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Member Spotlight: Jonathan Eldredge, AHIP

Fast Facts:

MLA Member Since: 1986
First Professional Position: Intern, University of Michigan
Current Position: Associate professor, Health Sciences Library and Informatics Center, University of New Mexico–Albuquerque (UNM)
Education (include all degrees): BA, Beloit College (cum laude); MLS, University of Michigan; MA, University of New Mexico; PhD, University of New Mexico
Favorite Website or Blog: Impossible to decide since I have so many favorites

Please describe your current position.

University of New Mexico Health Sciences Library and Informatics Center, Biomedical Informatics Research, Training, and Scholarship division. My spheres of responsibility as an associate professor encompass teaching, research, and service. We are a uniquely merged [information technology] IT, biomedical informatics, and library organization. Administratively, I am in charge of the Evidence Based and Translational Sciences Collaboration unit.

What do you find most interesting about your position?

Every work day brings variety and unique challenges. That’s just a fact of life for most of us, but I seem to relish the creative power of chaos related to my teaching and research more than most of my colleagues.

What has been your biggest professional challenge?

Earlier in my career, a former workplace rival conspired with my former boss to destroy my professional reputation. They devised a comprehensive, far-reaching plan, but it backfired. Ethical colleagues, some whom I barely knew, exposed and countered this conspiracy. While this experience was an ordeal, it strengthened my faith in my colleagues. The ordeal further strengthened my commitment to our profession. On a more positive note, earning a doctorate in a competitive graduate program while still working full time as a faculty member on a tenure track represented another successfully overcome challenge.

How did you become interested in medical librarianship?

Prior to entering the field, I was becoming concerned about the commodification of information. The world was already dividing into the “information haves” and the “information have-nots” at that time. I viewed this trend as a mortal threat to democracy. Once I was in the profession, I migrated to health sciences librarianship because I was intrigued by our complex challenges involving the need for both speed and accuracy, and the versatile systems we’ve devised to meet those challenges.

What was your background before you became a medical librarian?

My dream career in high school was to become a writer and photographer for National Geographic magazine. My goals changed when I got to college. My family and many of my friends wanted for me to become a lawyer, but I found law at that time to be too adversarial. My first career instead was in radio. Beloit College had two radio stations so that helped launch my first career. It was in radio that I became acutely concerned about unequal access to information.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a librarian?

I cannot think of anything else I’d rather do other than what I am doing now as a faculty member, informaticist, and librarian.

What do you think is the most interesting issue in librarianship today?

The transition to our becoming a more evidence-based profession will be our big challenge in the coming years. It’s not only a smart direction; it’s not only a necessary direction; for me, it’s an existential direction for the future of our profession. In early August, I will be presenting on “Evidence Based Library and Information Practice” at the 2014 Academy of Management annual meeting. An increasing number of our colleagues in the management, health, education, and public policy professions realize that their respective professions need to become more evidence-based. Please see my commentary in volume 9, number 1 of the journal Evidence Based Library and Information Practice for a fuller explanation of this idea. I might add that our profession specializes in “evidence” so it seems all the more critical that we role model making our important decisions based on sound evidence.

What are you most proud of?

On a personal level, my two adult children, Nicolas and Gabriela. I also am proud of my parents, great aunt Elthea, and my grandparents. I am particularly proud of my maternal grandmother, Isabel, who died sixteen years before I was born. She and her mother Helen were suffragettes. Isabel earned her [master’s of science] MS at Columbia after graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Vassar College. She was a college professor and scientist during an era when women simply did not pursue such careers. Through her letters to my grandfather, I have come to truly know her and to appreciate her impressive accomplishments.

On a professional level, my MLA [Louise Darling Medal for Distinguished Achievement in Collection Development in the Health Sciences] and [Lucretia W. McClure Excellence in Education Award] awards and my four teaching awards at UNM warm my heart. One teaching award included a silly YouTube video made by my medical students, entitled “Jon Eldredge: EBM Master.” I was proud of these students for accurately describing a PubMed search amidst their parody of me.

Whom do you admire?

Joanne Gard Marshall immediately comes to mind. Beyond Joanne, it’s almost impossible to do justice to all the people whom I admire. My recent research collaborators Marie Ascher, Heather Holmes, Phil Kroth, Karen Heskett, and Rick Wallace, rank high on my admiration scale as do my international collaborators Anne Kagëdal, Cecilia Petersson, Alison Brettle, Virginia Wilson, Lotta Haglund, Denise Koufogiannakis, Lorie Kloda, Andrew Booth, Maria Grant, Gaby Caro, Hannah Spring, and Lotta Åstrand. Over the past year or so, I have felt particular admiration for my MLA colleagues Kristine Alpi, Diane Cooper, Jo Dorsch, Lynn Fortney, Mark Funk, Carolyn Anne Reid, Sally Gore, Heidi Heilemann, Kristi Holmes, Michael Homan, Michelle Kraft, Elaine Russo Martin, Scott Plutchak, Chris Shaffer, Susan Starr, Cynthia Stewart, and Lisa Traditi. At UNM, I have at least as many colleagues that I admire greatly.

What other organizations are you involved in?

Almost all of my professional organization energy gets poured into MLA. Beyond that, I have been involved with the international collaborative that organizes the biannual international Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (EBLIP) conferences since 2001, my local Unitarian Universalist congregation, and lately the Academy of Management.

Is there anything about you that others might be surprised to know?

Probably 98% of the facts about me would surprise most MLA News readers. Even longtime friends and family members sometimes express surprise at some of my iconoclastic views or my experiences. My bland and conventional-looking exterior offers few clues to who I am. As one example, I used to live on the Navajo Reservation. In addition, I was an exchange student in the Yale-in-China Program and later was an English teacher in China. When I am not running off to present a paper at MLA annual meetings, I am completely approachable and love meeting new colleagues, so come find me and let’s get to know one another!

What do you do for exercise?

I started skiing about the same time that I learned to walk and learned to surf not much later. I continue to enjoy these sports. I intentionally gave up soccer and baseball in my early thirties due to the possibility of future knee or shoulder injuries. I still love to bike, mountain bike, rock climb, hike, walk, and dance. Sometimes I still play volleyball and ultimate Frisbee. Lately, I’ve thought about taking up cricket because it looks like fun.

What do you do to relax?

Anything physical, social, or contemplative relaxes me. Until last year, I rode my bike eight miles each way to and from work, and it was a wonderful stress-buster. I now live closer to work, but restrict my car use to twenty-five miles a week to motivate me to ride my bike or walk most places. Listening to music, watching foreign films, taking long bike rides east of Albuquerque in the mountains, and strolling around museums all help to relax me.

What is your favorite vacation spot or activity?

Three places: northern New Mexico in the high desert canyons; Cape Cod; and the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, Panama, and southern Mexico for the surfing.

What is the most daring thing you’ve ever done?

Jumping off the Back River Bridge in Massachusetts when I was fifteen years old. It was a long, long way down before I hit the water. Daring, and, I might add, totally stupid.

What advice would you give to a new member of MLA/new librarian/someone starting out in medical librarianship?

Embrace evidence-based library and information practice, be open to unconventional career possibilities, and cultivate authentic professional friendships.

What are your future goals/plans?

I want to advance to the rank of full professor in our medical school, write a book on evidence-based library and information practice, and live in another country for a year or two, preferably Costa Rica or Sweden.