Get to know: Tamara M. Nelson, MLIS, EdS, AHIP

User Services Coordinator & Senior Research and Learning Services Librarian
Associate Professor

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Health Sciences Library

“Engaging in creative and innovative ways”

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) serves more than 3,000 students, 1,300 residents, and a faculty that received more than $100 million in external research funding for 2021.

As you can imagine, it takes an active library to support the needs of the UTHSC community. For Tamara M. Nelson, MLIS, EdS, AHIP and her colleagues, this means testing new communication channels and ideas to stay connected and relevant.

Alongside the library’s new video focus and active Twitter account, Tamara is also curating a  collection on the African American influence and contribution to medicine at UTHSC.

BMJ: What sparked your interest in a library science career? 
Tamara: While in undergrad, I worked several part-time student jobs, and my last and favorite was in the library. While there, I developed a passion for assisting and meeting the information needs of others. I had a “lightbulb” moment and realized I could turn this into an actual career!

BMJ: Advancing research is a key component of the UTHSC mission. Faculty and staff receive more than $300 million annually in sponsored programs and funding. How does the library support such an active research institution?
Tamara: We are actively engaged with the Office of Research and the Tennessee Clinical and Translational Science Institute, with whom we collaborate to train all clinical researchers on using library resources and services in their clinical and research endeavors. 

BMJ: @UTHSCLibrary is pretty lively on Twitter! How does the library use social media to support communication? 
Tamara: Wow! I’m so glad you noticed that. Our Communication Coordinator Sarah Thompson is awesome at finding ways for us to engage with our patrons in creative and innovative ways. I have participated in several of her initiatives, and since COVID, we have found this to be an effective way to deliver updates on not only what’s going on in the library but from our subscription content, as well. 

BMJ: I noticed a new UTHSC Library News video on your website. How often do you publish video updates, and how do you share them with faculty and students? Have you received any feedback? 
Tamara: The UTHSC Library News series is something we’ve launched for Fall 2022 on our YouTube channel, and our first episode really got great feedback. The plan is to publish one monthly on our social media platforms. Once again, it’s another way we are trying to reach out to our UTHSC community in an impactful way. 

BMJ: UTHSC supports varied healthcare specialists – from dentists to physicians, nurses to pharmacists. Have you noticed any differences or similarities in how they request and interact with content?
Tamara: Honestly, I’ve noticed the majority of our patrons prefer digital content. It’s easier to access and not as cumbersome as carrying massive size books. Our students are pretty tech-savvy and quickly catch on to new resources we introduce. 

BMJ: What are your responsibilities as an Associate Professor?
Tamara: As an Associate Professor, I endeavor to contribute to the scholarship of my institution. I serve on the editorial board of the Journal of the Medical Library Association, present annually at conferences and have also collaborated on numerous publications. 

BMJ: What do you enjoy most about your role?
Tamara: I enjoy the collaboration at my library and being able to wake up every day and do what I love. We really are a great team and work to maintain a collegial environment. For example, I’m currently working with our archivist Jennifer Langford to curate a collection on the African American influence/contribution to medicine at UTHSC. I also love engaging with students and faculty and feeling like I’m contributing to healthcare in my state. 

BMJ: Last book or topic you read or researched for fun?
Tamara: I am currently in the second year of my doctoral program, so lately I’ve been reading a lot on adult learning theories and issues pertaining to higher education. My research focus is on the benefits of mentorship for BIPOC information professionals. I know it doesn’t sound like “fun,” but I really have been having fun learning and researching this topic.

Interviewed by Lauren Jones, Head of Marketing, BMJ Americas


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