by Allison Jensen

Erinn AspinallThose of us who thrive in Minnesota’s renowned theater of seasons tend to have more than one coat: a windbreaker, a light down coat, a heavy fleece jacket, and, if we’re fortunate, a thick wool overcoat made by the Hudson’s Bay Company. Those Canadians know how to stay warm, aye?

Similarly, as people change positions in an organization, they may find the metaphorical coat they have been putting on every morning no longer suits their changed circumstances: they may need a new style.

That is what Erinn Aspinall, Director of the University of Minnesota’s Health Sciences Library, found. While serving as Interim Director of the Health Sciences Library, she had plenty of opportunities to try on the coat of leadership. Now that she has been named full-time director, she finds this new coat of leadership fits well.

“While she still was the Interim Director, Erinn promoted and realized her vision for the future of our Health Sciences Library, as well as demonstrating her skills as a leader of a group of highly skilled experts,” says Lisa German, University Librarian and Dean of the Libraries. “I am so pleased she has accepted the role of permanent director.”

“From the moment I was offered the interim role” in January, 2021, Aspinall says, “I have been learning about the needs of faculty, staff, students, and practitioners in the health sciences disciplines to set our direction.” The big difference with the transition to the permanent role, she adds, is that her timeline has expanded and the Library’s horizon line has shifted. 

Making a move happen

During Aspinall’s time as an associate director, then interim director, she was instrumental in planning and seeing through a major move of the contemporary Health Sciences Library and the Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine — as well as launching major initiatives in emerging technologies for all users of the Health Sciences Library. Now U of M community members have access to 3-D printing, virtual reality equipment and programs, 1 Button video recording studios, and more.

To illustrate this transition to a thoroughly modern library, the name of the Library also changed, from the Bio-Medical Library to Health Sciences Library. The name change more fully reflects the relationship with all the health sciences professions taught at the University of Minnesota: Nursing, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Medicine, Public Health, Veterinary Medicine, and Allied Health fields like Occupational Therapy. 

An interprofessional investment

Excited by the opportunities to connect with students, researchers, faculty, and practitioners, Aspinall points out that libraries are, by their nature, interprofessional.

“Now that we are located in the new Health Sciences Education Center,” she notes, “we can continue our disciplinary support and build on our interprofessional goals in partnership with our neighbors in M Simulation, the Center for Health Interprofessional Programs, and the Center for Interprofessional Health.” 

She’s also enthusiastic about her group of top-notch staff. Aspinall says that everyday they, “take a spark of curiosity and turn it into a discovery that can connect ideas to resources, spaces, and expertise.” Thus, in her new position as Director of the Health Sciences Library, she is helping realize the vision of the U of M Libraries: Powering curiosity, discovery, and connection. 

Through their work with health sciences programs at Rochester, Duluth, and Twin Cities campuses, the Health Sciences Library and Wangensteen Historical Library advance an informed community of practice and care.

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