Connie Schardt, AHIP Medical Library Association 2009-2010

Article excerpt

Constance Marie Bernadette Sch- ardt grew up in Palo Alto, Califor- nia, the second of six children at a time when there were still fruit orchards in the Santa Clara valley and cities had distinct borders. She earned a degree in art history from the University of California at Berkeley while dodging tear gas and National Guard soldiers sent to protect the university from the squatters in People's Park. Upon graduation in 1971, with no real career plans, she spent four months hitchhiking by herself through a kinder, gentler Europe. As part of that adventure, she spent the winter working in Israel at Kibbutz Evron on the Mediter- ranean Sea near the Lebanese border. This was in her pre-library days so she did not organize their library, or institute new education services, or implement Joint Com- mission standards for the kibbutz but, always in touch with the masses, washed dishes and picked avocados. The kibbutz offered a unique living experience and the chance to meet fellow travelers from around the world. One of those travelers would turn out to be her future husband, Andy Ribner.

Upon returning from abroad, Connie went back to the familiar territory of Berkeley to figure out her next move. To her total surprise, she ran into Andy, who was making his first trip to California to apply to library school. The irony is that Connie had convinced him that librarianship was the hot new profession, and although she was not quite sure what librarians actually did, she did have a cousin who was one. Nevertheless, they both needed work and decided to open a falafel, cart on the Berkeley campus. So, for the next couple of years, Andy went to library school, while Connie ran the Evron Falafel Works from a cart on Telegraph Avenue and listened to the incessant chanting of Hare Krishna devotees. This was followed by an assortment of part-time jobs: repairing Volkswagens, operating a switchboard in a medical center, caring for livestock on a 50-acre farm, and analyzing market research for Gallo wineries. Looking for more meaningful employment, Connie decided to follow her own advice and go to library school. In 1978, she started taking night classes at San Jose State University. Mind you, this was 1978, and the only available computer was a TI Silent 700 with coupler muffs. Students were not allowed to touch it. After only one semester, Connie had had enough and was ready to try something else when she saw an announcement for a library internship at the Palo Alto VA Medical Library. She applied, interviewed, and then went off to visit her sister, a Peace Corp nurse working outside of Rio de Janeiro. When she returned, she was hired by Reese Gallimore, the VA chief librarian. He not only hired her but saw the energy and potential beneath her frustration. He became Connie's mentor and gave her the on-the-job training that showed her what librarians really did all day. While she was still a student, Reese sent her for Dialog training and allowed her not only to touch the VA's Silent 700, but to use it for searching and then to teach database searching to other VA medical librarians. The profession came dangerously close to losing this star player, but luckily Connie was now hooked.

After library school, Connie's first professional position was at the Idaho State Library. She arrived in September 1979 to take over as the health information coordinator for the Idaho Health Libraries Network, a National Library of Medicine (NLM)-funded network barely six months old. Idaho was very different from California. It was rural, was scarcely populated, had few major highways, and had no academic medical school, but it did have fiftytwo hospitals scattered across the state that needed access to current information. Connie immediately assessed the situation and got down to work. She visited all fifty-two hospitals in the state and, working with the two established hospital libraries in Boise, began to strengthen the statewide health information network. …