SMHS Library Resources

Updates and information from your health sciences library

M*A*S*H Moments

The first time I remember hearing the word “triage” was on M*A*S*H when I was a preteen library aide in Williston, ND and it referred to medical staff who would evaluate a situation, do what they could to handle that situation, and finally who would hand the situation off to a more specialized carer if it was needed. Several years ago, I heard it again concerning MY job. At the time I was Circulation Manager, and that meant that I handled all the books and journals in the library…their physical care, helping students access them, checking them in and out, doing reserves, sending out overdue notices and other jobs that kept the circulation desk running.

At the time the library had only a couple of reference staffers, who sat at a desk and waited for students and faculty to need them. But the times were changing, and my job and their jobs changed with the times. The reference staff was moved away from that single service desk into embedded positions, meaning that instead of librarians being general practitioners they became specialists. They served a specific clientele and also moved physically and educationally closer to the clientele they served.

Eventually we reached the point where we moved into our new and almost completely bookless library. I had already begun training and once we were here, I officially became the “triage” person for library resources. So, what does a Circulation Manager do when there are no physical books or journals? My job has become answering face to face encounters, phone calls, chats, and emails. As the initial contact person, I do a reference interview and I find out what library users’ information needs are. I have worked with the reference staff and our Head of Library Services to learn about many of the search tools and search strategies our staff uses to see that the users get the best information available to them. And, once I have reached the upper limits of my knowledge, I pass the library user (along with a summary of what I have done up to that point) to the librarian who specializes in that area of study.

Today I also provide triage for Information Resources. I enjoy this part of my job, although not as much as I love the Library Resources part of my job. I actually have a degree in Library Science and I continue to be trained and educated in this area.

So, if you need library help, ask Jan! And if I reach the end of my skills, I will share what I have done to help you with a librarian who has specialized expertise. And just like in medicine and M*A*S*H, you will get help quickly and professionally and prioritized to suit your needs.