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I Am MLA: Marie T. Ascher

Submitted by Marie T. Ascher; edited by JJ Pionke

Become an “I Am MLA” ambassador today by completing the I Am MLA profile form.

Institution: Health Sciences Library, New York Medical College–Valhalla

Title: Lillian Hetrick Huber Endowed Director

Brief description of responsibilities

I oversee the Health Sciences Library at New York Medical College, which is in Valhalla, NY (about twenty-five miles north of Manhattan). I have a staff of eighteen library professionals with whom I manage all functions, collections, the space, and the budget of the library. I sit on the Senior Leadership team of the college, and I advocate for the information needs of all of our constituents and assure our library provides excellent service and the best suite of resources we can.

Why is MLA important to you?

MLA has helped me create connections with people with the same professional interests as me. Over the years, I have collaborated on many, many projects and brainstormed so many ideas with my MLA colleagues. MLA is truly my professional home, and I have made many friends and acquaintances directly through my involvement with MLA. I love MLA.

Why did you become a librarian?

My first job out of college was working in an endocrinology research lab at the VA Hospital in Philadelphia. The person who hired me was my sister. We spent a lot of late nights and long days preparing for and conducting experiments together. But I also did two things directly related to becoming a librarian: (1) I organized my principal investigator’s (PI’s) article files by populating a FileMaker Pro database and creating a little library for her, and (2) I spent a lot of hours doing literature searches at the University of Pennsylvania’s Biomedical Library. Somewhere in that process, I decided I wanted to be a librarian. It just fit. I’ve never regretted it.

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

So many! I have had some great jobs including working at the New York Academy of Medicine, where I created the Grey Literature Report and ran the East Harlem Information Outreach Project. And I’ve worked on some great projects with MLA including work with Jonathan Eldredge, AHIP, on defining the Research Agenda and the Systematic Review Project. But I think my current pet project, the Critical Appraisal Institute for Librarians (CAIFL), is my favorite. It feels like giving back to the profession and opening up what it means to be a librarian by providing knowledge that helps our colleagues gain a broader understanding of the medical literature. I hope that for many this equates with more professional opportunities.

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

Changing publishing models. Open access, preprint servers, seamless cross-platform pay-as-you-go access to articles. How does it change what it means to be a library if we don’t own anything?

What do you do in your spare time?

I miss live music most of all right now in COVID time. We’ve been working a lot on the house and spending time with the immediate family, our dogs, and the chickens. But I don’t really have what I would call “spare time.” It’s all spent.

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

I’m really enjoying watching The Umbrella Academy on Netflix right now.

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

I mostly eat every other day—unless I’m at MLA, where all bets are off!

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