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Meet Rachel Koenig: New librarian for School of Pharmacy wants to immerse herself in the culture of the school and meet student and faculty needs

August 31, 2017

Rachel Koenig joins the faculty at Tompkins-McCaw Library for the Health Sciences as liaison to the School of Pharmacy with deep experience in teaching and library instruction. She served as an instruction and assessment librarian at the State University of New York at Canton College of Technology, Canton NY, after having completed her master's degree in library science at Indiana University. She also holds an M.A. in history from Indiana University and received a B.A. in history at Gettysburg College. Here are some of her thoughts about working with the School of Pharmacy. 

What strengths do you bring to VCU that will help you serve the School of Pharmacy students and faculty?

I have been a librarian in academic libraries for four years. This is a welcome transition into a new role in health sciences librarianship. I bring a fresh perspective and, as a result of my past experience as an instruction librarian, a robust knowledge of the research and information literacy skills obtained during students’ undergraduate years. I hope to apply this knowledge to my instruction of graduate students in the VCU School of Pharmacy, and assist them in their pursuit of higher-level research skills. I also bring a strong commitment to lifelong learning and the pursuit of knowledge, which is an empowering asset when it comes to my personal research and collaborating with faculty in their own areas of inquiry.

What are your goals for the 2017-18 academic year?

I am happy that I was able to join the VCU Libraries faculty in the summer. This timeline enabled me to settle into work at a new campus, in a new city, and in a new state. Now that the academic year is upon us, I look forward to introducing myself to the faculty in the School of Pharmacy and immersing myself in the culture of the school. I hope to gain a sense of how the school works, what type of collaboration already occurs, and how I fit into that mix. This year, I hope to work with faculty to create engaging classes that promote active learning opportunities and hold office hours in the school that promote the accessibility and visibility of my work as a liaison. I want to showcase my commitment to help the faculty, students and staff with their literature searching and information literacy skills. To do so, and as part of the required training necessary at the Tompkins-McCaw Library, I will attend premier systematic review and evidence-based practice workshops at various institutions in the country.  I look forward to sharing what I learn with the pharmacy school community.

Can you share an example of how VCU Libraries develops custom content for specific courses or groups?

This summer, myself and two other health sciences librarians worked closely with the faculty teaching Introduction to Pharmacy Information (PHAR509) and Pharmacognosy (MEDC533) to tailor library instruction in each course. All PI students take these courses during their first semester. Past student evaluations indicated that library instruction and course content overlapped. To better serve the needs of the students and the faculty, we worked to scaffold class sessions, beginning with an orientation to Tompkins McCaw Library for the Health Sciences in Introduction to Pharmacy Information, an introduction to PubMed in Pharmacognosy, and Advanced PubMed skills in the concluding Introduction class. Active learning pedagogy influences each session. I’ll be asking students to complete a bit of background work before the class starts, and intermingling active exercises throughout classroom lectures and demonstrations. Librarians and Pharmacy faculty hope for positive results in classroom assessment and student evaluations.

I hope that this customization will serve as an example of the many ways in which VCU Libraries collaborates with faculty to tailor classroom instruction and help improve the overall curriculum. Other ways in which customization occurs can be seen in the development of course- or program-specific Research Guides, the willingness to collaborate and assist with literature reviews for grants, or the readiness to sit on a research team and conduct systematic reviews. This kind of work is being accomplished every day at Tompkins-McCaw Library, and I look forward to doing the same with faculty and students in the School of Pharmacy.

How do you hope to become actively engaged with the school?

I hope to become actively engaged by being present and visible. Over the summer, I have been introducing myself to faculty, participating in curriculum committee, and developing a plan to immerse myself in the culture of the School of Pharmacy. Through these actions, I am getting a taste of what has and has not worked in the past. I will hold office hours at the school in a very visible site. I want to be accessible to all faculty, students and staff. If you see me sitting in the lobby of the Smith Building or near the elevators on one of the floors, please do not hesitate to say “hello!” I hope to set up in BioTech I and in McGuire Hall on certain days as well.

I also plan to investigate opportunities to serve on committees in the School of Pharmacy, participate in professional associations such as AACP, and attend continuing education workshops and educational events held by the school.

I look forward to working with faculty to make our library collection for Pharmacy more robust through active collection development, and I hope to promote faculty and student research and scholarship by helping to determine places to publish, introducing open-access opportunities via VCU Libraries’ Open Access Fund, and encouraging publication uploads to VCU’s institutional repository, Scholars Compass. 

Are there particular services or opportunities VCU Libraries provides that you want to stress?

The VCU Libraries Open Access Fund and Scholars Compass are two wonderful opportunities offered by VCU Libraries that may be of interest to pharmacy faculty, students and staff. I’d also like to mention the Pharmacy Research Guides, which are located on the VCU Libraries website under the tab for Research. These guides are customizable, and one of my first tasks will be to update these guides to make them more user-friendly and full of appropriate content. We have  Research Guides geared toward Pharmacology students, Drug Information Resources, the History of Pharmacy, etc., but I can produce tailored course guides for classes in the School of Pharmacy.

I’d like faculty to know that this opportunity exists and that we can work together to create guides that gather and organize the online resources students are expected to access throughout their courses. Guides can also house library tutorials or videos as well as guided instructions to support particular research assignments and course activities. The guides can be embedded into Blackboard, with students able to utilize the guide both on and off campus. If this sounds like an interesting tool to you, please contact me.

 

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