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Interview with Nora Barnett, Birthingway College Library

Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get into librarianship?

Growing up, the public library was like a second home to me. One of my earliest memories is negotiating to go to the library before nap time. In college, my favorite part of any paper was doing the literature review and background research. I have always had an inclination towards social justice and an insatiable curiosity, so librarianship seemed like a natural choice.

What is an achievement in your career of which you’re particularly proud?

Working on a shoestring budget, I have sought out creative ways to get resources to students and faculty. I go out of my way to find solutions outside of established channels so that I can connect patrons to peer reviewed articles, books, and other resources that support their learning. I see myself as an advocate for my library’s users.

What would you like Oregon academic librarians to know about your institution?

Birthingway is a very unique place. It’s the only school in the Pacific Northwest that is Midwifery Education and Accreditation Council accredited to educate direct entry midwives. The founder, Holly, is dedicated to training skilled and competent doulas, lactation consultants, and midwives. Birthingway’s collaborative approach towards learning and multi-vocal approach to policy development have made it my favorite place to work.

The library is similarly unique; it includes traditional western medicine resources as well as resources on plant medicine and homeopathy. The librarian’s role, particularly in teaching information literacy and giving students the tools to find and evaluate information to support evidence based practice, is a small but vital part of students’ education.

What is the biggest challenge facing your library in the upcoming year?

In 2018, Birthingway’s board decided not to admit new students to the midwifery program, which is the oldest and largest program at the college. Once current students complete their education, the program will end. This will likely lead to the school closing within the next few years. Unfortunately, it’s a challenging financial climate for small, private, academic institutions, as has been demonstrated with the recent closures of Marylhurst and others colleges across the country.

The biggest challenge will be continuing to provide the best library services possible for our students and faculty. Despite a probable closure and shrinking budget, my aim as the librarian is to ensure that students continue to have access to all the resources and instruction they need to support their educations and become lifelong critical consumers of information.

What has been the best thing that has happened to you since you started your position?

I love the feeling I get when patrons go out of their way to thank me for for how helpful I’ve been, or when I’m able to get them access to something they didn’t think they’d be able to access.

Having the opportunity to get to know other librarians is another wonderful thing that’s happened since I started. I’ve applied for and received a number of scholarships to attend continuing education courses and conferences. Equally if not more valuable than the conference sessions has been my discussions with other professionals, many of whom I have kept in touch with. Whether I have wanted to bounce ideas about information literacy exercises and lesson plans or ask a technical question, these individuals have been  helpful and constructive. It’s great to see the values displayed that led me to the profession in the first place.

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