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Inspiring People in our Region: Sandy Oelschlegel, Director – Preston Medical Library

Posted by on September 10th, 2012 Posted in: All Posts


Sandy Oelschlegel, MLIS, AHIP
Director, Preston Medical Li
Associate Professor
University of Tennessee
Knoxville, TN

How long have you been a librarian?
I have worked in a library since 1988, but got my MLIS degree in 1995 from University of Rhode Island.

How long have you been at your current library/in your current position?
I moved to Tennessee in 2003 and started as Director at Preston Medical Library in June of that year.

What made you decide to become a librarian?
I have always loved libraries and constantly sought information – even as a kid – I checked books out of Oxford Public Library (MA) on topics ranging from taxidermy, to hypnotism, to “the Black Stallion,” and many other topics. But the thing that brought me to work in the library at Tufts (now Cummings) Veterinary School in 1988 was the intersection of the library environment and the veterinary medical content. Although I am now a medical librarian, my background and undergraduate degree are in animal science. I loved (and still love) the aspect of medical librarians having an impact on patient care, whether the patients are animal or human.  

What do you consider your biggest work related challenge?
Because a big part of my job is as an administrator, I find the biggest challenge to be balancing the budget constraints against the increasing cost of and demand for the resources our users need. The trend is simply not sustainable.

What do you consider to be the most fulfilling part of your job?
We are fortunate at Preston Medical Library to be on the same campus as the UT School of Information Science, and we are able to mentor budding library students as employees and practicum students. I love to see them progress and work on research projects with them that culminate in SC/MLA presentations and published papers. Sharing my knowledge and experience with them is very gratifying. Some have gone on to be medical librarians!

What do you see as the biggest concerns in health sciences librarianship?
This field, in particular, is challenged by the need to continuously show the value of the services we provide with our human capitol. For example, publishers will increasingly be targeting health care systems, hospitals, and electronic medical records companies with resources that integrate information into the EMR, independent of libraries and librarians. Medical schools are expanding to include regional medical center locations for clinical years of medical school that do not provide for physical libraries, but instead offer only access to resources. So, the biggest challenge for our profession is to establish the value of our knowledge and skills as well as to keep identifying new roles for ourselves within our institutions.

How did you first come to know NN/LM SE/A?
I was familiar with the concept of NN/LM from New England. I volunteered to exhibit at the American Veterinary Medical Association in Boston and helped to teach people GratefulMed (yes, that was a long time ago!), and I participated in a 5 state outreach program funded by NN/LM NER. Knowing I wanted to move to Tennessee, I asked Tony Yancey of NN/LM SE/A if I could come volunteer at the AVMA meeting at Opryland in 2001. That was my first contact NN/LM SE/A . Thus, it was natural for me to contact NN/LM SE/A for funding for exhibit and outreach awards when I moved to Tennessee.

Has the NN/LM SE/A been of help to you?
The NN/LM SE/A has been a wonderful asset to Preston Medical Library and to Tennessee. We have received numerous exhibit awards and technology fair support. Additionally, we led a statewide assessment of health information across the state of Tennessee and, working with other leaders in Tennessee Health Sciences Library Association (THeSLA), we have hosted many education programs from the trainers, as well as statewide disaster planning. NN/LM plays an important role in health sciences librarianship in our region.

Will you share a success story about your library?
Our entire team is committed to our mission and has been working hard at “showing our value.” This means becoming an essential partner with the Graduate School, hospital administrators, nursing, and the community by being proactive, and adding services and events that make us relevant to more people.

Some examples include volunteering to serve as committee members for the shared governance nursing councils, hosting week long technology events (with NN/LM SE/A Funding), developing an active liaison program, naming a talented poet to be our Poet in Residence and holding monthly “Literary Rounds,” and bringing in a service dog regularly to help reduce the stress of our patrons. This list is so long – and it is a lot of work, but this has paid off with increased door count and, importantly, perception of our value to many more people.

What advice would you give others who are interested in being a health sciences librarian?

Stay curious, show your value, and remember your work will make a difference in the care patients receive.

If you have an inspiring story of your own, or would like more information, please contact Sheila Snow-Croft @

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