PORTSMOUTH, Va. (NNS) -- October is National Medical Librarians Month, and Naval Medical Center Portsmouth’s medical librarians hosted an open house for the medical center’s staff, patients and visitors, Oct. 18.
Medical libraries were established to focus mainly on providing medical books and journals, in print and digital, so they were readily available to physicians, residents, and others to access the most current medical information – usually with the assistance of a medical librarian. The month’s theme is “Get reliable, trustworthy health information - @sk your medical librarian.”
The NMCP medical library has a seasoned staff of five, whose combined experience spans nearly 90 years, with two Master-prepared medical librarians and three technicians. Jane Pellegrino, Library Services department head, has been at the library the longest reaching 29 years of service in December.
“When I first came here, it was perfectly legitimate for you to see a physician, who saw patients, go to the library and read for half an hour or whatever,” said Pellegrino. “But you don’t see that anymore because they can bring that (information) to their desk.”
“When I first trained in medical librarianship, the whole idea was we were going to be helping physicians with their information seeking because obviously the person at the top of chain, as far as training was concerned, would do their medical role,” she added. “There would be these ancillary people doing all the helpful things, and it was going to be an efficiency thing. It was going to extend far beyond library assistance, but the computer has changed all of that”
When asked what has been the biggest change for NMCP’s medical library over the years, Pellegrino did not hesitate in saying, “Technology has changed everything.”
Her comments were echoed by Lisa Eblen, NMCP Library Services associate head librarian. “It’s much more complicated. There are all these different (electronic) platforms and our job is to get them all, with the links, in one place so people don’t have to jump around to all the different websites in trying to figure out what we own and what we have access to,” said Eblen.
“The online catalog allows us to put that information together so that when you look up a title of a book, if we have access to it online,” said Eblen. “We’ll have made a link available so you can click through to the book.”
In their effort to make sure the medical staff is aware of what the library staff offers, a current initiative is to embed librarians with various clinics to include Internal Medicine, Psychiatry and Pediatrics.
“It’s important to get face time, it brings the library to their consciousness. They can ask questions about mechanical things that don’t work,” said Pellegrino. “I can see the resources that they are using are not functioning the way I think they are going to function, and I will research clinical questions they don’t have time to address, and pull articles together.”
“We don’t hit everybody, some people can do this stuff on their own, some people can’t,” added Pellegrino. “We’re here to help the ones who need help and they are willing to @sk for it.”
The nearly 10,000 square foot library space offers not only medical books and journals, but items such as different types of fiction and non-fiction books and popular magazines, just not the size of a public library’s collection. Additionally, the library staff can assist you in getting access to the Navy MWR Digital Library that offers eBooks, audiobooks, tutoring services, college prep resources and more.
“We also have the only computers in the command that people can use if they don’t have their own equipment,” added Pellegrino. “All of the red chair computers are computers where you don’t have to log into them. You have immediate access.”
On average, nearly 110 NMCP staff, patients, and contractors pass through the initial library gate daily where many come to check out books and others to simply get a break.
“We have staff initiative on improving staff experience, and this is a wonderful space. You have a really nice reading room,” said Capt. Carolyn Rice, NMCP’s executive officer, during her time at the open house.
“As part of the staff experience, we’ve been talking about a green space, but this an excellent space too, and it’s already set up. Especially in the winter time when people don’t want to do the walk outside or sit outside,” said Rice. “It’s for people who need to get regrouped, a little mindfulness, a pause – they can meditate, they can get a book out, they can sit down and relax.”
A common issue for all libraries is the failure for some patrons to return their books. “If we lose something to a patient or another command, we understand that may just be the expense of doing business and that book helped that person,” explained Pellegrino. “We lost two poetry books to a patient’s husband one time, for a very good reason.”
Pellegrino told the story of a man who was looking for books with Shakespeare’s sonnets. He mentioned to the library staff that his wife was dying and she loved these sonnets. It was his plan to read them to her.
“We lent him the books, and we never got them back,” Pellegrino added. “But he had other things on his mind when he left here. Hopefully the sonnets were good for her, and we simply replaced the books.”
As the U. S. Navy’s oldest, continuously-operating hospital since 1830, Naval Medical Center Portsmouth proudly serves past and present military members and their families. The nationally acclaimed, state of the art medical center, including its ten branch and TRICARE Prime clinics, serves the Hampton Roads area; in addition to offering premier research and teaching programs designed to prepare new doctors, nurses and hospital corpsmen for future roles in healing and wellness.
For more news from Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, visit www.navy.mil/local/NMCP/.