Assessment & Life Sciences Informationist
Woodruff Health Sciences Center Library
Using data to improve library outreach
A good first step when assessing the value of any program is to collect data. What is working? What needs to change?
But once relevant data are gathered, assessing and transforming it into meaningful, evidence-based action can be an enormous challenge.
Tyler Moses, MLS, Assessment & Life Sciences Informationist, started gaining practical experience in data assessment, visualization, and application during a 2017 NLM fellowship. Her work now continues at Emory University where she is a strong advocate for using data to improve health literacy and equity.
“Data is helping us make better connections on campus,” Tyler explains. Learn more about her work in our insightful new interview.
BMJ: What sparked your interest in a library science career?
Tyler: I always had an admiration for librarians. I was an avid reader growing up and have always admired librarians as a fountain of knowledge. As I started getting older, I began seeing librarians as gatekeepers to the world who can encourage people to get active by giving them different ideas and concepts that they might not normally encounter.
Regarding health sciences, I developed an interest pretty early on. I actually went to a health careers based high school and took a lot of training in anatomy and physiology, even learning how to do the dissections for biology. I spent four years learning about all the different careers you can have as a health science professional. One thing that always stuck with me was realizing that there is a need to work with people and make sure they have access to resources that better their lives.
Going into college, I tried to figure out the best way to merge my desire to provide access to health information that can help people better their lives, with my admiration for librarians who not only provide information but bring communities together. I was in my sophomore year of undergrad when someone picked up on my interests and recommended that I consider becoming a health science librarian. That led me to decide what I wanted to do with my career. It also cemented my decision to attend Texas Women’s University because they have a dual library science and health studies program.
BMJ: It sounds like you had a great mentor at the right moment in your life. Going back to your specialized high school, was it positioned more for people interested in becoming a clinician, scientist, administrator, or was it health sciences in general? How did you find your niche?
Tyler: I went to one of San Antonio, Texas’ Northside District’s magnet schools. The focus is mainly to train those who want to become doctors, phlebotomists, dentists, or nurses on the skills needed to go into those fields.
While you are learning these skills, you are being introduced to different issues in terms of patients, such as challenges people with chronic issues will face. You do practicums and mini rotations in hospitals, so you get exposure to what it would be like to work with a patient. It’s really a good school, and since I had an interest in health sciences, it introduced me to different opportunities that were available. It gave me a way to see what universities are offering in terms of health career pathways.
BMJ: It’s impressive that you knew at such a young age that you wanted to pursue a career in the health sciences. Have you found that experience has helped as you now support medical professionals in your role as an informationist?
Tyler: Yes, especially in the time of Covid. At the beginning, we were receiving all sorts of reference questions and requests that were being used to treat patients through Emory’s Healthcare system. That’s a more extreme example, but it really showcased how we are part of that core healthcare system as far as caring for patients and assisting clinicians in providing the best care they can.
When working with people on projects, I don’t see myself coming in as a figure of knowledge, but as a potential collaborator who knows various health science resources. Based on what they say they need, I can say “Here’s what I know and now let’s work together to connect the dots.” Whether it’s for other colleagues or students, it’s about getting the information they really need out of our interaction.
BMJ: How long have you been with Emory?
Tyler: I came on in 2017 in the second year of my National Library of Medicine Associate Fellowship Program. I was working on projects related to assessment and data visualization. Emory’s Woodruff Health Sciences Center Library sponsored my second year where I worked as a Visiting Librarian so I worked on a lot of the same projects such as assessing usage of clinical information services, revising tools to collect data on library instruction and reference questions, looking at how to visualize data, and data management. I believe that takes us to 2019 when I officially became the Assessment & Life Sciences Informationist at the library.
BMJ: How did your work at the NLM influence your career and what practical skills or interests did you take away from the fellowship?
Tyler: When you are in the NLM Associate Fellowship Program, you apply for specific projects submitted by NLM or another NIH facility. The Children’s Inn had an idea for a project to investigate the creation of a tool that would integrate NLM library resources to help meet the information needs of the families of sick children. The Children’s Inn is a hospitality house located at the National Institutes of Health that provides housing for seriously ill children and their families who are participating in clinical research trials.
Much of my time was spent going to The Children’s Inn and conducting interviews with the families, children, and administrators of the Inn. I learned more about the reasons why they came to NIH and the needs that they had. These interviews illustrated a strong need for access to health science research, but at a consumer health level. A lot of the families at The Children’s Inn are coming in with children with very rare conditions, so they are going to clinical trials hosted by the NIH to help with management and cures. Oftentimes, this involves radical treatments for conditions that are not well known. It’s a lot harder for the families to get access to this information, especially since these are everyday people and the information is difficult to find if you don’t really know what you’re looking for. Even for people in health sciences, sometimes it isn’t easy to find.
Based on what I was hearing, The Children’s Inn wanted to develop a robust tool to provide families with information to navigate the NIH and even DC since they are staying there for such a long period of time. This tool would also help connect them with health sciences research, web tools, and even provide points of contact for treatments, such as therapy. The needs assessment I wrote included what I learned and some recommendations for moving the project forward. (Read Tyler’s assessment here)
When I last spoke with the supervisor of the Associate Fellowship Program, it sounded like administrators at The Children’s Inn are still working on developing it. What my work on the project showed me was a need for research literature that the general population can understand. There is also a higher need for health literacy and more inclusion, for instance “What other voices need to be brought to the table when you are talking about a certain condition?” There may be structured clinical documents on conditions, but they might not include all the voices that need be present on a topic, especially since conditions and opinions evolve over time. I would say that the experience birthed in me a very strong sense of wanting to help facilitate getting people the information that they need to advocate for themselves.
Even for me as an informationist, it can be challenging to be in a situation knowing what questions to ask or advocate my rights are as a patient. I want to continue with that work, whether it’s in the capacity of social justice or health services. I really see libraries as the gatekeepers because we know where all the literature is, but we need to figure out how to connect faculty, students and staff with those resources in addition to the general community.
BMJ: In your current role at Emory, you assess library services through data visualization. What does this entail and how does the library use this information?
Tyler: Part of what I was brought on to do when I was a Fellow was to take a hard look at the assessment processes. This includes thinking about the ways we can better assess the data that we collect through the library. Reference questions, instruction, we have all this data, but our assessment plans are evolving. I think about how we could collect it in a way that answers a lot of questions about our services.
Part of that process was to revise data forms and the software we use; taking the data from those spaces and pushing it into Tableau so we can visualize and track changes to our services over the course of several years. It illustrates the groups we are talking to and what changes have been made in terms of who we are reaching. We then use this data to make planning decisions and changes to our instruction and services so that they better serve the students, faculty and staff. It also identifies who we need to reach, and we can then determine how to bring them to the table. The data is helping us make better connections with groups on campus.
BMJ: What do you think are the primary differences between librarians and informationists at Emory?
Tyler: We have librarians as well as informationists on campus. I think the term informationist seems to be specific to the health sciences. We do a lot of the same work as librarians, but the real difference is how we work more closely with the clinical population to provide evidence-based medicine and research. It is more about how we’re integrated with the research and clinical study portion of the health sciences.
A lot of my health science colleagues at different institutions are also called librarians. I think it is also based on certain institutions and how they classify the role. At Emory, all of us in the Woodruff Health Sciences Center Library are informationists.
BMJ: Do you interact with the healthcare professionals affiliated with Emory Healthcare?
Tyler: The medical and clinical informationists provide the most service to the clinical population in various capacities. Our clinical informationists team provide answers to clinical questions originating from the work with clinicians throughout Emory’s healthcare system. Also, they help support evidence-based medicine, nursing research, and resident education virtually and in person through trainings and consultations. At some of our hospital branches, we have library locations that are staffed by clinical informationists and clinicians can go there for support. The clinical informationists attend morning reports and rounds, where they get questions from clinicians that they need to answer on the spot or research later.
The rest of the team, like myself, works with the clinical population, but not as closely. Oftentimes I will help with literature research requests and provide access to information. I work with residents to find materials to prepare for their boards and for their studies. We also have orientations with medical students to talk about the point of care resources that they can use in the hospital and help them get access.
BMJ: Emory is classified as an R1 research institution. How does your library support the demand for resources needed to conduct research, and then the need to publish their findings?
Tyler: We have a team at the Health Sciences Center Library that specifically provides a systematic review service. This was being developed when I came on, and I helped create a database that tracks our progress with systematic review projects. The team provides different tiers of service. It can be as basic as reviewing a literature search strategy or being a full partner on a systematic review project and participating as a co- author. A lot of my colleagues have collaborated in this way, and it is very gratifying to see that they are being acknowledged as full partners.
We also support research at Emory by providing access to specialized software for faculty, staff, and students. For instance, the library has a specialized software lab where users can use quantitative and qualitative analysis tools. Also, we provide access to genomic analysis tools used by Emory’s researchers. Our team has a Research Informationist who provides library services to researchers in basic and translational sciences as well as Emory’s Graduate Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences and Office of Postdoctoral Education. This year, he hosted an online series focusing on rigor and reproducibility.
When asked, I research and provide suggestions on where to submit an article based on the manuscript. It really varies by the person It is typically based on the topic, but we encourage authors to make publication decisions based on data. In some cases, research teams know where they want to publish already. We have a research impact informationist on our team who does bibliometric analysis who works with faculty on campus to help teams figure out where to publish as well.
Regarding open access, some people are still a little hesitant. It’s up to the principle investigator where they want to publish, but the number of high-quality open access journals continues to grow. A lot of times with NIH-funded research they are required to put their manuscripts into PubMed Central.
BMJ: You are passionate about the role health science libraries can play to improve social justice and health equity. How are you helping to bring out meaningful change at Emory?
Tyler: This year, one of my professional goals is to place more emphasis on how critical librarianship fits within health sciences. Part of that included attending The University of Arizona’s Critical Librarianship & Pedagogy Symposium. It was freely available because of Covid, and focused on areas of librarianship, such as instruction and collection. Critical librarianship focuses on thinking more critically about the services we provide, how they are shaped by external forces, and how to design more equitable services to marginalized students. For me, one of things that attracted me to the symposium was listening to the people in this sort of work and really learning from them about the projects they’ve been doing and the types of initiatives that they have they been instituting within their own group to really push this forward.
What I got out of it is that there’s so much introspection about where the library services can really take in the ideas of questioning information, thinking about whose voice is absent, who is telling the story, and how we can best integrate them into our services for instruction and collection development. I want to continue bringing these conversations in and then integrating them into our services.
We started a Social Justice Collective in January of this year amongst the Health Sciences Center Library. This space is really to discuss different social justice issues and think about what that looks like in our services. We recently read a book by Shannon Jones and Beverly Murphy called Diversity and Inclusion in Libraries. It is written by librarians who are people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, and advocates for people with disabilities who describe their experience working within academic or public libraries. We talked about a lot the issues brought up in the book to see if we have seen them in our field as a whole or within our library itself. Then we explored the question “How can we make our library services much more equitable?” and what that would look like.
Covid kind of opened the opportunity for us to do that. I started working with some faculty who say remote instruction as an opportunity to experiment with different teaching mechanisms to create an engaging online learning experience. I directed them to online resources we already had such as medical case studies, lab simulations from the libraries’ databases, and health sciences films within Emory’s Music and Media Library’s databases. But I also encouraged them to use open access resources like lab simulations and other tools as part of their instruction to supplement some of the onsite lab work and research.
I would really like to continue to work on making library services more equitable for Emory’s community.
BMJ: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected Emory Libraries?
Tyler: Most of our professional staff are working in a hybrid model coming in at least one day per week. It has been unique to think about how we can be more creative in providing what we traditionally do with people who are on campus. We are in this more limited environment, so we want to be supportive while still maintaining a lower density on campus. One of these innovations is developing systems for touchless pick up of books so that users still have access to the materials that they need.
As part of what Emory calls its onboarding process, library employees must go through a series of steps to return to campus. These steps include signing a community compact, participating in contact tracing, and completing a confidential health assessment. Emory’s goal for fall is to return to full density classrooms and residence halls. Students will be required to be vaccinated to return to campus.
BMJ: What do you think will be the biggest changes/challenges to your field in the next few years?
Tyler: I really think the rise of social justice awareness is not going away any time soon. Prior to the Summer of 2020, there was work being done, but not to the scale and in the conversations like I’m seeing now. Going forward, there’s going to be a lot more work to incorporate social justice into library science. But what does that look like?
On campus, Emory Libraries has formed a DEI group that held an anti-racism forum in February. We talked about different initiatives going on in the library, like critical literacy instruction and a committee developed a code of conduct for the libraries. There are a lot of conversations going on in the library science field to determine how we make what we do more equitable for people in general –whether it’s how to make a website more readable, or to teach students how to critically analyze information to understand what good science is.
Personally, I’m going to continue developing data visualization skills and looking at how to try to take it more into non-traditional areas of library science. Part of my work is in visualizing data and I am part of an Atlanta Tableau group so I’m thinking about using data to determine who we’re not reaching on campus, and then meeting with them to talk about how they have access to research and resources that can be utilized at no cost to better their research and work with patients.
I see myself looking at how we can as a library be more integrated with social justice and health equity and then how that can blend itself into health literacy because of how strongly it’s needed. As you’ve seen with Covid and in general, it needs to be worked on. There’s a lot of other academic libraries that do this work and I admire them greatly. Now I want to take and apply it to health literacy, social justice and library science. Also, I want to work with undergraduate students to help them be the best researchers they can be, especially for first generation and low-income students who might not be familiar with being on a college or university campus.
Interviewed by Lauren Jones, Senior Strategic Marketing Manager, BMJ