Get to know: Elsa Anderson, MLIS, MA
Assistant Library Director, Technical Services and Electronic Resources
Levy Library at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
“Our library is 95% electronic…definitely outside the comfort zone for some of our users.”
Although Elsa Anderson, MLIS, MA, has always loved books and libraries, she never planned on becoming a medical librarian. Still in the first half her career, however, she finds herself serving the role of Assistant Library Director, Technical Services and Electronic Resources, at the Levy Library at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
“At my library we’re fortunate to have a large collection, but we have a very small staff and managing all of these resources is a challenge.” Elsa is responsible for the collection and the technology used to manage it, such as ILS and link resolver.
Read below to learn more about Elsa, including the personal traits she credits as helping her not only secure a great career, but an interesting one!
What sparked your interest in a career in library science?
I’ve always loved books and reading. I volunteered at my local library as a child, and was fortunate to get a library staff job very soon after college. I liked it so much I started my MLIS part time the next year. I had never considered myself to be particularly technical, but working at a small library gave me lots of opportunities to learn library and information software. The broad experience I got there is the basis for my whole career.
During your career, have you primarily worked for academic institutions? Any other sectors?
I’ve always worked in academic and academic medical libraries. I never planned on being a medical librarian, but I’ve found medical school libraries to be very interesting and rewarding places to work.
Your library serves every step of the physician lifecycle; from medical students to residents, academic and clinical physicians. What differences do you see in their approach to content, technology, etc.?
That’s one of the interesting parts of my job – we support everyone within the medical school and the hospital. There’s a very wide range in comfort level in dealing with electronic resources, from nurses who are going for an advanced degree, to medical students and emeritus faculty. Apps are extremely important in the medical space and there’s a heavy demand for them from students and residents, particularly for book and question bank content. Our library is 95% electronic, 5% print at this point and that is definitely outside the comfort zone for some of our users, so a significant part of the library’s work is education and support.
You’ve witnessed the continuous move from print to online content. In your opinion, will print ever go completely extinct?
I don’t see print as going extinct. I see it as phasing out of some areas, such as medical publishing, but I don’t see print ever fully going away.
What are the main factors you consider when deciding to add or remove a title to your collection? Is it primarily usage, or do other factors influence your decision?
There are lots of factors we look at for collection development and weeding. Usage is a big one, but we also look at what else we have in the collection in that area, the reputation, age, and source of the title, cost per use and cost overall, and interest within the school and hospital.
Budget cuts are having a negative effect on access to content in many libraries. Have you faced similar cuts and how did you handle them?
Our library has fortunately only been level funded instead of cut at this point, but of course this means resource cuts every year to pay increased licensing costs. We focus on overlapping and duplicated resources, low use titles, and more individual title selection instead of package purchasing.
How do you stay up-to-date on what’s happening in information services?
I follow listservs and go to conferences, but I find some of the most interesting developments come from talking to other librarians at peer institutions in the area.
Anything else you’ve learned from your vast experience that you’d like to share?
Something that has always helped my career is always going out of my way to learn new things and take on new responsibilities and projects. It’s made my career much more interesting as well.
Elsa earned an MLIS from Simmons and an MA from CUNY Graduate Center. Current areas of expertise include electronic resources management, workflow and statistics. Her daily tasks primarily include coordinating small pieces of big projects, like managing Knowledge Base updates, generating reports and statistics, and managing invoice payment.
When she isn’t working…“I love to read, and since I live in New York City I’m lucky to be close to the New York Public Library for all the fun fiction my library doesn’t carry. I also love playing with my dog and going to museums.”