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NN/LM Pac-Man vs Ghosts:

Librarians Overcome Barriers

Fact. There’s no end of challenges we as health sciences librarians face.
Fact. There’s an abundance of expertise among our colleagues.
Fact. This expertise can help with our own particular challenges.
Fact. Gamification can be fun!

At the recent Joint Meeting on Monday October 24, 2016, the MidContinental and Greater Midwest Regional Medical Libraries of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine took over the lunch time session.  We used crowd sourcing to identify successful strategies that attendees used to overcome Pac-Man ghost barriers identified by the RML librarians.

There were fourteen ghost barriers identified by RML staff. Attendees to the Joint Meeting shared strategies that had worked for them in overcoming these challenging ghost barriers. Voting then ensued for popularity and help-me. Popularity votes were for strategies that would work in member institutions. Help-me! Votes were for strategies librarians would like to try but would need assistance with.

With this one activity we tapped into the expertise of the Midcontinental and Midwest Chapter members. We also identified areas where RML assistance would be appreciated. A summary of the most popular and most help-me! strategies are in the table below. For the complete list of strategies see: https://nnlm.gov/mcr/members/Librarians_Overcome_Barriers

Most Popular – These strategies were voted most likely to work in other institutions. If you’re facing the identified ghost barrier, try implementing your colleague’s strategy and see if it works for you. Some of the strategies are linked to helpful NN/LM resources.

Ghost Barrier


1. Because that’s how we’ve always done it… Sharing info about what other libraries are doing –> show other ways to do it
2. IT challenges Being willing to fail
3. Lack of planning Goal setting with time built in for planning
4. Making sense out of data Using visualization tools
5. Justification for new personnel Have workload statements for all staff, along with a gap analysis of services not fully realized
6. Challenges to joining forces Develop projects around a shared need/opportunity and be flexible
7. Poor communications Hold scheduled meetings to discuss problems, new developments, information from conferences and workshop attendance, etc.
8. Educating administration about today’s libraries Tell stories about how the library has benefitted patrons, don’t just give usage statistics
9. Changing space needs Collaborate with space stakeholders to plan space changes that are needed
10. Insufficient outreach Leave your office or building and mingle with those you are supposed to serve
11. Outdated skills Attend conferences and webinars [Breezing Along with the RML 3rd Wed at 10am MT, 11am CT. Discover NLM and More! 4th Wed (bimonthly) 1pm MT, 2pm CT]
12. Personal motivation Set small achievable goals
13. Identifying funding sources Look at your RML web site
14. Changing user needs Weeded and moved physical media collection, creating more study room space for students as they wanted/needed

Most Help-Me’s! These strategies received the most votes for needing assistance to carry out. Some of the strategies are linked to helpful NN/LM resources.

Ghost Barrier


1. Because that’s how we’ve always done it… Analyze cost/benefit/time
2. IT challenges Talk to your IT dept. & learn their methodology. Learn their lingo & you’ll be able to better explain/communicate your library’s IT needs
3. Lack of planning Make A Plan!
4. Making sense out of data Training in R and Python
5. Justification for new personnel Submit user stories on how the position makes a difference
6. Challenges to joining forces Establish a relationship. We created a demo of material we want to add to a course.
7. Poor communications Internal to library – daily emails with meetings for that day, announcements, items of interest, etc.
8. Educating administration about today’s libraries Ongoing impact survey based on Rochester study, tying impacts to specific strategic plan goals.
9. Changing space needs Becoming more mobile to be more accessible
10. Insufficient Outreach Partner with departments and colleges in their community outreach activities (or ask other to join library’s outreach plans)
11. Personal motivation Use Google Drive Sheets for personal project management dashboard
12. Identifying funding Sources Think outside the box. Identify unconventional funding sources.
13. Changing user needs Assess changing needs

– Claire Hamasu, Associate Director

The MidContinental Messenger is published quarterly by the Network of the National Library of Medicine MidContinental Region

Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library
University of Utah
10 North 1900 East, Building 589
Salt Lake City, Utah 84112-5890

Editor: Suzanne Sawyer, Project Coordinator
(801) 587-3487

This project has been funded in whole or in part with Federal funds from the Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012344 with the University of Utah Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library.

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