Get to know: Mary Fugle, MLS

Get to know: Mary Fugle, MLS

“Do you want blood or books?”

A number of readers will undoubtedly know our interviewee: Mary Fugle. Not only is she BMJ’s Eastern sales rep, but her contagious laugh is matched only by her unforgettable personality.

Mary began her career as a medical librarian at Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn, where she served for seven years. She eventually made her way to the publishing side by answering a blind ad in The New York Times – totally unplanned!

Holding various leadership positions in publishing has given Mary great experience and industry insight. Former positions include Vice President of Publisher Relations & Publisher Services at Blackwell’s Information Services and Director of North American Sales & Distribution at Elsevier Science. She has also worked for LWW and Springer-Verlag.

Saving the best for last, Mary has been a BMJ sales rep for the past few years, serving all health science libraries east of the Mississippi; concentrating on subscription renewals and resolving access issues.

Now on the brink of retirement, we asked Mary to provide some detail on her unplanned career, including a few things she learned along the way…

What did you want to be when you grew up?
No idea!
[Editor’s note: This is clearly going to be an easy interview]

At what point did your career/interest turn to information services?
After spending a couple of years as an assistant buyer at Abraham & Straus in Brooklyn, I wanted to do something in education, but there was a glut of teachers. So I chose to be a librarian as I felt there would be more options and opportunities in various areas.

I then moved into publishing years later after answering a blind ad in The New York Times – never planned at all!

What lessons did you learn as a librarian that became useful while working for publishers?
The importance of how to conduct a good reference interview! Also, finding out what people really want to know and what their needs are.

Librarians have a tough job in that they really want to satisfy the information needs of their clients, but are too often dealing with administrators who believe that information is free.

Once when I wanted to buy a new edition of Harrison’s Textbook of Internal Medicine, I learned we were on a credit stop with Rittenhouse for not paying our bills. I went to the purchasing office to see about getting this important title and was asked if I thought the hospital should be buying books rather than blood! That is too often the situation. I can well imagine an academic librarian being similarly frustrated when a university can spend hundreds of thousands on a new football field but demand a flat library budget.

Why do you like working with librarians?
They are very sharp people and value service to others. I have found it rewarding to provide librarians and/or medical staff the information they need to make good decisions that provide the best possible patient care.

Have you seen library needs change during your career?
Totally. When I started, nothing was available online. I had to search through the paper versions of Index Medicus to find articles to help in the clinical setting. I think librarians have more of a challenge these days; too many people think a Google search is sufficient and do not understand the importance of peer-reviewed information.

What do you think you’ll miss once you’re retired?
The lovely people I’ve met along the way.

Anything else you’ve learned from your vast experience that you’d like to share?
While totally unplanned, I’ve had a great career; being flexible definitely helped. I never had a thought of going in to publishing, nor sales for that matter. I was fortunate to have great mentors at Springer-Verlag and Elsevier.

Mary graduated with a BA in English and Science minor from SUNY Albany. She later completed a MLS at Pratt Institute. When she’s not stuck at her desk during renewal season, Mary enjoys teaching spinning and Pilates. You can also find her taking advantage of the vast cultural events NYC has to offer – especially free Chaka Khan concerts!


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