Jane Blumenthal, AHIP: Medical Library Association President, 2012-2013

Article excerpt

Becoming Jane: a Profile of Medical Library Association President Jane Blumenthal

You can learn a lot about Jane Blumenthal, AHIP, from a quick tour of her office on the fifth floor of the Taubman Health Sciences Library. An entire wall of windows looks out to the University of Michigan Medical School, and beyond that you can see the new Cardiovascular Center and the manicured grounds where the Kresge building complex, part of which housed the old medical library, was torn down two years ago. Beyond that, and towering over every other building in the visible landscape, is the even newer C. S. Mott Children's Hospital and Von Voigtlander Women's Hospital.Within the office, diagonal from the desk, is a wood screen with a series of animal photos taken while she was on trips around the world. A framed close-up of a redtailed hawk signed by the nature photographer, Jane Blumenthal, hangs on one wall. Collections of various types-cactus plants, ticket stubs to the Bearded Pigs and Oakland Raiders Super Bowl events, Beanie Babies of the jungle animal and bird variety, and a collection of children's books (Librarian from the Black Lagoon, Bat Night at the Library, and Please Bury Me in the Library)- adorn the furniture and walls. Research assistant Stephanie Gertken says that, ''overall, the office gives you a sense of a person who finds delight in the world around her whether that be through a camera lens, a bobble penguin toy, or a quirky cartoon'' [1].


From her window on the world, Jane sees this as a ''pivotal time'' in the profession where there are organizational pressures brought about by a confluence of social, economic, and technological changes amid concerns from librarians who have faced positions being eliminated and, in the worst cases, their libraries being completely closed: ''as individuals and as a professional association, we are being challenged to change, and if we don't step up to that challenge, we won't be here in the future'' [2]. Since she is motivated by challenges, not complacency, Jane is undaunted: ''It's actually a time of tremendous opportunity, if we want to take advantage of the opportunities'' [2].

She is hopeful that, as MLA president this year, she can make a difference: ''There are already many people who have the same concerns, and I really hope I can make the case to others that we need to push the agenda along a little faster. Patience is not one of my virtues'' [2]. Those who have worked with her closely know that one of her secrets to moving an agenda forward is that she does not get bogged down in details presenting as obstacles- it is the end product that most matters, not the nuances of the process to reaching it.

Jane's presidential priorities are designed to confront some of the major challenges in the profession head-on, including (1) creating a new vision of health sciences librarianship and (2) expanding the membership base to include other related disciplines outside the library profession:

We should do new things, take risks, and develop new tools. We should strengthen the organization as well as the membership by expanding the definition of what constitutes health sciences librarianship. At the same time, we should welcome practitioners from related fields into our membership, whether or not they fall into this expanded definition. [2]

Jane's perspective on the direction health sciences libraries need to be moving in was informed by her experiences at Georgetown University, where she worked from 1990 to 2006. Georgetown was her first entree into an academic medical library. She held several different positions on her way to becoming director in 1997. At Georgetown, after being appointed assistant dean for knowledge management in 2000, she became part of the team of the dean of the School of Medicine, and she began to see how libraries needed to change in response to other driving forces in the environment. She attended the Harvard Macy Institute for Leaders in Medical Education in 2003, ''a very immersive experience which helped transform my perspective and solidified that I was a significant part of the Dean's team'' [2]. …