Student Basia Delawska-Elliott Presents Case Study on Hospital Libraries at MLA Conference
Basia Delawska-Elliott

Student Basia Delawska-Elliott received a warm reception when she presented a paper in May 2014 at the Medical Library Association’s annual meeting in Chicago.

Earlier in the year, she and co-worker Heather Martin, the director of regional library services at Providence Health & Services, responded to a call from MLA for presentation proposals by submitting an abstract of their paper: “Combining Resources, Combining Forces: Regionalizing Hospital Library Services in a Large State-Wide Health System.” Their presentation was chosen for a panel titled “Architects of the Future: Managing 21st Century Resources.”

Martin and Delawska-Elliott presented their case study that describes the merging of four separate libraries in Oregon into a single regional library service. The process included creating one team, one digital collection and streamlined policies for the newly created regional service. “Many libraries in large health systems are facing organizational changes,” Delawska-Elliott said, “so this was a very timely topic.”

It was her first time presenting at a conference, and she admits being “really nervous” beforehand. “Luckily, we were the first ones to speak on our panel, so there was not a lot of time to worry,” Delawska-Elliott said. “The presentation went very well. We had a good crowd in attendance and lots of questions from the audience.”

Delawska-Elliott has worked for Providence Health & Services, a nonprofit health system, since 1994. She was a medical library specialist for 19 years before being promoted in 2013 to health services librarian. The promotion came as a result of her entering the Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program. “In fact, a commitment on my part to finishing the degree was a condition for getting my current job,” she said.

She was drawn to medical librarianship because it’s such a dynamic field. And since hospital librarians work closely with healthcare providers and medical researchers, “our work affects patient care and hospital procedures and policies,” she said. “Some medical librarians are embedded and participate in hospital rounds or work on nursing floors.”

A native of Poland who now lives in Portland, Oregon, Delawska-Elliott “practically grew up in a library,” since her mother was a high school librarian, and has worked in libraries for many years. “I love working in libraries and I really want to get involved in promoting and advocating for libraries,” she said. “Having an MLIS is a must for professional development. I jumped at the opportunity to enter a master’s program as soon as I was able to do it.”

She entered the MLIS program in fall 2012, and plans to graduate in spring 2016. Delawska-Elliott received the iSchool’s Kaiser Permanente Medical Librarianship Scholarship in April 2014.

In addition to her full-time job and her graduate studies, Delawska-Elliott has also taken an active role in the iSchool’s student chapter of the Special Libraries Association. The chapter was formed in fall 2013 by students from one of Dr. Cheryl Dee’s classes, and Delawska-Elliott’s husband, who was part of that class, was asked to lead the new group. He, in turn, asked his wife for help.

“I was already an SLA member, and I liked the idea of promoting special librarianship at the iSchool, so it seemed like a natural fit,” she said. “The Membership and Marketing Coordinator is just a fancy name for a Jill-of-all-trades. We needed someone to start recruiting, to organize webinars, to create a website and a social media presence. I volunteered to do those things and the title came later.”

After completing her MLIS, Delawska-Elliott plans to remain at her company, which is working to expand its library services to five states in the western U.S. “My job will be evolving with the reorganization, so there will be plenty of challenges and professional opportunities there,” she said. She also plans to be more active in the MLA and to become a member of the MLA’s Academy of Health Information Professionals (AHIP). AHIP is “MLA’s peer-reviewed professional development and career recognition program,” essentially a designation of professional excellence.

Favorite Thing about the MLIS Program

“I get to apply in my job every day the things I learn in class.”

Influential Instructors

“I think one of the great things about this program is how amazing the instructors have been. I would be hard pressed to pick one. Robert Boyd taught me leadership skills. Mary Bolin infected me with the metadata bug. Dr. Michelle Simmons rekindled my love for reference services. Aaron Schmidt compelled me to redesign all signs in my library, and Raymond Dean coaxed a real website out of me! One person that I absolutely have to mention is Dr. Cheryl Dee, who has been the faculty advisor for our SLA group. Dr. Dee has been a wonderful mentor. Not only has she been instrumental in getting our group off the ground, but she has also provided invaluable professional advice and encouragement. She even came to our talk at MLA and asked the first question!”

Career Tips

“If you are just starting out or if you are in a paraprofessional position looking to step into a professional job after graduation, find mentors, volunteer for committees and get involved in professional associations. I think it’s very important to find people who can help you shape your professional future, to show yourself as an influencer in your own organization, and to be active in a professional organization.”

Professional Affiliations

“I am a student member of the Medical Library Association (MLA) and the Special Libraries Association (SLA), the local chapters of those associations as well as the Hospital Libraries Section of the MLA. I highly recommend joining professional associations. They offer a great opportunity to network, to develop leadership skills and to advocate for libraries and librarians. Working with peers from across the country -- or the world, really -- enriches us professionally and broadens our horizons.”