The first thing someone might notice when walking into the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Health Sciences Library is the lack of…well, books. “Ninty-nine percent—and probably more—of our inventory is electronic,” explains Library Director and Professor of Medical Informatics Erin Palazzolo. “This means that everything we have is available both on and off campus. Even if students can’t come in physically, they can visit virtually.”

Like most everything else at BCOM, this isn’t your average library. Palazzolo and Associate Library Director Norice Lee don’t spend their days shelving, checking out books, and telling patrons to keep quiet. From teaching and ensuring seamless access to licensed medical information, to training librarians all over the region and bringing in national health information literacy programs for the entire community, this dynamic duo does it all.

Supporting Student & Faculty Needs
The Health Sciences Library is bustling on a daily basis. “We have comfortable furniture, 3D models of skulls and bones, headphones, desk cycles and striders. These students often study for hours and hours, so it’s nice to keep the blood flowing,” Lee notes. “We also have puzzles and visits from the Therapaws therapy dogs for stress-busting. We’ve really tried to create a unique, comfortable learning environment for students.”

A typical day for Palazzolo and Lee entails keeping electronic resources up and running, ensuring information is readily accessible, and assisting both students and faculty with their research needs. “It’s not just the students,” Palazzolo points out. “Often times the faculty and staff need publications to help put together lectures or to supplement the research they are doing outside of the classroom. If we don’t have what they need, we can get it. All they have to do is ask.”

Thanks to technology and software, the librarians can fulfill requests for document delivery in just five to ten minutes. At larger universities and colleges, requests like these can take up to a week or more. “Every once in a while we get a stumper that takes some time, but for the most part, by the time we’re done entering the request, they have access to the document. It’s pretty much instantaneous,” Lee says.

Depending on the curriculum for the week, Palazzolo and Lee try to reinforce to the students the resources available. For example, when they begin studying Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine, the librarians direct them towards videos and other resources that can help improve their knowledge, understanding, and potentially their grades. When the curriculum includes medical informatics topics, Lee and Palazzolo both step in to teach classes.

Sharing Expertise
Palazzolo and Lee’s commitment to sharing knowledge extends far beyond the BCOM campus. “All libraries—whether a public library or at a school or university—help their service populations with health information needs. Part of our mission is to help other library professionals through outreach, professional development, and sharing of resources,” Lee notes.

In early 2017, Lee received a professional development award from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM) to attend the American Library Association Conference in Atlanta. Sessions at the event focused on consumer health information outreach. Later in the year, the BCOM library collaborated with NMLM to offer trainings to librarians, library paraprofessionals, and educators from around the region. More than thirty professionals from UTEP, NMSU, Western NM University, the El Paso Public Library, and Thomas Branigan Memorial Library in Las Cruces attended.

The NNLM training was just one of several the BCOM Library assisted in offering to fellow librarians and educators in 2017. In October, Palazzolo and Lee co-presented a poster session with librarians from other colleges of osteopathic medicine startups entitled, Shared Experiences in Startup Medical Schools—the Library’s Perspective. Lee and Susan Beck, Department Head of Access Services for the NMSU Library have also co-presented two recent sessions entitled, Increase Your Confidence, Reduce Your Fear: Copyright Essentials for 21st Century Librarians, and Caught in the Spotlight!: Copyright Challenges & Trends in 21st Century Libraries.

Lee was also the chair of the Alternative Income Sources Task Force, which provided information and presented recommendations to help the state’s libraries increase much needed alternative revenue. It is one of three task forces of the Libraries Transform New Mexico statewide initiative. She is also a member of the New Mexico Library Commission, which advises the State Librarian in Santa Fe, who serves all types of libraries with a primary focus on public and tribal libraries.

Reaching Out to the Community
Palazzolo says all of the BCOM Library’s outreach initiatives have the ultimate goal of “helping to improve the healthcare of the region.” This entails reaching out not just to current students, doctors, and educators, but to the future ones as well.

Thanks to Palazzolo and Lee’s efforts, their program has secured the National Library of Medicine’s Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine traveling exhibit to visit Las Cruces from April 9 through May 19, 2018. The BCOM Health Science’s Library was awarded a grant from the New Mexico Library Foundation to support a “Harry Potter Weekend” at Thomas Branigan Memorial Library. Palazzolo and Lee have also joined forces with the NMSU Astronomy Department and Arrowhead Early College High School to offer other related public events, including a live Quidditch game. Lee says, “Programming is geared towards children, teens, and adults and will include activities related to science and STEM education. All events will be free to families in the area, with a goal of promoting literacy within the region.”

The Harry Potter exhibit is just the first of many community outreach activities the BCOM Health Sciences Library has planned. Lee says they hope to start an informational brown bag lunch program to promote healthcare in the Border region, and they’d like to work with NMSU Cooperative Extension Service to provide educational programs around the state.

Lee says, “Of course we want to make an impact on the library world and in the world of osteopathic medical schools, but I don’t think people realize that we’re also here to support the community. We’re working to make BCOM a recognizable name in the region.”