Get to know: Arpita Bose, MLIS

Get to know: Arpita Bose, MLIS

Library Director
New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital
“ A perfect combination of public service and detective work”

Arpita Bose, MLIS, knew she wanted a career in health sciences, but it took more than a decade for her to realize that librarianship was the path that would satisfy both her passion for science and public health.

After almost a decade working in the pharmaceutical industry as a chemist, she found herself “disillusioned” with the for-profit mission. Thinking back to a conversation during undergrad, she took a leap and went back to school to become a librarian. Now serving as the Library Director for NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, Arpita still uses her science background, and is continuously rewarded by her involvement in work that improves patient safety and outcomes.

Working at a teaching hospital has its benefits and challenges, and she works hard to keep her library both relevant and effective.

Read more of Arpita’s story, including how she overcomes budget challenges, and manages to get the attention of exhausted residents…

What are your primary areas of focus?
Management, reference, and collection development are my priorities. As the library director at a teaching hospital, I manage three library staff members and serve hundreds of physician residents and fellows. I research clinical care questions and quality improvement projects for students, residents, nurses, and attending physicians. I also maintain print and electronic collections.

What unique challenges do you think librarians at teaching hospitals face?
My mission for residents is to teach them how to research on their own so that they can become self sufficient. That is a challenge when working with exhausted residents who rarely have time to visit the library in person. One-on-one, in person instruction is ideal, but it does not often happen. Instead, I try to work within the residents’ schedules by joining their regular department research days to offer in-service research training to them as a group.

How do you ensure you’re providing the best resources to your faculty and students?
I continually assess the information needs of physicians throughout their career by soliciting feedback. I ask hospital faculty for purchasing suggestions that will benefit attending physicians as well as residents. I review research requests for trends and then “push” out related resources, such as electronic books, journal articles, or mobile apps.

Following up on the last question, what are your methods for “pushing” out (marketing) new resources?
I use my library’s web page to publicize new resources that are of general interest to all my patrons, such as medical images in the public domain. For targeted resources, on the other hand, like a database of medication use in lactating mothers or a new journal article about volunteers and patient falls prevention, I utilize my professional relationships within the hospital and send personalized emails to interested individuals. I attend general hospital meetings, scan our internal newsletter, and keep my ears open in conversation to determine who might be interested in the information I have to share. I am glad to report that the longer I work here, the more connections and referrals I build up within the organization.

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?
I have had to make difficult decisions to cut resources because of increasing costs. I was able to mitigate the damage by identifying similar resources in my collection that could help meet my patrons’ needs.

Working with a consortium has been a big help in controlling costs. Since 2012, I have participated in the Group Licensing Consortium (GLI) offered through the Health Sciences Library Association of New Jersey. GLI’s pricing allows me to license electronic resources that I would not have been able to afford on my own. In fact, I was introduced to BMJ’s offerings through GLI, and they have become popular at my hospital. [Editor’s note: Thank you for the unsolicited endorsement!]

What sparked your interest in a library science career?
I worked in the university research library when I was completing my undergraduate degree in biochemistry. My supervisor encouraged me to consider librarianship, but I was eager to become a chemist. I did work as a chemist in pharmaceutical manufacturing for almost a decade, but eventually I became disillusioned with what seemed to me to be a profiteering industry. Remembering the words of my former boss, I decided to go to library school–and immediately I realized it was the best fit for me. I worked in three part time library jobs while attending graduate school full time, and I enjoyed every minute of it! Librarianship suits my personality: it is a perfect combination of public service and detective work.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your career?
What I love most about my job is the feeling that I am contributing to public health. I wanted that feeling when I worked in pharmaceutical manufacturing, but I felt that profits were put first in that field. As a hospital librarian I really feel like I am part of the patient care team. My best days at work are the days when a physician, nurse, dietitian, or other clinical worker tells me that the information I provided helped them to make a decision that improved patient care.

What is the most challenging aspect of your career?
I find it challenging to communicate the library’s role, and our worth, to administrators and clinicians in the hospital. Many employees are unaware of the library, and I am constantly working to appear on their radar as a go-to source for high quality, reliable information.

I appreciate that, once I have conveyed the library’s value to employees, they often become library champions whom I can rely on to help me spread the word. In the past couple years I have collaborated with nursing research, and I credit my involvement to a nurse leader who was impressed with my research skills for a project she had worked on in her unit. She invited me to join the hospital’s newly formed committee on nursing research and evidence based practice, and through this group I have met many ambitious, bright, driven nurses. I have asked them to refer me to their colleagues, and now I feel very connected within the nursing department.

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?
Usage, quality, and uniqueness are my decision making factors to determine the value of a resource. I ask myself: How many people will use this item? Does this item reference the best evidence, or is it just expert opinion? What is special about this item that is not duplicated elsewhere in my collection?

How do you stay up-to-date on what’s happening in information services?
I stay active in my local medical library associations so that I can network with other hospital librarians to discuss the common issues we face–which sometimes just translates to some much needed, good natured kvetching. A local group I like is BQSIMB (Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Manhattan and the Bronx Health Sciences Librarians). I also read blogs about social, political, and educational trends that affect libraries. The American Library Association’s Center for the Future of Libraries is a great source for this high level information.

News and analysis of the health care field is important for my own knowledge, and it is a way for me to keep clinicians and my administrators current. I often “push” relevant information that I have found on various blogs, and my patrons appreciate it. Some favorites include Richard Lehman’s weekly review of medical journals, STAT and Health News Review.

What do you think are the biggest changes/challenges librarians are facing?
The uncertain political situation regarding health care legislation could pose a major challenge to hospital funding. In this environment, it is vital for hospital librarians to communicate their worth. Every hospital librarian must learn more about their hospital’s priorities and develop a collection and services that meet the larger needs. The areas that I see as critical include quality improvement and value based care, nursing excellence, and patient safety.

Physicians and librarians both still have a long way to go to increase representation in our fields. We can help by supporting ALA’s Spectrum Scholarship Fund and mentoring people on their path towards librarianship.

I love to travel, and I try to visit the local library wherever I go. I have visited libraries in Austria, Mexico, Slovenia, and Scotland, and I hope to add many more places to this list. At home I enjoy live music, swimming, and embroidery (but not simultaneously!).

The artwork in my hospital library includes numerous depictions of bridges. It was a deliberate design decision: I envision the library as a bridge that connects clinicians to the knowledge they need to improve patient care. I consider the library an integral part of the hospital’s infrastructure to put patients on the road to recovery.


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