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I Am MLA: Karen O'Grady

Submitted by Karen O'Grady; edited by Elizabeth Hinton.
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Institution: University of San Diego

Title: Nursing Librarian

Brief description of responsibilities:

I am the embedded librarian for the Hahn School of Nursing and the Beyster Institute for Nursing Research. Our nursing school is unique in that we have no undergraduate students, only master's and doctoral students. Most of what I do is help students and faculty with their research: database searching, APA questions, nursing measurement and instrumentation, and copyright assistance.

Why is MLA important to you?

The classes offered by MLA are just excellent! I make sure to keep up on all the class offerings. I have learned so much! Also, I am the only medical librarian on my campus, so it is nice to be part of community that understands what I'm doing.

What was your first library job or first professional position?

My very first library job was working as a page at the San Francisco Public Library. I had not even started library school yet. I loved it, but then a friend of a friend asked me if I was interested in becoming a library assistant at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco, and that was it for me. I knew I wanted to become a medical librarian. I started my master’s degree at San Jose State in 2006 aiming for medical librarianship, and it has been an extremely rewarding career choice for me.

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

Far and away, the most fun and successful project this year has been the First Friday Forums (sponsored by ACRL’s Health Sciences Interest Group). Every other first Friday of the month, we invite academic medical librarians from all over the country to chime in on Zoom and discuss our successes, failures, tips, thoughts, and experiences. We keep it pretty loose and we don't record it, which we think makes people more comfortable and chattier. Our participation increases every meeting, and we are receiving rave reviews.

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

The most pressing issue for me personally is nursing librarianship becoming its own unique thing. As library patrons, nurses and nursing students are totally different from doctors or residents. They have different needs, and they ask questions in different ways. Nursing scholarship and nursing research have exploded recently, with nursing doctoral programs popping up everywhere. I feel strongly that medical librarians should strive to understand nurses more, and to treat them as respectfully as we treat doctors. I think everyone would agree that a hospital stay would be so much worse without the amazing work that nurses do. We owe them our gratitude and respect when they come to us with information needs.

What do you do in your spare time, for fun, or to relax?

"Run, swim, yoga, repeat” is my formula for a happy life!

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

I am listening to a book called, "The Once and Future Witches" by Alix E. Harrow. One of the main characters is a librarian, and much is made of her identity as a librarian. She is neither a harsh spinster nor a one-dimensional temptress wearing glasses. The book is historical fiction set just after the Salem witch trials. It has an ultra-feminist message, superior writing, and a thrilling storyline. It is the best book I have listened to in years.

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

I served in the Peace Corps (Cambodia 2013-2015). I joined when I was 42.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of completing the Alcatraz swim in the San Francisco Bay. I made several attempts and was pulled out of the water for being too slow on many occasions. The day I finally made it to shore was one of the best days of my life.

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