Alumni Spotlight: Amy Blevins

Posted in: Alumni | LIS | News | Spotlight
Photo of Amy Blevins
Photo of Amy Blevins

You’ve come a long way since earning your MLIS! Tell us about your career thus far.

I started working as a student assistant at Saint Louis University’s Pius XII Memorial Library as an undergraduate pre-med student. I had such a great experience working in different departments like reference, cataloging, and serials, and the librarians there (many of which are still friends) encouraged me to apply to graduate school. I decided to go to the University of Missouri-Columbia because there was a health sciences librarianship class on the books and I got a job working for Stephens College that included housing. Plus, Dr. Budd was very welcoming when I met with him to discuss the program.

In 2005, a position for a graduate assistant opened up at J. Otto Lottes Health Sciences Library, and that’s where I truly fell in love with health sciences librarianship. Diane Johnson taught me so much about searching, Rebecca Graves mentored me through an independent study on information literacy and helped me fall in love with instruction, Amanda McConnell trained me on practical skills and was always supportive. Susan Meadows let me do an assistantship at the Family Medicine Library where I learned what it’s like to work in a hospital setting. There were many other friends and mentors like Barb Jones, Caryn Scoville, Amanda Sprochi, Deb Ward, and and Kate Anderson who mentored me and gave me advice along the way.

After grad school, I accepted my first professional position as the Liaison to Allied Health and the College of Health and Human Performance at East Carolina University. As a liaison, I did a lot of instruction and started thinking about ways to offer scaffolded, curriculum-based instruction to health sciences students. At the time, ECU had the largest distance education program in the state, and I also started working on online instructional materials. In time, my position changed and I became the Education and Instructional Technologies Librarian. It was a wonderful experience, and I learned so much from the people there and all the opportunities that the William E. Laupus Library for Health Sciences provided to us for professional development and conference attendance. As much as I loved the people and the library, I missed my friends and family in the Midwest.

In 2010, I took on a new adventure as the Liaison to the Carver College of Medicine at Hardin Library for the Health Sciences at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Medical students, for the most part, take the same classes in the same order. I became involved in curriculum committees and was able to grow a scaffolded, curriculum integrated approach to library instruction. I also became more involved with teaching evidence-based medicine (EBM). While I was at Hardin Library, systematic reviews became a hot topic in health sciences librarianship, too. I was the first librarian formally trained at my library to conduct them, and I worked with my colleagues to build a robust service for the departments we served.

During my career, I was fortunate to have really great supervisors, and I felt a strong desire to lead. In 2015, I became the Associate Director for Public Services at Indiana University School of Medicine’s (IUSM) Ruth Lilly Medical Library (RLML). Our library serves the largest medical school in the country with nine campuses across Indiana. We have a great team of librarians, and we’ve been able to build a strong curriculum for evidence-based medicine for our medical students. I oversee our education, research, circulation, and liaison programs. We have an exciting new research team handling data services, scholarly communication, and research metrics. During this pandemic, we were able to shift to online instruction fairly easily due to the work that our library has done to create online modules and flipped classroom experience for our medical students. I am really proud of the work we have done these last 4 years. In addition, since 2017, I have served as the EBM Thread Leader for IUSM. This is not a role traditionally held by librarians. The EBM Thread oversees learning objectives and helps develop curriculum for EBM across all four years of our undergraduate medical program.

I hear that you are going up for full professorship currently — can you talk about what that is like for librarians?

I am putting the final touches on my dossier this week. It has been an interesting journey. When I was at ECU, I had faculty status and the opportunity to pursue tenure. When I moved to Iowa, I did not have faculty status. The librarians there are Professional and Scientific Staff. There is a ranking system with opportunities similar to tenure, and I was in the second highest ranking when I left. That gave me an advantage when I started on the tenure track at RLML. Different libraries have different processes and standards for promotion and tenure. Our is administered through our IUPUI Librarian Faculty Committee. We are required to show demonstrable impact in job performance, research/creative activity/professional development, and service (to the institution and to our profession). I am grateful to my mentors for encouraging me to become involved in professional associations, present and publish on my work, and to document my activities throughout my career.

What advice would you give yourself if you were currently considering a career in librarianship, or if you were in an MLIS program?

I would say to take time to think about what you want out of your career. Consider your values and level of comfort with risk and change. Seek out mentors to give you advice and to help you grow your CV so that you are ready when the right opportunity presents itself. Become active in professional associations while you are still in school. Many of them offer free or reduced memberships, and professional associations are a great way to network and keep up with changes in the profession. The Medical Library Association and two of its chapters, Midwest and Mid-Atlantic, have been my professional homes. They provided me with so many great friends and leadership opportunities. Finally, try to maintain a healthy worklife balance, but do not be afraid to volunteer for projects and leadership opportunities that will help you grow as a librarian. I will admit that I sometimes struggle with the worklife balance part. TL:DR, find mentors and network so you can learn from the mistakes of others and share the knowledge you gain from your unique mistakes along the way.

Tell us about your recent award from the Medical Library Association!

I am honored and humbled to be receiving the Lucretia W. McClure Excellence in Education Award. This award “honors outstanding practicing librarians or library educators in the field of health sciences librarianship and informatics who demonstrate skills in one or more of the following areas: teaching, curriculum development, mentoring, research, or leadership in education at local, regional, or national levels.” I was nominated because of the work I have done with our medical school’s curriculum and because of my involvement with continuing education including two EBM training institutes. I am really proud of our librarians because they are teaching critical appraisal skills to our medical students. This is not something that health sciences librarians often do. I’m also delighted to participate in two EBM/critical appraisal training programs for librarians. I’m an instructor for one, Supporting Clinical Care: An Institute in Evidence-based Practice for Medical Librarians, and a founding creator and instructor for the other, the Critical Appraisal Institute for Librarians​.