Himmelfarb Headlines - May / June 2022

Director's Desk

Director's Desk, Laura AbateIt’s my pleasure to serve as the new director of Himmelfarb Library.  I’ve been acting as interim director since January, and my history at Himmelfarb Library goes back to 1999 when I started as a reference and instruction librarian.  Over the years, I stayed at Himmelfarb because I continued to find new challenges and opportunities to learn: online collections and access, new programs in nursing and public health, and new (and newer) systems to support collections and services.   As I think about leading the library, I’ve been reflecting on its past success as a repository of health sciences information resources and tools, a place to hone information skills and obtain information support for research, education, and clinical care, and a place to both study individually and to collaborate with colleagues.  

When I first arrived at Himmelfarb Library, one of the things that appealed to me was the library’s service orientation.  Staff were and are encouraged to be problem solvers.  For example, if we don’t have a title that a user needs, we might try to obtain a copy quickly via interlibrary loans or the Consortium Loan Service, identify other titles they could also consider, and assess if the title should be added to our collection in print or online format.  Library staff are less likely to simply transfer a call, and much more likely to clarify what you need, find answers, and follow up to make sure that you get what you need - even if that means transferring the call.

Another aspect of Himmelfarb Library that appealed to me was that staff were encouraged to collaborate and think creatively. In my prior position working for a government contractor on a National Cancer Institute project, I’d learned so much but felt constrained by the fairly narrow parameters of the project.  At Himmelfarb, I found that staff could present new projects, get constructive feedback, and find collaborators among other library staff.  Himmelfarb staff were encouraged and empowered to explore ways to improve services and collections, and in this environment, staff readily shared their knowledge and expertise with colleagues. 

The final aspect of Himmelfarb that I want to highlight is that it’s continuously changing and evolving.  When I arrived at Himmelfarb, we had a small online collection plus a floor filled with books and another filled with bound print journals.  Our collections and site have evolved to reflect our growing online collection, as well as new technologies to support research and education like 3D printing, interactive 3D anatomy, and virtual reality.  Our services have evolved to include more robust support for research and scholarly publishing via Health Sciences Research Commons, our scholarly communications video series, and our systematic review service (and more!).   As our collections and services have changed, we’ve updated our spaces to reflect user preferences for multiple types of spaces which accommodate individual and group study and quiet and not-so-quiet environments.  We’ve also found new partners with groups that share our space including the Center For Faculty Excellence and the SMHS IT Helpdesk

For our community, I want to make sure you understand that the library and our team are here to support you - in educational endeavors, research projects, and clinical care.  Hearing from you about your needs help us shape current and future services, collections, and spaces.  We try to be open to change and watch for what’s next - whether it’s implementation of the 2023 NIH Data Management and Sharing Policy, new formats for resources and tools, or emerging subject areas and disciplines.  The library space is really multiple spaces as we exist as a physical site in Foggy Bottom and also have a robust online presence that provides 24/7 access to online collections.  Both spaces, physical and online, are shared community spaces, so please keep communicating with us to let us know what you need to teach and learn, move your research forward, and care for your patients.  My door is open to you in Himmelfarb 101, and you can also reach me at leabate@gwu.edu or 202-994-8570.

Laura Abate
Director, Himmelfarb Health Sciences Library


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