iSchool Alumna Beverly McLeod Lands NASA Librarianship

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Studying medical librarianship might not seem like the most natural preparation for working at a space agency. But for 2008 alumna Beverly McLeod, the medical librarian coursework she took at San José State University School of Information helped build the skills and insight she uses today as manager of the three libraries at NASA’s Ames Research Center.

“If you’re sending people into space, you have to know a lot about how they can operate in difficult environments,” said McLeod, winner of the 2008 Kaiser Permanente Endowed Scholarship for Medical Librarianship, awarded annually to a SLIS student.

Researchers at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., are studying everything from the effects of weightlessness on bones and the psychological aspects of living in a confined environment to the potential of algae as a biofuel and washing machine designs that use minimal water.

McLeod parlayed her spring 2007 internship as a cataloguer at the NASA library into a full-time job there just a month later. Dealing with a patron base comprised mainly of PhDs and top-tier researchers has its unique aspects. The scientists rarely have reference questions. Instead, the biggest challenge of her job is tracking down articles on highly specialized subjects that her patrons need immediately. “We don’t have a very large budget or physical space, so we have to rely heavily on interlibrary loan,” she said.

McLeod came to librarianship as a mid-career change. She already held a PhD from UC Santa Cruz in Social and Cross-Cultural Psychology, and taught at the university for several years. McLeod also coordinated an education research project evaluating programs for linguistic minority students before opening her own business as a dyslexia specialist. But after 10 years, she wanted a job that would re-engage her love of lifelong learning and enrolled at iSchool.

During her MLIS program, McLeod took INFO 220 (Resources and Information Services in Professions and Disciplines), taught by instructor Charles Greenberg. The course focused on medical librarianship, and gave McLeod the foundation needed to run her own solo library at NASA, as well as an appreciation for the work that the National Library of Medicine has done to organize and make available all of its information resources.

McLeod also found her INFO 240 (Information Technology Tools & Applications) course, taught by instructor Debbie Faires, extremely valuable. She recently used knowledge gained through that course to oversee the redesign of her library’s website.

As she was preparing to graduate last Spring, McLeod received the Kaiser Permanente Endowed Scholarship for Medical Librarianship, a $1,000 award that supports iSChool students who are interested in a career in medical librarianship and health informatics. For more information regarding iSchool awards and scholarships, visit this page.