By Erinn Aspinall
Meet Bridget McKenna, budding scholar, future nurse. She is one of only 150 undergraduate students selected to participate in the College of Liberal Arts Dean’s Freshman Research & Creative Scholars Program. McKenna is also a Freshman Nursing Guarantee, which means she will enter the School of Nursing in her sophomore year.
Through this program, McKenna has learned the present-day value of libraries first-hand, as she was matched with the curators of the Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine — Lois Hendrickson and Emily Beck. They worked collaboratively to select a project based upon McKenna’s interests in nursing, pediatrics, and photography.
“I want to work with babies,” says McKenna. “Currently, I want to be a labor and delivery nurse.”
Her interests aligned perfectly with a project documenting the library’s infant feeding collection. The outcome of McKenna’s work would be a fully-documented inventory of the collection artifacts that could be shared online.
This project is just one example of how the collections of the Wangensteen Historical Library are used every day to shape teaching, learning, and practice at the Academic Health Center.
New building to advance interdisciplinary educational mission
February 2018 marked the groundbreaking for the new interdisciplinary Health Sciences Education Center — the future home for the Bio-Medical and Wangensteen Historical libraries — which is expected to open in early 2020.
These new library spaces and the librarians who staff them will support the information needs of students like McKenna across all health sciences disciplines, bringing together resources that address the changing health sciences environment.
Evidence-based care, big data, a need to accelerate health care innovation, and a call for greater transparency in scientific scholarship have had a significant impact on health care teaching, research, and practice that demands new ways of working with information.
“Our librarians and curators bring new skills related to data management, research reproducibility and rigor, and technology to support this new health care landscape,” says Janice Jaguszewski, Associate University Librarian and Director of the Health Sciences Libraries. “All of this work is supported by our rich contemporary collections and is contextualized by our historical collections that document health and health care over time.”
The importance of library collections and expertise
During the course of her project, McKenna learned the importance of collections for research. Nearly all of the artifacts featured in her work came from the library, along with the majority of her cited sources.
“The Wangensteen Historical Library collections were crucial to the project,” says McKenna. “Without these collections the project would not have been possible.”
She also developed a much deeper understanding of libraries and the research value of librarian expertise while acquiring skills related to primary and secondary research, academic writing, and data visualization.
“All research is a series of failure and success,” says Hendrickson. “Experiencing this — and working through the iterative nature of a research experience — is incredibly transformative.”
McKenna also learned the importance of technology in advancing scholarship. Her final project combined her extensive research on the history of infant feeding — from 2000 B.C. to the present — with her photographic documentation of the collection to create an online interactive timeline that can be shared with scholars around the world.
“It was so cool to integrate new, modern technology with research found from books and artifacts from centuries ago,” says McKenna.
Libraries as ‘glue’ that brings us together
“Working with students like Bridget — along with faculty and researchers within the Academic Health Center — has informed the design of our new libraries within the Health Sciences Education Center,” says Jaguszewski. “We think of our space as a service — planned to advance the skills of our users at important touch points in their academic careers.”
Jon Hallberg, Medical Director and Medical School faculty member, says the Libraries plays a huge role in supporting these future health professionals.
“In health care we focus on three main missions — patient care, education, and scholarship and research — the Libraries brings us together for an interdisciplinary approach to problem solving,” says Hallberg. “They are the glue that brings us together.”
Through McKenna’s introduction to research in the Health Sciences Libraries, she has begun to envision herself a student within the Academic Health Center.
McKenna will soon be entering the School of Nursing. As she navigates through this program, she can use the libraries’ state-of-the-art collections to support her learning and practice — from 3D anatomy resources to evidence-based, point-of-care tools.
As her coursework progresses, she can visit the new Consultation Spaces to connect with her nursing librarian, learn additional scholarly research skills, and apply technology to support her academic goals.
“Students can use our 1:Button Video Recording Studios to practice presentations and complete course assignments,” said Jaguszewski. “They might even work in our Virtual Reality Studio where they can review health-related procedures and reinforce anatomy lessons in a 3D immersive environment.”
Support for faculty teaching and research
Faculty will also have many touch points in the new library spaces within the Health Sciences Education Center. For example, they will be able to use the Faculty Commons to connect with instructional designers and academic technologists to incorporate educational best practices into their courses — or visit the Libraries for guidance on their scientific research.
“Our new library spaces will allow faculty to meet one-on-one with librarians who have expertise in grant funding, publishing, and data management,” says Jaguszewski. “Our services will support them as they complete systematic reviews of the literature, measure research impact, or immerse themselves in historical research to inform their work and practice.”
Jaguszewski adds that the libraries play an important role in helping put information into practice.
“Our emerging technology and innovation strategists can help prototype and refine tools in our Makerspace that may one day improve the patient experience,” she says.
The Health Sciences Libraries have been an essential partner with the Academic Health Center in helping prepare tomorrow’s health providers. Through the seamless integration of the Bio-Medical and Wangensteen Historical libraries within the new Health Sciences Education Center, that partnership will continue well into the future.