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Value Creating Education in libraries and medical education

Historically, Libraries have had a more physical identity as a place to access information on shelves. In the past 20 years, information associated with academic libraries began a transition to provide students and faculty with increasing access and reliance on digital collections. This transition to the online, digital library means that library information used to study and review is available to university students 24/7/365, though that access will expire when a student graduates. Academic library services have also evolved to serve the digital study and research environment. There continue to problems of information inequity, where not all universities can afford the comprehensive research collections found at the most highly selected universities.

I have been fortunate to have a work history of library collections and services at three American medical schools, including my current appointment as Library Director at Rowan University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine. I have also been a Founding Library Director in mainland China for a new University with municipal funding and fiscal limitations on my ability to provide the kinds of digital and print collections that universities in America expect.

Since 2003 I have also had a part-time position teaching students in library science graduate programs. Since 2007 I have taught for the School of Information at San Jose State University.

What does value creating education mean to me? Value creation education begins with having the wisdom to appreciate every situation we face and transform and situation into joy, hope, and victory. Education for creating value starts with the situation, with the learning objective, and the learners in a given situation. Librarians know that some situations are governed by a classroom setting where the instructor has invited the librarian to demonstrate, or teach, effective information discovery. Other occasions allow the librarian to try to appreciate the situational goal or task when an individual student or researcher asks for assistance. Through librarian dialogue with the information seeker, the need and/or situation is clarified, and the librarian proceeds to provide hope, satisfaction, and victory.

When I became the founding library director for a Chinese-American cooperative university, my charge was not just assemble a print and digital resource library, but also to prepare these Chinese students studying in English to develop library research skills and information competencies that would serve them after their graduation, which for many of them would be pursuing a graduate degree from a university in an English speaking country like the United States, Canada, Australia, or the United Kingdom. Some of the instructors at my Chinese university did invite me to their classroom, because independent library research was required for an assignment. Rather than just rely on these classroom encounters to engage students, I also created optional information literacy and information discovery activities at non-class times and took advantage of an incentive I could offer students. My American university had a system of co-curricular transcript credit that students could earn for volunteer or optional activities. I was the first librarian at either the American or Chinese University to create library-sponsored activities to earn this optional co-curricular transcript credit. This is an example of situational wisdom of leveraging a system of value to provide tangible motivation for students to attend a book discussion or learn about library research tools outside of the classroom. Having these non-classroom value creative educational activities sponsored by my library was one of my most treasured accomplishments as a founding library director.

A different kind of community education took place during my non-work time in China. I decided to offer free cultural events that would educate the Chinese public about the history of jazz music, a unique original American art form. Rather than lecture, I wanted to educate using the actual performances of jazz artists that were available on YouTube. Because YouTube is not available in China, I downloaded the video performances, then I presented the videos from my computer with narrative descriptions. Over my five years in China, I presented video events at least 20 times, in Chinese libraries, coffee shops, and bookstores around my Chinese city. I usually invited a friend to be my translator, so that the audience would have an accurate understanding of my educational intent in the narration I provided. These events were free for the public. I often received engaging questions, sometimes in English and sometimes in Chinese through my translator. Each occasion and venue was a unique situation that were sometimes challenging when the technology to project my computer’s output did not work as expected. Flexibility, calm, and hope were needed, and in one case my event started two hours late, and the audience was very patient and eventually rewarded.

Currently I direct a library at a medical school just east of Philadelphia, in Stratford, New Jersey. When librarians teach or support graduate students in longitudinal programs like medicine, preparing them for professional roles such as physicians or health providers, these doctors in training are extremely challenged as individual learners to absorb and demonstrate mastery of knowledge and skills, while being challenged to join team-based professional practice or research organizations, primarily hospitals. Continuing education must take place, as medical knowledge and research experience continues to evolve and change. I create value in my relationships with medical students, offering training and support in a variety of formats at a moment of acute need, as well as emphasizing information techniques to stay current in their medical specialty or research area. I also provide hope and encouragement when you can see stress on students faces. Every student has individual needs and challenges, as well as the weight of expectations from their families that that have supported their most basic needs. The dialogue with an information seeker clarifies the need, which may even be patient related.

Everyone encounters physicians and other kinds of health professionals with which you develop a trusting relationship that should give you hope and confidence in making your health choices and solving your health challenges.I want you to reflect on your care providers and think about how they were students that were motivated to become an ethical and compassionate care providers by an education team that included librarians.


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