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I Am MLA: Don P. Jason III

Submitted by Don P. Jason III; edited by JJ Pionke

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

Institution: Donald C. Harrison Health Sciences Library, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

Title: Health Informationist

Brief description of responsibilities

I serve as the health informationist for the University of Cincinnati’s (UC’s) Donald C. Harrison Health Sciences Library. In my role, I assist clinical care staff with grant writing, literature searching, systematic reviews, and outcomes-based projects. I also provide library instruction on clinical data capture tools, library databases, and citation management software. The health informationist role is filled with dynamic challenges, and there is a constant need to gain new technical skills. My job responsibilities recently expanded. I was appointed to UC Libraries’ Research & Data Services Unit (R&DS). In this unit, I work with a committed team to plan events that teach the UC research community about data science. The two events that I frequently assist with are the Data and Computational Science Series (DCSS) and Data Day. Both events feature innovative workshops, panel discussions, and lectures given by distinguished speakers. The events cover topics such as high-performance computing, cloud computing, data visualization, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. R&DS also teaches skill-building workshops on Python, R, and geographic information system (GIS) software. It also provides individual consultations with researchers and their teams. In the consultations, R&DS team members develop data management plans and help researchers deposit their data into institutional repositories.

Why is MLA important to you?

MLA is important to me because it gives me an avenue to connect with librarians from across the country. It has helped me build my professional network and given me a platform to learn, lead, and grow as a professional. MLA members have a wealth of experience. Some are entry level, some are midcareer, and some are in senior management positions. The MLA annual meeting and MLA virtual events give me unprecedented access to these information professionals. Many of these library colleagues are more than happy to share their stories, provide guidance, and serve as mentors.

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

I have three pieces of professional advice. One, I would encourage new MLA leaders to ask questions. Asking questions allows you to learn and grow as a professional. Seeking clarification gives you a deeper understanding of why MLA functions in a specific way or why a policy or protocol is in place. Two, I would encourage new leaders to take calculated risks. For example, work on projects with people you don’t know or work on projects that take you out of your comfort zone. Three, I would encourage new MLA leaders to mentor another MLA member. Whether the leader has six months of experience or six years of experience, they have a story to tell and knowledge to share. All it takes to serve as a mentor is a willingness to give your time, an ability to listen, and an open mind.

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

The most interesting project I have worked on was a National Institutes of Health (NIH)/National Library of Medicine (NLM) informationist supplement grant. This grant program encourages NIH-funded researchers to add librarians to their research teams. In my case, the research team was studying manganese exposure in Appalachian communities. Three librarians were added to the team to update the study’s website with consumer health information. We also created data visualizations to illustrate the team’s research findings. Finally, we helped the research team deposit data into the UC institutional repository. This interdisciplinary experience helped me grow as an information professional.

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

There are several pressing issues that impact information professionals. The first issue is visibility. Librarians are very good at doing behind-the-scenes work. They conduct literature searches for faculty. They manage citations for research teams. They catalog and index resources, etc. These tasks are critically important to institutions’ academic missions, but the decision-makers and higher-ups do not see them. Librarians must step into the forefront and show that they add value to their institutions. They will need to move from introverts to extroverts and become their own cheerleaders. They can do this by advocating for coauthorship on articles and grant applications. They can join high-profile committees at their universities. Librarians can also find ways to lead initiatives and serve as project managers. Second, librarians will need to learn technical skills at a rapid pace. Professional development funds are few and far between in most libraries, so learning new skills in traditional ways may not be possible. Librarians must explore creative ways to gain skills. They may choose to attend free local training events, take Coursera classes, or watch training videos on YouTube or LinkedIn Learning.

Bucket list

I have several things on my bucket list, but one of the most pressing things is the desire to write a book. I have written articles and book chapters, but never an entire book. I may take a creative writing class and start working on a novel.

What do you do in your spare time?

I have started embracing health and fitness. I work out for one hour per day. I turn my cell phone and email off and consider this to be my “me time.” My workouts include lifting weights at the gym or just going for a walk in my neighborhood. I find it refreshing to be alone with my thoughts. I generate my best ideas during my workouts.

Words to describe you

Creative, open-minded, solution-oriented.

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