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Check-It-Out @ ATSM Library Issue 2, 2013: Who's Who in
the Library

A.T. Still Library Staff Highlight - Cynthia Porter, Distance Support Librarian at the A.T. Still Memorial Library, Arizona.

I was born in Arizona and have lived here most of my life.  I played in marching band for four years at a Tempe high school and also while attending Arizona State University.  I graduated with a BA in Humanities, which gave me credit for studying music and Italian, which helped me develop my love of opera.  My favorite opera is “Rigoletto,” which includes the famous aria, “Woman is fickle.”  The quartet in Rigoletto’s third act is the piece that hooked me.

I went to library school at the University of Maryland, College Park.  My degree (Master of Library Science, or MLS) included an internship at the Music Division of the Library of Congress.  It was a great place to work!  My first job as a librarian was in Los Angeles, where I cataloged Olympic materials at a sports library.  This job required attention to detail, which is still my foundation in librarianship.  I also worked in San Diego, Chandler, and Pittsburgh, before landing at A.T. Still University in 2006.  The 2006 Medical Library Association annual meeting, held in Phoenix, helped guide me to work in medical libraries.

I began working at ATSU in August, 2006, as the library assistant (Catherine Ryczek is currently in this position), filling interlibrary loan (ILL) requests and everything else because there were only two of us working in the Mesa library then.  A new librarian position was created to start in July 2007, working with the distance students and faculty in the Arizona School of Health Sciences, or ASHS.  I became the new Distance Support Librarian and have served in that capacity ever since.

At first I worked with the distance faculty of ASHS, preparing video and document tutorials, talking with them to see how I could help with their classes.  My first online chat was held with OT students, Fall 2007, in their evidence-based practice class.  It was a text-based chat--the first of many.

I am regularly “embedded” in Blackboard classes, which allows me to read and post on Discussion boards, post links to tutorials, and use e-mail within classes.  Webinars are now my teaching method of choice because I like being able to maneuver around the library web page and show students while describing my actions.  For the same reason I frequently answer student questions with a 3-5 minute video tutorial.  I like showing the answers to questions with pictures instead of words (if one picture=1,000 words, that saves lots of time ;).  I regularly work with introductory ASHS distance classes.  In June I presented two one-hour live webinars—one for the physical therapy students and one to audiology students.  The webinars are recorded for students who can’t attend the live session.  These classes both include a library assignment, so the students are a captive audience.

The library offers live assistance to students in the evenings, Monday through Thursday.  I regularly monitor e-mail on the weekends.  Besides my own, I also monitor the main Mesa library e-mail address, libaz@atsu.edu.  I realized that students needed more help on the weekends after talking to a student in the library one Monday morning.  She told me that she came into the library on Friday night.  She had planned to spend a big part of the weekend on library research, but she was unable to do so because a technical issue prevented her from logging into the ATSU Portal (in those days, Portal access was required before accessing the library web page).  This was a residential student and I know that distance students, who regularly work full-time jobs, are even more likely to use the library and online ATSU resources on the weekends.

I tell students that they can expect a response to weekend e-mail within 24 hours.  I am not constantly monitoring my smart phone for weekend e-mail.  Sorry!  I check twice a day, usually once in the morning and once at night.  Although my response is not instantaneous, at least you won’t have to wait until Monday morning when you encounter a technical problem on Friday night.  I see an average of 20 e-mail messages sent on Saturdays and Sundays.  Some e-mails are simple like, “Can you get this article?” and others are more involved like, “I need help with research on _____.”  I was able to divert a crisis once after IT updated some hardware on the Mesa campus.  When I heard from students that they could not access the ATSU Portal at all, I contacted some IT folks who were able to fix the problem on Saturday.

Starting in 2012 I added students from the School of Osteopathic Medicine (SOMA) to my clientele.  The SOMA students working at CHC's were distance students too, right?  In January 2013, I visited with SOMA students from community health centers around Seattle, Washington.  I had already planned to attend the Midwinter Conference of the American Library Association (ALA) from Jan. 25th to 28th in Seattle.  I flew in on Thursday, Jan. 24th, so I could visit the SOMA students at a HealthPoint facility in Renton, Washington.  I am thankful to Ruth Michaelis and Eric Parsons, who hosted my visit, and to Christy Painter who was invaluable with her support.  I had a great time talking with students, discussing two new tools then:  UpToDate and ClinicalKey.  I even learned a cool trick from one of the students (thanks Sutira!).

I know that working with distance faculty is key to my success.  I was lucky enough to meet and talk with SOMA Regional Directors of Medical Education (RDME) when they met in Mesa for their Faculty Development Conference, the week before SOMA’s graduation.  I had a computer for lunch-time demonstrations of ATSU’s online library and I sat in on several of the educational sessions.  I offered every RDME I talked with my services, including a live webinar for students.  Mike Seby, an RDME who works at the Flagstaff CHC took me up on my offer and I had the pleasure of meeting with Flagstaff students, via Scopia, on July 1st.  I was really hoping for a reason to visit Flagstaff in person during the summer—maybe next time!

If you’re an ASHS distance student graduating in August I will see you soon!  I really enjoy meeting distance students in person after working for years on the phone and by e-mail/webinar/chat.  I get to sit with faculty at graduation and I clap for the names I recognize.  Some people apologize for ‘bugging me’ with questions, but that is never the case!  I have “distance support” in my title and my goal is to help you save time while nurturing evidence-based practitioners.  The names I recognize are those people who have called and e-mailed me.

The next time you need help finding online evidence, call me!  I can’t wait to hear from you.