Your Doorstep
New “touchdown suites” expand the venues of the virtual library

Neuro-oncologist Skip Grossman and social worker Ashley Varner, center, with Welch liaison librarian Tina Otter and program analyst Mehmet Acuner.
Nearing her deadline, a scientist in the Broadway Research Building is busy preparing a paper on protein sequences. Seeking another database to validate her work, she considers a trip to the Welch Medical Library for help—one more thing to do—with no guarantee that the librarian there will understand her needs. Then she discovers she doesn’t even have to cross the street: A mini-Welch exists on the third floor of her Broadway building.

Welcome to one of the Welch Library’s new “touchdown suites,” specially designated sites furnished with computers dedicated to research and library access and staffed by skilled librarians who lead clients to the resources they need. The Broadway facility opened in May; a neuro-oncology touchdown suite just opened, and one at the Population Center at the Bloomberg School of Public Health will open this fall. Discussions are under way for a future touchdown at the School of Nursing. “We’re extending the walls of the virtual library into all kinds of venues, fulfilling requests that run the gamut,” says Kate Oliver, Welch’s associate director for communication and liaison services. “The idea is to bring the library and librarian to people where they work.”

The touchdown suites represent the first phase in a 15-year plan to completely revamp the Welch Medical Library, which celebrates its 75th anniversary next month. It is the result of a master study that addresses how the library system should plan for new types of services and physical settings when the resources of medical libraries will be almost entirely electronic. “The touchdown suite is the first step in this plan because busy users prefer to access research online but still need help finding things,” says Nancy Roderer, library director.

The suites can be as small as a computer workstation or large enough to accommodate groups training in how to tailor a search. They are manned by Welch’s cadre of eight liaison librarians. Unlike the quiet librarians of yesteryear awaiting inquiries at an information desk, liaison librarians reach out to their constituents and help them streamline research. These librarians prowl the halls, letting researchers know how the Welch can help them. “These casual encounters are critical to learning about their information needs,” says Roderer.

Liaison librarian Brian Brown can easily help the scientist in the Broadway Research Building. He’s developed a basic science subject guide with links to a wide range of information sources. “People don’t always know there’s another database for a topic,” he says. He’ll not only find sites; he’ll write a synopsis of each one. Brown also investigates and evaluates software or databases and sets up training sessions on how to use them, sometimes inviting outside experts. So far, the response has been positive, Brown says. Always pressed for time, researchers are catching on to the countless shortcuts the touchdown suite offers.

Touchdown suites also have a place in the clinical setting. Welch formed a partnership with clinicians in the Department of Oncology to develop a neuro-oncology (brain tumor) patient information virtual “touchdown.” Following appointments, physicians can head to a hospital workstation—maintained by JHMCIS—click on, and print out vital information for their patients, like an illustration showing exactly where their tumor is located in the brain, the latest clinical trials or how to apply for handicap status on a driver’s license. The goal, Oliver says, is to improve patient satisfaction.

Oncology also wanted a training touchdown suite to help staff simplify their work. Jayne Campbell, Welch’s associate director of information services and education, who is spearheading the training project, offers an array of services, including how to search databases, find funding and write grant proposals. “We’ve come a long way from the serendipitous experience of finding things on a shelf,” she says.

As the “walls” of the virtual library are extended into every area of campus, the elegant 1929 Welch building will be renovated. It will continue to house the Institute of the History of Medicine. The Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives, now at 2024 E. Monument St., will move in. The library’s study and meeting spaces will be expanded. There will be no need to house a print repository. By 2015, almost every publication the Welch owns will be online.

—Judy Minkove



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