UTHSC Librarian Finds Satisfaction in Helping Students, Faculty

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Tamara Nelson’s job as a senior research and learning services librarian in the UTHSC Health Sciences Library allows her to make a difference in the lives and work of both students and faculty members.

“With students, I enjoy feeling like I’m contributing to educating future health professionals,” she said. “With faculty, it’s great to work with them on projects that are impacting health care.”

Tamara Nelson

October is National Medical Librarians Month, which aims to celebrate and raise awareness of the important role of health information professionals.

Nelson was recently highlighted in the quarterly newsletter of the British Medical Journal, one of the top journals in healthcare. The interview focused on all the ways Nelson and the rest of the UTHSC library staff engage with their patrons in new and innovative ways.

Rick Fought, EdD, MLIS, assistant vice chancellor of the Health Sciences Library, praised Nelson’s work and said, “Tamara is a rockstar for our library. She is highly involved on our campus and in the library profession, and it’s great to see all her excellent work being recognized. She represents UTHSC well, and we are very proud of her!”

Nelson’s path to becoming a librarian began with a work-study position during her undergraduate years at the University of Southern Mississippi. When she wasn’t feeling sure about the education degree she was pursuing, a librarian she met at work encouraged her to enter the field, giving her the push she needed to change her major to library and information sciences.

After completing her undergraduate degree, Nelson began working as a paraprofessional at the Mississippi Library Commission. While working on her Master of Library and Information Sciences degree at the University of Southern Mississippi, she got a certification to be a school librarian and worked with children for seven years until she accepted a role at the University of Mississippi Medical Center before joining UTHSC.

As the liaison librarian to the UTHSC College of Medicine, Nelson provides students with help searching and navigating databases, getting access to articles, and organizing research. She also teaches an online workshop, called Enhancing Your Search Skills, which helps students sift through the library’s information.

Her work doesn’t benefit just students. Nelson also partners with faculty members in research and teaching, serves as an ex officio member of the curriculum committee for the College of Medicine, and is available to teach information-related skills in the classroom. She is one of several librarians who provide faculty with an advanced systematic review service that assists faculty through the systematic review process using specialized software.

“The library is more than just study space. We provide a skillset and a necessary service.”

Tamara Nelson

Nelson is on the Library Advisory Board of the Journal of the American Medical Association, a leading journal in medicine, where she worked to increase the diversity of the board. She is also on numerous committees in the Medical Library Association, including the editorial board of the association’s journal.

Nelson has completed a long list of presentations and publications, but some of the most notable include two book chapters: Virtual Chat & Chew: Radical Self-Care for BIPOC Information Professionals, published in Intersections of Wellness and Leadership in Higher Education; and Brainstorming Ideas for Library Events, published in Planning and Promoting Events in Health Sciences Libraries Success Stores and Best Practices. She has also collaborated on several articles and systematic reviews.

Nelson says her top accomplishments since joining UTHSC include being named the Academic Librarian of the Year by the Southern Chapter of the Medical Library Association, collaborating with the Health Sciences Historical Collection to create a collection of African American contributions to health sciences at UTHSC, and working with students and faculty to positively impact health care in Tennessee.