DAHSL: Developing Academic Health Sciences Libraries


a collaboration to create the 21st century academic health sciences library…

Meet Joanne Muellenbach–from the PRC/MLA

joanne-muellenbach-profile-photo1-150x150Description of Professional Position: As the founding library director for The Commonwealth Medical College (TCMC) in Scranton, I have the great honor and privilege of creating a brand new medical library from the ground up!  I began work with TCMC in February 2008, working on a part-time, contractual basis from my former home in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.  During this early period, I participated in the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s accreditation site visit, which took place last spring, and the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) accreditation site visit, which took place in July, just one week following the cross-country move with my family to our new home in Clarks Summit, PA.  In October, we were notified that we had received provisional LCME accreditation, and at that point we were able to begin active recruitment of our charter class of 60 M.D. students and 30 Master of Biomedical Sciences students for fall 2009.

Overall, my main library priorities have included the development of our collections and services, the design of our physical facilities, and the hiring of library staff.  It was also a priority for me, and a delight, to meet and get to know the local health sciences librarians, since TCMC students would be located on one of three regional campuses – in Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, and Williamsport. And I am so fortunate to have become a member of the Health Information Network of Northeastern Pennsylvania (HILNNEP). Through HILNNEP, I have been able to expand my network of excellent librarian colleagues even further.  Here is a snap-shot of our medical library thus far:  Our students will be provided with laptops, air cards, and will work in a wireless environment. We aim to have 95% of our resources available electronically. The remaining 5% will consist of no more than 500 core print titles.  Access to our medical library is through the TCMC Library Portal.  At present, the portal provides links to more than 8500 e-journals, 900 e-books, and more than 20 biomedical databases and other evidence-based resources.  A “Get it @ TCMC” button is linked from individual citations in order to provide full text, or to a self-populating interlibrary loan form when full text is not readily available.  Although our TCMC Library Portal is not accessible to the public, we plan to have a public library website soon.  In the meantime, please check out the TCMC website, <http://www.thecommonwealthmedical.com>.  You can visit us at our temporary facilities at Lackawanna College, where the library has seating for 80, including comfortable chairs, laptop tables, study carrels, small tables and walk-up public-access computers, along with laser print/copy/scan machines, book shelving, a training lab and an information services desk.  In 2011, we’ll move to our permanent facilities in the new Medical Sciences Building, which will provide 5,000 square feet of library space, including seating for 80, two group study rooms, a conference room, an Information Commons for hands-on library and informatics training, and much more.  At present, library staff includes Eric Rector, Head of Electronic Resources; Mary Jo Biazzo, Senior Library Technical Assistant; and Michelle Burwinkel, Library Technician for Electronic Resources.  Additional librarian and library assistant staff will be hired as we continue our development.

Past Professional Experience: Most recently, I served as the first library director for the first new medical school in Canada in over thirty years – the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM), in Thunder Bay, Ontario.  I received my Bachelor of Arts, and my Master of Arts in Library Science, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and for over twenty years I have worked in hospital and academic health sciences libraries throughout the U.S. and Canada.  In July 2007, I became a Distinguished Member of the Academy of Health Information Professionals of the Medical Library Association.

What do you find most interesting about your work? I really enjoy meeting and working with the College’s faculty and staff, who I have found to be very knowledgeable and with diverse backgrounds.  I enjoy working with the latest technologies and providing library orientation and instruction, and then hearing how access to our library resources and services has “made a difference.”  There is a tremendous amount of community support for the new medical college.  The fact that we have already signed on over 400 volunteer, adjunct clinical faculty says it all!  People from all walks of life – from the local politicians to the area business people to  university faculty and students – are very excited about the development of TCMC and are interested in its progress.

What qualities or traits are most helpful in your work? As a director and as a member of the TCMC Operations Committee, the ability to develop a vision, to plan strategically, and to meet timelines is critical. In addition,, because we are a “start-up” organization, there are many policies, procedures, and forms that have to be created anew, so flexibility and creativity are key traits for my work.  Due to our small staff size, it’s important to be a Jack (or Jill!) of all trades and to ensure that no detail, however small, is overlooked.  Good organization and communication skills are very important, as are courage and a sense of humor!

What do you enjoy doing for fun? Exploring this beautiful part of the country, on foot, by bicycle, by train or by car, with my husband, 12-year-old daughter and our 1-year-old Cairn Terrier puppy is really enjoyable.  So far, we have traveled to nearby communities in northeastern Pennsylvania, but also to New York City and to Montreal, Quebec.  Cooking and eating ethnic cuisine, going to the theatre and to concerts, and custom sewing are also fun past-times.

Is there anything about you that others might be surprised to know? Some people might find it amusing to know that I am a women’s ice hockey-playing fanatic!  I have been playing hockey for almost thirty years.  Back in the early days, I played more competitively, as a member of the Minnesota Women’s Ice Hockey Association, and then most recently as a member of the senior recreational division of the Thunder Bay Women’s Ice Hockey Association.  I have hopes of establishing a women’s team in the Scranton area. Contact me if you’re interested!

Why would you encourage members to become actively involved in Philadelphia Regional Chapter? I have met so many wonderful colleagues and friends over the years, and I have learned a great deal, through membership in various library organizations. Not only are you contributing to the profession, but you can meet such interesting people, keep up with your professional development, travel, and have a lot of fun.

edited by Jo-Ann Babish


Filed under: Director bios, Job descriptions,

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