A few members of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Library staff gathered recently to celebrate new colleagues, birthdays, and other milestones. Library staff from left to right: Karen Stakes, Tracie Frederick, Bernadette Mirro, Joelle Mornini, Tracy Shields, Kathleen McGlaughlin, Candice Townsend, Lisa Scanlon, Diane Cooper, Nancy Terry, Joanna Widzer, Nancy Muir, and Cindy Sheffield.
Guest post by Nancy L. Muir, MLS, Director of the NIH Library.
This year’s National Library Week theme is “There’s More to the Story.” A good story has a beginning, a middle, and an end, with an interesting setting and a fascinating cast of characters… and libraries have exceptional stories to tell.
Many libraries began as print collections based on information needs and interests, whether they were for public enjoyment or for a group focused on a particular topic. Over time, they evolved into an essential part of the communities they served, and there is definitely more to the story of what the “library of the future” could look like. Already, collaboration spaces, digital production studios, 3D printers, and many other creative options have grown out of user need and are now a part of many libraries’ stories, including the one about the NIH Library I lead and how it serves NIH researchers and staff.
Then there are the settings where those stories unfold. I have had the privilege of visiting some of the most amazing libraries around the world, including the NIH National Library of Medicine and the Library of Congress, two of our nation’s renowned federal libraries in the DC area. More recently, when I was living abroad, I had the pleasure of touring the British Library in London and the Bodleian Library in Oxford. I have also had the opportunity to run a solo library in a small office space and build a virtual library for a biotech research company, and I’m now reimagining a federal library that serves biomedical researchers. What I have learned in each of these settings is that while space may determine some library services, the characters are more important than the location.
Information professionals’ skills and customer service mindsets provide libraries with the tools to be successful in any setting. The NIH Library has an amazing and diverse set of characters who deliver documents, answer questions ranging from the simple to the complex, provide 3D printing, assist with digital production, and ensure seamless access to our virtual collection. Recently, our cast of characters has expanded to include new protagonists—translators, editors, bioinformaticians, biostatisticians, and others—who support the developing requirements in our organization’s narrative. All staff work diligently to assist NIH researchers throughout the research cycle, often on groundbreaking studies. Our biomedical librarians engage with researchers as they plan, conduct, disseminate, and assess the impact of their research. Our library also developed a robust series of trainings focused on data services, scholarly communication, and evidence synthesis to ensure NIH colleagues better understand how our staff can meet them at their point of need.
As radio broadcaster Paul Harvey might have asked—back in the day when people listened to AM radio and podcasts did not exist—“What is the rest of the story for the NIH Library?” Much like the changing technology, and with the help of our library’s talented professionals, our story is still transforming, with a focus on our customers’ ever-changing information needs in a new hybrid environment.
So whether you work in a library or support your library, during this national weeklong celebration of all libraries, I encourage you to discover what more your library has to offer. And be sure to thank the staff for their help—they are the heroes of this story.
Ms. Muir currently serves as the Director for the NIH Library, which provides information solutions for NIH and HHS researchers through specialized research services and resources. In her role, she focuses on delivering information solutions in a hybrid environment for biomedical studies and to improve health. She first joined the NIH Library in January 2021 as the Branch Chief for Educational Services, where she oversaw the Library’s outreach activities and instructional programs, and brings to her current role additional experience in building and leading MedImmune’s virtual library and developing the Food and Drug Administration Library training program. Ms. Muir received her master’s in library science (MLS) from the University of Maryland.