Two Years and Running Strong

Celebrating another blog birthday

close up on a jogger's feet

A little over two years ago, I wrote my first post for NLM Musings from the Mezzanine. Since then, we have not missed a single week! (And a couple of weeks we published twice.) I attribute the streak in no small part to my muse and master, Mary Ann Leonard, who ardently translates my drafts into powerful prose and keeps me motivated with content maps, publication calendars, and the occasional inspirational push.

While I’ve authored 70 blog posts in that time, we’ve supplemented that with 37 guest posts from an array of colleagues, from NLM staff to hospital librarians to patient advocates. It’s a privilege to share their perspectives and expertise on topics ranging from biomedical informatics to basketball, with fair use, disaster preparedness, metagenomics and a host of others in between. And I’m happy to open this platform to them to highlight their ideas and expose their accomplishments, issues, challenges, or initiatives to a larger audience.

Out of the 107 posts published so far, I can’t help but have my favorites.  Walk with Me While I Walk with Those who Walked for Freedom allowed me to reflect on how different populations experience health and access to health care.  Vint Cerf inspired me to think about how NLM could deliver its services in outer space, an initiative that could help us better support communities here on Earth that lack electricity or stable internet. And the contributions from hospital librarians highlight the important roles libraries serve in clinical settings.

I regularly monitor how posts are received, whether through comments or social media. Some posts can garner almost one thousand “shares,” while others struggle to get ten. What does that tell me? That perhaps I did not make my point clearly or strongly enough or that the content did not resonate with my readers. But when I hit the mark and my share count goes up, I feel thrilled to have connected with readers and to have conveyed messages they want to share with others.

I like hearing from people who’ve read the blog, and I appreciate the ideas and perspectives I gain from that exchange. Sometimes people post comments on the blog post itself—and I wholeheartedly encourage and welcome your input—but people also approach me at meetings or conferences to mention something they’ve read. My sisters are avid readers, and occasionally a brother or two will join the mix, so family visits can even prompt some discussion of what I’ve written or what’s going on here at the Library.

Regardless of whom I writing to, I’ve learned to consider how readers might perceive what I am saying and to use those insights to clarify my point, reframe the situation, or refine my argument. That process not only improves my writing; it also hones my thinking and helps me see more fully the topic, the situation, or the path ahead, all good things when you’re leading a large, complex institution.

In that way, the blog helps me work through ideas I’m wrestling with, but it also serves as a means of voicing concerns, announcing new initiatives or program changes, or sharing a bit about myself and how I approach my job as library director. But more than anything else, I appreciate the blog’s role as a weekly reminder to step back and contemplate the work we do here and our services to science and society.

In the coming year, I’m going to turn my attention more toward the science side of that equation. You can expect more posts about our expanded investments in basic biomedical informatics and data science research. I’ll keep you informed about new partnerships with domain scientists to build tools that will accelerate discovery. And we’ll be tackling some complex policy issues as well, such as the data life cycle and the Library’s responsibility to support rigor and reproducibility within federally funded research.

Through it all, week in and week out, I’ll continue to use this blog to open a window into the Library, its operations, and its commitment to biomedical discovery and the health of society. See you next Tuesday!

Author: Patti Brennan

Director, US National Library of Medicine

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