Thursday, November 13, 2008
I was asked by CHILI (Careers in Health Information, Librarianship, and Informatics) project directors to blog about my experiences working in a library before I received my MLIS degree and how that experiences helped me to be what I am today. Imagine, I'm talking to a group of high school kids visiting my library hoping to inspire them to enter medical librarianship.
During the first semester in McGill Library School, I had no idea of what kind of libraries (i.e., special library, public library, academic library, and hospital library) I should set my feet on in the future. By the end of the first semester something happened that changed my career life. I failed in Dr. Beheshti's Information System Design, a required and core course for all Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) students. I lost 3 credits! I had a gloomy Christmas for the year 1999 pondering and reflecting how to be more effective and efficient in coping with the Winter 2000 required courses. I was told I must take another course to make up for the lost credits as soon as possible. The earliest chance I could have was Spring 2000 and the only available selective course was Health Sciences Information. I had no choice but registered for the course in order to get the 3 credits back. It turned out to be the turning point in my life. I pictured my career goal from vague to crystal clear by the time I competed the course. I knew what I wanted to be, a medical librarian, a health sciences librarian. I started building my career path by looking for any kind of part-time job or volunteer work or anything that would lead me in achieving my career goal. My every first experience was working as a volunteer in the Nurses' Library in Montreal General Hospital in Canada, part of the McGill University Health Center (MUHC). Another step I took was to take a Practicum and worked at Royal Victoria Medical Library. The Practicum gave me the opportunity to create current awareness program for doctors and physicians. Working 2-3 hours a week in the Nurses' Library, slowly and gradually, I touched almost every aspect of the library's functions from shelving to cataloging. The then librarian, Lynn Kiraly-Batist, was nice and professional, who inspired me and trained me to be a professional medical librarian. She showed me many of the things that were not taught in the library school.
By the time I received my MLIS degree in 2001, I was offered a part-time position as a research librarian working for McGill University School of Nursing. It was there I was given a lot of chances to conduct literature searches on medical literature for nursing faculty members. In 2002, after Mrs. Kiraly-Batist moved to another hospital library, I was hired to work solo and manage the Nurses' Library and worked on every aspect of the library including collection development, acquisitions, serials, cataloging, interlibrary loan services, reference and instructional services, training volunteers, recruiting and hiring library research assistants. These experiences helped me understand many of the health science resources either print or electronically and greatly enrich my professional knowledge as a medical librarian. They also laid a solid foundation for me to grow in the field of medical librarianship.
Being a reference librarian in a health sciences library is very challenged and this is the part I like most. Challenges always motivate me and inspire me to keep pursuing for career advancement. I have been active in serving on professional committees of the Medical Library Association (MLA) and Southern Chapter of the MLA, presenting posters and papers at professional conferences, writing and researching related to reference services, and networking with medical librarians across the country. Looking back, I'm grateful and happy for every little step and effort I have been taken to lead me to where I am today. I always believe working persistently towards one's goal will eventually lead you to what you want to be.