By Allison Campbell-Jensen
In January, Erinn Aspinall was named interim Director of the Health Sciences Libraries. She has worked in the Health Sciences Libraries since 2007. Prior to becoming interim Director, she served as HSL’s Associate Director for Program Development and Strategy. Aspinall’s career reflects a commitment to the health sciences, with previous positions at the University of Michigan, the National Institutes of Health, and the University of New Mexico. Aspinall earned her Master of Science in Information from the University of Michigan.
You’ve been involved in so many areas of the Health Sciences Libraries (HSL). You were co-chair of the transition of HSL into Health Sciences Education Center, oversaw the revamping of the HSL website, and have worked on budgets and with donor relations, among other things. Is there anything you haven’t done at HSL?
You’re right. I have worked on a wide variety of projects and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. My time at the Health Sciences Libraries helped me develop a deep understanding of our work, from our contemporary and historical collections to our facilities, budgets, and services. I intend to bring the skills and knowledge gained from my work to my new role.
One of the great benefits of my broad experience is that I have been able to work closely with colleagues within HSL and across the Libraries. I’ve found that the projects are great learning experiences, but I really value the people who enrich our work and make the day so much more enjoyable.
What opportunities does this new position open up for you? What are you excited about?
Much of my work to date has been behind the scenes and, while I find this personally rewarding, I look forward to being the voice of the Health Sciences Libraries as we build and sustain strong partnerships within the Academic Health Sciences. I can’t wait.
What are the challenges in your new role?
I’m fortunate that I’m stepping into this new role with a strong understanding of our work and with great trust in the excellence and expertise of my colleagues. With COVID, we haven’t been able to fully realize our work in our new location. Our efforts in the next year will be to focus on a seamless reopening of our spaces and related programming, and the moving of our historical and contemporary collections. Our Makerspace, Virtual Reality Studio, and Data + Visualization Lab have already shown meaningful outcomes in health sciences teaching and research that will only grow as these space-based services open. And while this work will be a monumental effort, it is one that we’ve been prepared for and have been looking forward to for a very long time.
How does being the Interim Director of HSL mesh with your role on the Libraries’ Strategic Planning Team?
Two things come to mind as I consider the connection between my new role and my work on the Libraries’ Strategic Planning Team.
First, having worked within health sciences libraries throughout my career, I like to keep evidence-based practice in mind. This approach takes three things into account 1) the evidence, 2) your personal expertise, and 3) needs of the individual to shape decision-making. As the Strategic Planning Team worked through a discovery process with an environmental scan and needs assessment, I now have a better understanding of the evidence and the individual needs that will help shape a path for the future.
I also learned that our University community feels welcome and included at the Libraries and I want to build upon this strong foundation. I want to invest in inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility, and will do my best to approach this work from a place of humility and with a goal to learn and listen to every voice. I want to work together to create spaces, resources, and services that meaningfully demonstrate that you belong at the Libraries.
When you started in 2007 as Special Projects Librarian, how did you see your path to advancement? Could you have envisioned becoming Interim Director?
I have actually envisioned this career path from the very beginning. I was able to explore management in my post-graduate fellowship and crafted that experience with a leadership role in mind. I made the decision to step back from that path to spend time with my young children, but was able to keep connected professionally during that period. It took 14 years to navigate back to my envisioned path, but I’m so glad to be here.