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October is National Medical Librarians Month, and Purdue University Libraries and School of Information Studies (PULSIS) Assistant Professor and Health Sciences Information Specialist Bethany McGowan, who has close to ten years of academic medical librarian experience, notes that 2019 brings medical librarians two years into the current U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) Strategic Plan, 2017-2027. Below, she shares the kind of work she does as a medical librarian at Purdue and in the field of library science.

Bethany McGowan, Purdue University Libraries and School of Information Studies

Bethany McGowan

by Bethany McGowan

The NLM Strategic Plan, 2017-2027, focuses on three goals:

  • accelerating discovery and advancing health by providing the tools for data-driven research,
  • reaching more people in more ways through enhanced dissemination and engagement pathways, and
  • building a workforce for data-driven research and health.

The NLM strategic plan, along with the PULSIS strategic plan, guide my work as a medical librarian. As assistant professor and a health sciences information specialist, I focus on information literacy and data literacy instruction. This includes working with health sciences faculty to scaffold information literacy (IL) instruction throughout curriculums, through course design programs, such as IMPACT (Instruction Matters: Purdue Academic Course Transformation), and by establishing collaborations with the health sciences faculty who influence curriculum development, at the individual course level and across curriculums at a programmatic level.

Relatedly, I co-chair an Association of College and Research Libraries working group to redesign the outdated Information Literacy Competency Standards for Nursing into a Framework for Information Literacy for Nursing. After a comprehensive literature review and surveying nursing faculty across nine research and teaching colleges and universities, our working group has concluded that scaffolding information literacy throughout course and program curriculum provides the most comprehensive means to disseminate information literacy instruction and engage students. We are working hard to develop a practical tool that will make it easier for librarians to build connections with nursing faculty, to better understand strategies for integrating information literacy instruction across course and program curriculums, and to better understand student-centered approaches for information literacy instruction.

I support data-driven research and believe that libraries are the perfect place to teach data literacy via extracurricular data challenges like “hackathons” and “datathons.” My research focuses on strategies for engaging participants who might not otherwise compete in data challenges, like health sciences students, women, and minorities.

I was recently awarded an NLM grant to explore why students participate in and drop out of data challenges, and I will use my findings to create an open educational resource that librarians can use to recruit and retain diverse participation in these events.

I’m also leading the team planning the 2020 Purdue Women in Data Science (WiDS) datathon and conference, events focused on highlighting the contributions of women in data science.

Finally, I’m interested in the global impacts of the open data and open access movements. I have been active with the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) Health and Biosciences Section for the past few years, and this year, I was elected information officer for the section. As our section collaborates with the Association for Health Information and Libraries in Africa (AHILA) to plan the 2021 AHILA Congress in South Africa. I plan to use the experience to consider how my expertise might support the data and information interests and needs of librarians in African countries. I hope it will be a launchpad for future collaborations.

Ultimately, the work I do is incredibly fulfilling, and I’m proud to be a part of such a supportive community. Happy National Medical Librarians Month to all my fellow medical librarians!