Category Archives: Crawls

Library Crawl!

Hello, Library Lovers!

Please join us for SLA’s quarterly Library Crawl at the Washington Talking Book and Braille Library in South Lake Union. The WTBBL is a specialized public library serving individuals in the State of Washington who are unable to read standard print material (

The event is free to all SLA PNW and SLA-UW members and takes place Friday, June 9th from 4:00 to 7:00pm. Some parking will be available in the WTBBL garage, and the building is two blocks from the transit stops at Westlake and Denny. Light refreshments will be served. Late arrivals are welcome if you are unable to join us at 4:00.

2021 9th Ave (corner of 9th and Lenora streets)

RSVP to Laura Grove at; the event is free, however we would like to know how many people to expect. Looking forward to seeing you all then!

-The SLA PNW Board


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Health Sciences Tour Recap

SLA was lucky enough to arrange and enjoy a tour of the Health Sciences Library at UW on 10.27! The tour was a small success, led by Ann Gleason, the Associate Director of the library. We were joined also by Frances Chu, and Nikki Dettmar.


The tour began with a walk-through of the upper floor of the library, which has been designed as a common study space room. The large expansive area with little walls or barriers facilitates group and solo study with a comfortably low level of chatter. The upper floor also contains many computers available for medical student’s testing, classes, and general use. In addition to these study spaces, there is an off-shoot of the Odegaard Undergraduate Library Writing Center, with tutors who are specifically knowledgeable in medical jargon.


The lower floor was a different space entirely. The study spaces were much more quiet, as the librarians noted that sometimes students shushed them, instead of the other way around. Due to the transfer to online access, the librarians referred to their stacks as the “ever shrinking bookshelves”. Despite this, they can boast a large number of physical journals. As the lower floor gets quieter and darker, there are some books to be found.

We were also able to see how the library is evolving as they move books off site and respond to user’s needs. Including the writing center, the library is transitioning staff cubicles into student-used spaces. Currently, the library is working on establishing an audio-visual recording area (contact the librarians for how to get access to this!) and a media-focused conference room.


After the tour, we had the chance to sit down with the librarians and pick their brains about their current jobs, career trajectories, and how the library functioned within the larger campus environment. We tried to find out exactly what their jobs looked like, but it was difficult to pin down. All the librarians mentioned that if you liked variety, health sciences is a great place to experience it.

While the job description varies for these librarians, I have tried to make a rough outline. Their jobs include school related things, orientation, teaching students how to search, etc., publishing (conferences, systematic reviews – which are literature reviews but incredibly more intensive, from what I gathered), administrative duties (assessment, user experience), and reference.

It was a wonderful, knowledgeable experience, and SLA is very grateful to have hosted it. If you were not able to make it to the tour, we encourage to you to look around the health sciences website, or any of the resources listed below. As an additional plug, Ann Gleason teaches an online health science library course in the spring, so be sure to look out for LIS 528 HLTH SCI INFO!

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Microsoft library tour

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Panorama of the library, taken near the entrance.

Last week, the staff of the Microsoft library generously opened their lovely space to a passel of students. They greeted us with excellent snacks, told us about their work, and gave us the run of the place. Here’s some of what we learned:

Microsoft has approximately 110,000 full-time employees and a similar number of contractors; the services of the library and archives division are available to all of them. The library in Redmond has six full-time employees who approach the library’s work from a strategic perspective. Day-to-day operations and research are conducted by contractors; the whole team is about 25 to 30 people. The librarians also noted that there are many people with an MLIS who work in other roles at Microsoft, such as content management, user experience, and information architecture.

Along with the library at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, there are physical branches in Beijing, China; Redding, England; and Hyderabad, India.

The physical collection includes 8,000 books that are shipped around the world for use. The collection is unusual among special libraries in that it exists not just to support job-related research, but also as a resource employees can use to learn and grow. In that way, the librarians said, they’re more akin to an academic library, which supports both the research needs of faculty and the interests of the general campus population. The library also has a Maker Garage with a 3-D printer and spaces for sewing, soldering, printing, and a variety of other tinkering.

Microsoft’s archivist assists executive groups with research: she can provide company history, photos, information for points in a speech, and more. The archives also contain every piece of software the company has made, most of the company’s advertising, and hardware needed to run that old software and play advertising in obsolete formats (notably, a Betamax).

Part of the appeal of working in the Microsoft library is that positions come with a lot of variety and autonomy; the librarians said they’re never bored. They also said a key way to succeed at Microsoft is to volunteer for things — to see something that looks interesting and jump in.

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In terms of assessment, the library staff relies not only on data it’s collecting using Microsoft’s own tools, but also on understanding and conveying the library’s impact on employees and on the company. They pointed out that it’s impossible to quantify what it means for people to have knowledge, and that the ability to tell a story that demonstrates the library’s value to its users is as important as data. (On a related note, Philippe, who leads marketing and outreach efforts, said his job is “evangelizing the hell out of the library,” and he recommended a book: “Blueprint for Your Library Marketing Plan.”)

The library plans to review its online portal and the way it’s organized, and to research how it’s being used. Nicole Partridge, who manages the portal, made a point that stuck with me: Librarians think in terms of content types, but people who need the library think in terms of the questions they have.

Two job-hunting tips: Keep your LinkedIn profile updated not only with what you’ve done, but what you want to do; make one-on-one connections with librarians whenever possible (via informational interviews or informal discussion) to learn about the work and how to be successful in it.

Many thanks to Merrill, Nicole, Kimberly, and Philippe for their time, expertise, and good humor.


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Winter Quarter Library Tour at Fred Hutch

Arnold Library

Image courtesy of Stephanie Ramsay

On Thursday, March 5, SLA-UW got insight into the world of medical librarianship! Acquisitions librarian Doug Shane led a tour of the Arnold Library at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The Arnold Library has a physical presence in the Fred Hutch facility in South Lake Union, and the space is open 24 hours a day to support the round the clock research being done in the Center!

Although the Library tracks subscriptions to 32,000 journals, in 2008 they decided to cease all print subscriptions and now only purchase digital journals. The library retains the older printed journals and has a small popular science collection, but lot of the space has been converted to a small computer lab and study spaces, as well as a small area that can be used for filming interviews or other audiovisual purposes. The computers have a lot of software that researchers use but might not necessarily have on their own computers.

Given that more and more resources are online, the librarians at the Arnold Digital Library are working on more ways to support the researchers at the Center. They complete book and other ILL requests, as well as training on software like Endnote and databases like PubMed. They also provide help for formatting research papers and preparing grant applications, which is a very popular resource amongst the researchers!

Arnold Library shelves

Image courtesy of Stephanie Ramsay

Like many special libraries, many of the librarians do not have a background in medical knowledge and learned a lot of the terminology on the job. If you are interested in medical librarianship, the Arnold Library occasionally has internships available, and is happy to work with you to create a DFW. Reach out to SLA-UW if you are interested!

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SLA Library Tour: EPA Region 10 Library

By Lydia Bello

EPA Region 10 - image1On Wednesday, October 8, almost 20 iSchool students from SLA-UW joined the Pacific Northwest Chapter for a tour of the Region 10 EPA Library.

Created in the 1970s, The Region 10 library holds an interesting position in the EPA. Contractor operated since the 1980s, the library has moved between the public affairs, IT, and Infrastructural and Operations Departments before recently moving back to IT. Liz Doyle, the supervisory librarian and current SLA-PNW President, works with a staff of two other librarians to serve both the employees of the EPA and the general public. The library materials were barcoded in 2000, and the library uses Inmagic’s DB/TextWorks catalog for the local database.

Two months ago, the Library moved from the 10th floor into a beautiful new space on the first floor of the Park Place Building in downtown Seattle. The staff of the library is currently focusing their efforts on weeding, digitization, and creating the idea of “library as place.” Three fourths of the known collections are digitized and online, and the library maintains a collection of Region 10 documents. The library is in the process of encouraging EPA staff to use the library as a collaboration space, with places to work and monitors that can be hooked up to libraries, similar to the UW’s own Research Commons. The library has already gotten more foot traffic as passers-by see the stacks and other materials from the ground floor windows.

Although the quantity of reference questions have declined over the years, Liz notes that they have become increasingly complex. These questions often include background research for enforcement projects.

EPA Region 10 - image2If you missed this tour but are still in the Seattle area, the EPA library is a great place to visit. And as Liz said during her presentation, like with all special librarianship, “everything you do is with the help of your colleagues,” and there are some pretty fantastic ones here in the Pacific Northwest.

Have you seen or worked in any neat special libraries as of late? Want to share your experiences with the SLA UW and the iSchool? Write for the blog!

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Welcome to SLA-UW

Hello everyone!

It was wonderful to see so many new and returning faces at the SLA-UW events during iWelcome Week! We’re excited to work with you and explore the different aspects Special Librarianship can take over the next academic year.


But what makes a “special library” special? Special libraries are a diverse, broad group containing any information setting that has a highly specific user group and/or focuses on a particular collection or subject. Special libraries often exist inside other institutions, from aviation museums to zoos, and there are special libraries as from law to engineering and technology, health care, business, advertising, government, and more! The possibilities are endless.

As to us, we are the University of Washington Student Chapter of the Special Libraries Association. We are a student chapter of the global Special Libraries Association, and we work closely with the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the SLA (SLA-PNW) to put on library crawls and other events.

With that in mind, we’re pleased to announce the next SLA-PNW Library Crawl on October 8, 2014 at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Library. Library Crawls, or tours, are events where we tour a special library and get to ask questions about how that library operates with our hosts. This Crawl is being hosted in collaboration with the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Special Library Association. Here are details from the SLA-PNW website:

EPA Library Crawl
October 8, 2014, 4:30 to 6:30 pm
Register Here: www.surveymonkey/s/8XFM3M7

The schedule:
5:00 – 5:30 pm Social hour
5:30 – 6:30 pm Tour of EPA Region 10 library collection, with a presentation on the EPA Desktop Library content, Region 10 Library page, and digital EPA publications
EPA Region 10 via Google:

Special instructions about entering the building: Enter the building on 6th & University. You will need to go through security before being directed to the library on the 1st floor.

We hope to see you there! Library Crawls are a great way to meet your fellow classmates and professionals in the area, network and to learn about all the different career opportunities available in the world of information professionals.

On a closing note, we asked everyone who stopped by our table during the iWelcome Fair to name their favorite special library. Here’s what everyone shared, and we think this is a great list:

The mini free library in my neighborhood
Suzzallo-Allen Library, University of Washington
Seattle Public Library, Central Branch
Huntington Library
Library of Congress
Museum of Natural History
Amsterdam’s public library
New York Botanical Garden Library
Swem library (college of William and Mary)
UW Engineering Library
Too many to list here
Burlington Public Library
Edmonds and Everett Public Libraries
Bellevue College LMC
MIT science library
King’s College, Cambridge
LBJ Austin forever
Seattle Central/Rainer Special Collections
Folger Shakespeare library
Any Pacific NW library!
Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Egypt
Vancouver, BC public library
Reading Room at the British Museum

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NLM: The Biggest (Medical) Library in the World!

NLM: The Biggest (Medical) Library in the World!
by Kimberly Tate

The National Library of Medicine, the largest medical library in the world, is located in Bethesda, Maryland and is part of the National Institute of Health. Charged with the dissemination of the most recent health information (both for health professionals and for patients), the library has an extensive collection which is open to the public. I was able to visit the National Library of Medicine this past summer for a scholarship I received and meet with Reference Librarians, the Assistant Director of NLM and a number of other librarians.

During my time there, I was able to learn about the Associate Fellow Program, a 1 year program (with an optional second year) which takes new MLIS  graduates and trains them how NLM is run while the fellows complete a series of projects. As I am especially interested in medical reference librarianship, I was thrilled at the opportunity to sit and observe (and answer a few questions) with one of the reference librarians. She explained the necessity of ensuring that all the library’s programs and facilities were ADA compliant as she showed me some of the cool technologies they have to ensure this. Some of these included screen magnification software, speech synthesizers, and adjustable tables. They also have a Kurzwell machine which scans English language text and reads it to the visually impaired researcher.

I found interesting that after 9/11, the increased security and building of a fence around NLM had drastically reduced the number of public visitors. One way that NLM is able to reach the public is through their Regional Libraries. If you weren’t aware, the NLM Regional Medical Library Group is located here on the UW campus!

Charged with carrying out NLM’s mission in the Pacific Northwest, the RML provides outreach and funds for health education to the community and the health professionals. I learned about some of the great initiatives that NLM RML’s are working on in the coming year, specifically increasing health education/outreach in the K-12 and community college setting. Each person that I met had a very unique vision for their position (something which has always drawn me to medical librarianship).

All in all, my trip was a success. I was able to view a beautiful library, meet passionate people in the profession and learn more about why medical librarianship is more important  than ever. The way that technologies are changing the way medical professionals interact with and utilize data is a rich and growing field. One that I look forward to working in and growing with.

I would be happy to chat more if anyone wants additional details about NLM, the Associate Fellows Program (the application is now open!), or any other aspects of medical librarianship! Let’s continue to learn together.


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