The More Things Change . . .

reorganization concept: arrows show employees moving within an organizational pyramid with a collage of faces in the background

Back in January, I shared our plans for aligning the National Library of Medicine’s (NLM’s) organizational structure with the goals and vision in the 2017-2027 Strategic Plan. Now, in the heat of summer, it’s time to tell you about our progress.

We’ve come a long way, while remaining true to our mission and commitment to be a source of trusted health information.

First things first.

We’re guided by a strategic plan that affirms our pledge to support data-driven science, engage with stakeholders, and build a workforce for the future while preserving our essential role as a National Library that collects, organizes, and disseminates biomedical and life sciences information to the public through offerings such as PubMed, the database of Genotypes and Phenotypes (dbGaP), and MedlinePlus.

We examined all aspects of our organization, which encompasses 1,700 people, five key divisions, operational processes and practices related to our technical and physical infrastructure elements, and myriad offerings. Our efforts revealed—and reinforced—the immense talent that exists across NLM. They also identified opportunities for improving efficiency and effectiveness.

Perhaps the biggest transition in 20 years has been the sunset of the Specialized Information Services (SIS) division, with staff and programs being integrated across the Library. We will continue to work out logistics associated with this transition and will provide notice of changes on the SIS home page. In the meantime, I’d like to acknowledge the recently retired SIS leaders, Florence Chang, Acting Associate Director, and Janice Kelly, Acting Deputy Associate Director, for guiding an outstanding, dedicated team through a complex transition. I hope you will join me in thanking them for their service to NLM and wishing them well as they embark on new journeys.

We consolidated our outreach, training, and engagement activities and created an Office of Engagement and Training (OET) within the Division of Library Operations. Headed by Amanda J. Wilson, this office brings together many of the outreach and training staff and services from across the library, along with the National Network of Libraries of Medicine. We’ll be better able to coordinate outreach activities when and where they are needed most, launch national efforts, and institute modern planning and evaluation processes to ensure that our efforts are effective.

We evaluated the quality and sustainability of many NLM public offerings. Some key resources, such as TOXNET and ClinicalTrials.gov, moved to more modern, robust technical platforms to ensure security and sustainability. Some offerings were sunsetted, with the information integrated into more sustainable resources. As we continue to examine NLM’s offerings, we’ll post updates in the NLM Technical Bulletin.

We worked with workforce development experts to better understand the talents and goals of the more than 50 staff members who joined new teams or have new jobs. The creative design staff from our Audiovisual Program Development Branch (APDB) merged with the Office of Communications and Public Liaison, establishing a more powerful team that will use a wider array of video, images, and technology to tell the NLM story. The technical staff from APDB joined the Office of Computer and Communications Systems, affording greater coordination of our information technology, computer, and audiovisual production activities.

Some NLM staff have taken on new roles. For instance, in Library Operations, Stacey Arnesen, who led the Disaster Information Management Research Center, is now Deputy Director for the Public Services Division and Jeanne Goshorn, who led the Biomedical Information Services Branch, is now Deputy Director for the Bibliographic Services Division. Victor Cid joined the Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications’ Cognitive Science Branch and Dan Gerendasy, Chief of International Programs, kept his same role and joined OET.

To prepare staff for a future of data science, we developed the Data Science @NLM Training Program. As part of this program, each staff member completed a self-assessment and received an individual development plan that included activities such as self-study or participation in an in-depth training course.

Everyone’s present or future work will be touched by data science—from our indexers who need to interpret literature using new analytics, to our investigators who employ machine learning to power up natural language processing, to our purchasing clerks who invoice for cloud services. We’ve developed new work groups, sometimes by adding one or two new people to a branch or merging two smaller groups into one.

For better collaboration, some staff teams have moved from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) main campus to larger facilities off campus, allowing work groups that should work together to be together. And some of our meeting rooms have been equipped with better technology to enhance telework and promote staff productivity.

We’re preparing to hire new investigators for our intramural program and ensuring our research labs are equipped for data science. We’ve already renovated part of the Lister Hill Center to bring the ClinicalTrials.gov team together in one place and will be strengthening our physical infrastructure and our technological platforms. We’re planning a four-year renovation of the main Library building. The renovation will create more flexible work spaces for more than 150 people on the first floor and mezzanine, a new integrated reading room for our patrons, and a state-of-the-art training facility, as well as contribute to our ongoing efforts to increase our collection space.

How did all of this happen so quickly?

The outstanding staff at NLM is full of people willing to make plans and try new things despite some uncertainties. I’m grateful to Library staff and NIH leadership for their support as we journey into the future together.

As always, I’ll continue to keep you posted about key developments and milestones that take place along the way!

Author: Patti Brennan

Director, US National Library of Medicine

3 thoughts on “The More Things Change . . .”

  1. I would love to know how decreasing access to medical information by discontinuing Lonesome Docs helps to improve the provision of evidence-based care.

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  2. Thank you for your question about Loansome Doc. Due to a significant decline in the use of Loansome Doc, NLM made the difficult decision to discontinue this product. We remain committed to users accessing biomedical literature with more literature being freely available from NLM through PMC and other sources and via the DOCLINE interlibrary loan service. You can learn about alternate ways to access the literature in this issue of the NLM Technical Bulletin. Also when using PubMed, you can use the “Send to email” option as a way to reach out to libraries that may be able to help.

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