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I Am MLA: Tony Nguyen, AHIP

Submitted by Tony Nguyen, AHIP; edited by JJ Pionke

Institution: National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM), Southeastern/Atlantic Region (SEA), Baltimore, MD

Title: Executive Director

Brief description of responsibilities

Provide leadership, development, and administration of all programs of the NNLM SEA, NNLM DOCLINE Coordination Office, and regional support of the All of Us Research Program in the southeastern United States, including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Ensure that the strategic goals and indicators established by the National Libraries of Medicine (NLM) and NNLM are met by NNLM SEA.

Why is MLA important to you?

MLA provides an excellent opportunity to stay up-to-date and maintain engagement in topics related to medical and health sciences librarianship. Additionally, MLA has given me an opportunity to grow and develop with different continuing education (CE) programs that have helped me develop my skills and take on new roles and responsibilities.

Why did you become a librarian?

My initial exposure to librarianship was as a page and then clerk at a public library while pursuing my undergraduate degree. I think working in libraries stayed in the back of my mind after I graduated. After working with a nonprofit organization doing marketing and outreach, I decided to quit and pursue my master’s degree in library and information science (MLIS).

What was your first library job or first professional position?

My first professional library job after completing my MLIS was as a hospital librarian in Columbus, OH. I had a great opportunity collaborating with the graduate medical education (GME) program and did many exciting projects with them. The internal medicine GME program was very enthused with my work, and I was able to participate in morning rounds, doing research while meeting patients. I did a lot of research for CME programs.

What is your advice to someone taking on a new role in leadership in MLA or in some other capacity?

Don’t fear taking on a leadership role in MLA. It may sound scary if it’s your first time. However, MLA has a strong network of supportive people who want both you and the organization to succeed. It doesn’t hurt to talk to other members or leaders for advice. We want everyone to be successful!

What has been the most interesting project you have worked on?

I think one of the best projects I’ve worked on includes the collaboration with Gregg A. Stevens, AHIP, Martin Morris, John Siegel, AHIP, Emily Vardell, and Blake Hawkins for a panel presentation at the 2016 MLA/Canadian Health Libraries Association/Association des bibliothèques de la santé du Canada (CHLA/ABSC) joint annual meeting. The collaboration continued as we worked for several months on an article that was published in Journal of the Medical Library Association (JMLA) in 2017, “Advancing the Conversation: Next Steps for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer (LGBTQ) Health Sciences Librarianship.” The article would later be recognized by MLA, and it received the Ida and George Eliot Prize in 2019. I enjoyed seeing how a simple project to participate in a panel presentation can expand and, later, become recognized by my peers.

What do you consider to be the most pressing issues or trends in librarianship?

A pressing issue that has continued to come up is diversity, equity, and inclusion and ensuring that cultural humility is seamlessly integrated within the scope of our work. This is an issue that continually needs work in my job, MLA, and other professional organizations.

What do you do in your spare time?

I spend a lot of time traveling and going to museums. During the COVID-19 quarantine, I’ve been spending a lot of time baking. I’m not good at it, but I hope to improve over time.

What is the best thing you’ve read/watched/listened to recently?

I’ve been watching a lot of plays and musicals that I can stream. I’ve discovered The Goes Wrong Show, which is reminiscent of watching The Play That Goes Wrong. That’s kept my spirits light during the quarantine.

Five words to describe you

After taking the CliftonStrengths test: learner, restorative, intellection, individualization, and strategic.

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