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Joan Bentley Hoffman, the Library’s Associate Director of Development, recently won a Frederick T. Gates Award for Outstanding Performance from University Alumni Relations and Development. Named for one of the University’s founders and its first fundraiser, the Gates Award recognizes staff whose work goes above and beyond their daily duties and has significant impact across development teams. Applications cannot come from the nominee’s direct manager, and employees are encouraged to nominate colleagues outside their own team. As a result, the winners are individuals who not only exemplify superior achievement within their unit but also effectively collaborate with other development teams around the University.
At the awards ceremony at the July 18 all-development staff meeting, a quote was read from Bentley Hoffman’s nomination: “Since Joan moved on to the Library, she has become a key collaborator for so many people across campus—engaging alumni and donors, working on gifts, giving tours of Mansueto, and always making herself available to clarify the sometimes confusing animal that the Library can be. Joan is also an alumna of the University and it shows in the careful thought that goes into how she communicates with alumni and donors. She does this with grace and a humility which sometimes disguises what a tenacious development officer she is.”
Vedana Vaidhyanathan has joined the staff of the John Crerar Library as the new Biomedical Reference Librarian and Informatics Specialist. Vedana comes to the University of Chicago from the University of Miami, where she was a Biomedical Research Librarian at the Miller School of Medicine’s Louis Calder Memorial Library in the department of Health Informatics. Providing reference, instruction and outreach was a critical aspect of Vedana’s position at Miami. In addition, she served on the University of Miami Medical School Sophomore and Freshman Promotions Committee, as well as the Medical School Basic Sciences Curriculum Advisory Committee.
Vedana has a Master of Science in Library Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her Master’s Paper was entitled Why Can’t It All Be On the Web? The Information Needs of Biomedical Informatics Scientists. In addition, Vedana has completed a fellowship at the Carolina Center for Genome Sciences and the UNC Health Sciences Library, and was a fellow at the Medical Informatics MBL/NLM course at Woods Hole. These fellowships and her work experience at the University of Miami have provided her with critical skills in the field of biomedical research and informatics.
Vedana is also Secretary of the India-United States Transplant Foundation Inc. and was a volunteer leader with “Hands On Miami” before coming to Chicago.
Barbara Kern, Co-Director of the Science Libraries, interviewed Vedana to find out how she plans to work with faculty and students, and what she sees as emerging trends in the field of biomedical librarianship and informatics.
Vedana can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and has an office in the John Crerar Library, room 131.
Q: Vedana, what originally got you interested in Biomedical Librarianship and more specifically, Informatics?
At my graduate school orientation, a professor stood up and announced he had several research positions open, and that students should go talk with him. I went to his office and he told me about bioinformatics. I was intrigued. I ended up completing a two-year fellowship in bioinformatics and genetics. In the first year, I learned how bioinformatics affected systems, and in the second year I spent more time going out to the public, seeking out users to aid them in their research. I finished the fellowship with my master’s paper on the information seeking behavior of bioinformatics researchers.
Q: How have you worked with faculty at the University of Miami’s School of Medicine?
At Miami I worked with faculty both inside and outside of the university curriculum. I was an instructor for evidence-based medicine, which meant I worked with faculty and taught first- and second-year medical students the basics of the evidence-based process. I also worked with them on their individual projects. I did everything from helping students with their research to teaching them how to use bibliographic tools like RefWorks.
Q: You completed a fellowship at the Medical Informatics MBL/NLM course at Woods Hole. What did you learn there and how do you apply it in your work?
The fellowship consisted of modules on different topics in informatics, which gave me a taste of the different subfields within informatics. I learned about the latest ideas and techniques in the field and did an in-depth project dissecting an electronic health record to make it more intuitive and user-friendly. I have been contemplating how informatics is crossing into different disciplines since this occurred. Knowledge of ethics, law and geography are important when considering the future of informatics, since it has moved out of the laboratory and into the world.
Q: How will you work with faculty and students in your role?
I hope to be able to offer tutorials on different databases for faculty and students, along with helping them with their research and showcasing how the library can play a role in informatics. I also hope to design some programming about the different kinds of informatics especially for the students to show them how informatics could be part of their careers.
Q: What are the key challenges or trends in informatics for researchers and librarians?
The trends today include connecting the work done in the lab to the patient (translational informatics) and having more interdisciplinary research done in the field. My biggest challenge is getting exposure, both to the subject matter and to the people working in the subject so they can see how the library can help them with their projects.
Q: Miami is warm and Chicago is cold. How are you adjusting?
Some days are easier than others. I did have days in Miami where I remember driving around with the windows open in 80 degrees in January, but I also remember the hurricanes, and that makes me happy to be here. I have several coats, and have been wearing them (sometimes more than one). So far I am searching for warmer socks, since even the wool socks I own are making my feet cold. I do love being able to walk to work and not having a car, compared to Miami where I had to drive everywhere. Living here has been a wonderful change.
Sem Sutter, Assistant Director for Collections for the University of Chicago Library, will be leaving us in late October. He has accepted a position as Head of Collection Development at Georgetown University Library beginning November 1.
Sem’s career at the University of Chicago Library spans 32 years and a wide range of positions. While a graduate student, he began working in the privileges office, followed by seven years in Special Collections. In 1987 he became Bibliographer for German and French literature. Over the years he added Scandinavian, Italian, English and American literatures to his portfolio and his title became Bibliographer for Modern Literatures. Since 2000 he has served as the Library’s collection development officer in a period of rapid change to a hybrid digital and print environment.
Sem is also well respected internationally for his scholarship over the last 15 years concerning the fate of libraries and archives in Europe during and after World War II— including their evacuation, confiscation or plunder, and (in some cases) their eventual restitution, having presented his research at conferences in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Austria, and the Czech Republic, and in volumes such as The Holocaust and the Book: Destruction and Preservation, edited by Jonathan Rose (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001).
With a fine mind and collegial personality, Sem has brought his management style to bear on collection development with the unfailing commitment to keep Chicago’s collections strong. His leadership as a member of the Administrative Committee, as chair of the Public Services Steering Committee, and co-chair of the Digital Collections Steering Committee, and his work as hands-on builder of collections leave an invaluable legacy. Collection building and stewardship, and services to our users, areas of Chicago’s great strength, are closely connected with Sem’s tenure here. As we engage in the exciting work of updating collections and services for the library of the 21st century, Sem’s invaluable legacy will inform our thinking.
Photo by John Booz.