By Sarah Fletcher Harper MA, MLIS, Web Services Librarian, School of Medicine Library, University of South Carolina
With library budgets shrinking due to the economy and positions being frozen, librarians are finding themselves filling new and non-traditional roles. I find myself in such a role as the Web Services Librarian at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine. We are a small community- based medical school founded in 1977 with a focus on primary care. A unique feature of the medical school is that we are the first program in the country to integrate ultrasound training into all four years of our curriculum. Our program was established in 2006 through a partnership with GE Healthcare. The medical school is the academic home for the Society of Ultrasound in Medical Education (SUSME) whose mission is to promote the use of ultrasound in medical education through development of educational experiences, research on outcomes, and distribution of results. The School of Medicine hosted the First World Congress on Ultrasound in Medical Education in 2011 with over 400 attendees from 26 countries; the second world congress is planned for the fall of 2013.
In 2008 the library was facing severe budgets cuts and a hiring freeze. The Web Services Librarian position was vacant and the duties had been reassigned to one of the assistant directors. The Dean was trying to grow the ultrasound program and the website needs of the program were outpacing what the school of medicine IT department could provide. The Dean approached the Library Director about cost sharing the vacant position in exchange for support for the Ultrasound Institute and Society of Ultrasound in Medical Education websites. An agreement was made and I was hired in 2009.
My library responsibilities include maintaining the library website, providing reference assistance, service on University and School of Medicine Committees, development of LibGuides, participation in library instruction, and scholarly requirements for tenure. My ultrasound responsibilities include attendance at weekly ultrasound team meetings, maintenance of websites for the Ultrasound Institute, SUSME, the First and Second World Congresses on Ultrasound in Medical Education as well as the Ultrasound Education for Anatomy and Physiology Conference.
This dual role between the library and the ultrasound program has worked very well and has had unexpected outcomes that have been beneficial to the library and the ultrasound program. It has evolved to include assisting the ultrasound team with research and literature searching, development of a wiki to assist them with their research, staffing the SUSME booth at various conferences, and assisting with a partnership with the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine on a 2013:Year of Ultrasound campaign. In addition to this I have been included as a co-author on two journal articles written by the ultrasound team. I assist with visits from other medical schools looking to implement ultrasound into their curriculum and I was recently elected as Secretary of SUSME.
This partnership has benefited the library and the ultrasound program and met both of their needs well. Each group now has a dedicated person available to meet their web design needs. Providing web support to a high priority project of the dean gives the library valuable political clout. It has been a great new way for the library to connect with new users in the ultrasound program that it may not have otherwise reached and has been an innovative way to adapt to a difficult budget environment. Personally it has been a very rewarding experience for me. Being in a dual role means that I am always tackling new and different challenges every day and developing skills in areas that I otherwise would not have had the opportunity.