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I Am MLA: Heather Stevens

Submitted by Heather Stevens 
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Institution: SAGE Medical Library, Cottage Health in Santa Barbara, CA

Title: Senior Librarian 

Brief description of what you do/your responsibilities at your institution:

As a hospital librarian, I wear so many hats! I support evidence-based practice in all its forms, from assisting clinicians with information at the point of care to providing material for nursing education, to educating residents on the basics of research. I also work with hospital administration on larger projects that require planning and fact-finding. Because the library is part of the Cottage Health Research Institute, I provide research support at all levels. Additionally, I do a lot of collection development and assessment, as well as assist with scholarly communications.

Why is MLA important to you?

MLA is such an important place for me because it connects me to so many incredible people, and provides me with opportunities to learn, grow, and connect that I wouldn’t have otherwise. It enables me to grow as a librarian amongst like-minded people who share my professional passions. The continuing education opportunities make me a better librarian. Through MLA, I’ve been able to earn the Level II Consumer Health Information Specialization, which in turn led to my participation in the NLM’s pilot Train the Trainer program, in which I received training and resources to become a consumer health information instructor for other librarians and health information providers.  I look forward to the conference every year as a chance to learn from and contribute further to the profession and meet up with people I work with throughout the year. 

Why did you become a librarian?

I stumbled into librarianship by accident. An MLIS looked good for my original education and career path. However, when I began taking library classes, I was completely drawn in. I was awakened to the power of libraries to improve lives and communities through the dissemination of information and resources. Very quickly, I grew to love librarianship. I knew I had to be a librarian. It just clicked with so many of my personal and professional values that it was immediately very satisfying work. I became a librarian because I deeply resonated with the power of libraries to facilitate the democratization of knowledge and resources, and to safeguard intellectual freedom.

What was your first library job or first professional position?

My first job in a library was as a volunteer in a municipal library in a teeny tiny town in the French countryside. The library was in a converted post office. The mail slot had been converted to a book drop! I volunteered there before I was enrolled in an MLIS program. I eventually became a librarian (or "bibliothécaire) at that library. After several years and several timely retirements, I worked my way up as Directrice! 

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

I was a member of the Censorship and Libraries workgroup, which was formed to create the MLA Censorship and Library Practices Toolkit. This was such a timely and rewarding project to work on.  

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

There are many pressing issues for the profession currently. I think the most serious among them are the unknowns and uncertainty around the roles of AI in the information landscape, and the growing threats to intellectual freedom/freedom of ideas/freedom to read. 

What is something you have on your "bucket list"?

There are so many things on my bucket list! Much of it consists of traveling. One of the big things I hope to do soon is see the northern lights in Iceland. I also want to swim the Santa Barbara Channel, from Anacapa Island to Oxnard. 

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

I love being active outdoors. I ocean swim at least once a week, surf badly, kayak, paddleboard, hike, and camp often. I'm also learning ceramics. I find the intersection of functional art, manual coordination, chemistry, and imagination very satisfying. 

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

I recently watched the John Carpenter classic The Thing for the first time. It held up pretty well as a horror film. I really enjoyed it.  

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

I was homeschooled in very rural Mississippi until high school. 

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