Meet Brian McDonald, Web Services Librarian

Brian McDonald, Web Services LibrarianHimmelfarb Library continues this feature in our newsletter that lets us become better acquainted with our friends and colleagues at the Himmelfarb Library. In this issue we learn more about Brian McDonald, Web Services Librarian.

As a new member of Himmelfarb, please tell us a little about your current position and what you do?
As the Web Services Librarian, my primary responsibility is developing and maintaining the library’s web site. I also handle the interface design for several other library resources (research guides, Documents2Go, the link resolver that gets you from a citation in one database to the full text in another, etc.) I serve as the liaison to the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Milken Institute School of Public Health and the Neurology and Neurological Surgery departments in SMHS. Like the other Himmelfarb librarians, I am a librarian tutor for CIS sections through all three semesters of the Fundamentals of Medicine curriculum.

What exciting projects are you working on and are there any new changes we can expect for the Himmelfarb Web site?
One project that I’m looking forward to over the next year is a full-scale redesign of Documents2Go. A big part of this will be a skin change to make it look and behave more like the rest of the Himmelfarb web site, but what I’m most excited about is reconfiguring Documents2Go to work with your NetID/password instead of requiring everyone to create a standalone account. In general, you should expect your experience with Himmelfarb’s web resources to become much more streamlined over time.

What about your job do you most enjoy?
I like making other people’s jobs easier. I believe the best web sites are the ones that get out of your way and let you do what you need to do with the least wasted effort on your part. I find it highly rewarding when I can make an improvement and see the difference it makes in someone’s work, whether it’s a faculty member doing research, a student who needs library resources for an assignment, or a member of the library staff working to provide excellent services to our users.

What’s been the biggest challenge?
The challenge with designing a website like Himmelfarb’s is that we serve a wide variety of users with very different needs. While all of our users are in the health sciences, there’s a vast difference between first-year students in an educational setting beginning to learn the types of resources and services available to them and experienced clinicians who have well-worn paths to the tools that are most helpful to their day-to-day needs. It can be very challenging to design a single site that meets the needs of all our users without being mediocre for everyone. It’s always my intent to provide every user with an excellent web experience, and that’s a goal that it’s hard not to fall short of.

McDonald FamilyWhat led you to a career as a medical librarian?
Medical librarianship was never really on my radar until applying to work at Himmelfarb -- all of my earlier professional experience was at small to medium liberal arts colleges. The thing that intrigued me about working in a medical library was the chance to have a direct impact on the education of future members of the health care professions. It’s exciting to realize that my daily work is helping to train our students so they can provide high quality care to patients as they move into their professions.

What do you like to do in your time away from work?
I grew up in a very remote rural area of Arkansas, so getting out into natural settings regularly is important to me -- even more so because I spend so much of my life interacting with technology. I enjoy hiking and camping with my wife and kids and have enjoyed exploring the Pennsylvania state parks over the past few years. I also like challenging myself to learn new things, so I recently started studying Chinese with the goal of passing one of the middle levels of the HSK within the next couple years.

Himmelfarb Health Sciences Library ◊ The George Washington University ◊ 2300 Eye St., NW, Washington, DC 20037 ◊ Phone: (202) 994-2850