Purdue Libraries and School of Information Studies News

Purdue Medical Librarian Bethany McGowan’s Work Focuses on Information and Data Literacy Instruction

Purdue Medical Librarian Bethany McGowan’s Work Focuses on Information and Data Literacy Instruction

October 10th, 2019

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Relatedly, I co-chair an Association of College and Research Libraries working group to redesign the outdated Information Literacy Competency Standards for Nursing into a Framework for Information Literacy for Nursing.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!

NNLM $20K Award to Fund Project for Purdue Libraries and School of Information Studies Faculty Studying Biomedical Data Challenges

May 23rd, 2019

Bethany McGowan, Purdue University Libraries and School of Information Studies
Bethany McGowan

Recently, two members of Purdue University Libraries and School of Information Studies faculty were selected to receive a Research Data Award from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM). The $20,000 grant award for the project, “Understanding Rates of Attrition in Biomedical Data Challenges: A Study of Failure,” will enable Purdue Libraries and School of Information Studies Assistant Professor Bethany McGowan and Associate Professor Ilana Stonebraker to provide research data management training to students.

The award will facilitate a variety of training workshops including: FAIR Data Principles; Research Data Management Basics: Finding and Organizing Data; Cleaning and Formatting Data with OpenRefine; General Tips for Visualizing Biomedical Data; Biomedical Data Visualization with Tableau; and Useful R Packages for Analyzing and Visualizing Biomedical Data. The grant period began May 1 and will conclude April 30, 2020.

The workshops are part of a larger research project through which McGowan and Stonebraker will conduct a study to understand rates of attrition in biomedical data challenges.

Ilana Stonebraker, Purdue University Libraries and School of Information Studies
Ilana Stonebraker

“Our study will examine student motivation for participation in extracurricular innovation challenges, such as hackathons and case competitions, which involve the use of biomedical data, in an attempt to understand failure and reduce rates of attrition in these events,” said McGowan, who is the project lead.

In addition to presenting results of their research at conferences throughout the year, McGowan and Stonebraker will develop a digital open-education resource toolkit to help guide librarians in recruiting for and retaining diverse student populations in data-hacking challenges.

According to the NNLM’s Greater Midwest Region (GMR) website, the project supports Goal 3 of the National Library of Medicine’s Strategic Plan, which is to build a workforce for data-driven research and health.

“It supports the aligning objectives to expand and enhance research training for biomedical informatics and data science, to assure data science and open science proficiency, to increase workforce diversity, and to engage the next generation and promote data literacy,” states the NNLM GMR website.