VCU librarian honored for leadership in health sciences collections for foundational text

March 5, 2024

The Medical Library Association (MLA) is honoring VCU Health Sciences Collections Librarian Karen Gau and her co-editor Iris Kovar-Gough for their 2023 book, which makes a significant contribution to medical librarianship worldwide.

Gau and Kovar-Gough will be awarded the Louise Darling Award for Distinguished Achievement in Collection Development in the Health Sciences at MLA’s upcoming annual conference in May in Portland. The award points to “accomplishments that have promoted awareness in or have served as educational contributions to collection development in the health sciences. Achievements worthy of the award may include overall distinction or leadership in collection development, or a specific accomplishment … such as a significant publication.” 

The Medical Library Association is a global, nonprofit educational organization with a membership of more than 400 institutions and 3,000 professionals in the health information field. Since 1898, MLA has fostered excellence in the professional practice and leadership of health sciences library and information professionals to enhance health care, education and research throughout the world. MLA works to ensure that the best health information is available to all.  

The prize-winning Health Sciences Collection Development: An Overview of Fundamental Knowledge and Practices (2nd Ed.) provides an overview of the responsibilities and tasks involved in the development and management of health sciences collections. The edition has a new section on unique collection genres; addresses diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility in collections; incorporates significant updates to and expands on previous content; and includes a glossary. Each chapter, as applicable, lists key communities and online courses for professional development on that topic.  

To create the volume, VCU Health Sciences Collections Librarian Karen H. Gau and Iris Kovar-Gough, liaison to the College of Human Medicine at Michigan State University, worked collaboratively with librarians nationwide. As co-editors, Gau and Kovar-Gough contributed content, worked with individual authors on their chapters, and edited the content into a cohesive resource.  

VCU librarians are often involved in scholarly activities that contribute to their profession. With this book, VCU Libraries also acted as publisher for the work as a part of the Open and Affordable Course Course Content Initiative. VCU Libraries staff provided assistance with the platform, Pressbooks, as well as formatting, glossary creation and general publication guidance. 

Publishing the work on Pressbooks breaks new ground for the MLA, according to Gau. “To our knowledge, this is the first ebook published by an MLA caucus on an Open Educational Resource platform, which greatly enhances the work’s readability, accessibility and discoverability.”

The open access format “maximizes the availability of this knowledge to any librarian needing it. Further, future updates will be facilitated, creating a living book that will be relevant for years to come,” said J. Michael Lindsay, head of collections & access services at Preston Medical Library, University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine, who wrote in support of the nomination. 

The book is expected to have a significant impact within the profession. “This guide will be hugely important to those new to collection development as well as those that are new to health sciences librarianship,” said Sarah Wade, medical librarian at Campbell University, who nominated Gau and Kovar-Gough for the award. 

Nicole Theis-Mahon, associate librarian Health Sciences Library, University of Minnesota, who also wrote in support of the award nomination, describes the book as “an asset to anyone involved in collection development.” Theis-Mahon continued to discuss the lasting impact of the book:

“It is a foundational text in health sciences collection development, and I have already shared it with colleagues who are new to this work. The layout of the book, topics covered, and accessibility of the text means that it will be impactful for years to come.” 

Link to book  

February 6, 2023 news article

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