MUSC Libraries to serve as regional lead for Network of the National Library of Medicine

May 03, 2021
portrait of a woman outdoors
Shannon Jones is leading MUSC Libraries as it takes on the role of regional medical library for the Network of the National Library of Medicine. Photo by Sarah Pack

2021 is proving to be a big year for the libraries at the Medical University of South Carolina. Even as library staff members are working out of University Hospital Extension while the Colbert Education Center and Library building undergoes renovation, director of libraries Shannon Jones and her team are preparing for a major new responsibility.

After a competitive application process, MUSC Libraries was awarded a five-year, $6 million cooperative agreement from the National Library of Medicine to serve as one of seven regional medical libraries in the United States. The MUSC Libraries took on this responsibility on May 1, serving as the regional medical library for Region 2  of the Network of the National Library of Medicine. Region 2 comprises Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“It puts MUSC on the map in a different way,” Jones said.

The network’s mission is to improve health by providing access to biomedical and health information to everyone from researchers and public health workers to members of the public. Its members include not just academic libraries but also public libraries, public health departments and community groups with an interest in health and health care.

As part of this mission, the regional medical library based at MUSC will offer training, funding and engagement opportunities for members and other organizations. Jones expects to see grant applications from libraries and community groups that are trying to address health disparities, health literacy and the digital divide that has become more apparent in the South, thanks to the pandemic.

“We’ll get to fund some projects that will be trying to address some of those issues. That’s the exciting thing – that we’ll be in a position to enable some exciting and meaningful work throughout the region,” she said.

"That’s the exciting thing –
that we’ll be in a position to enable some exciting and meaningful work throughout the region.”

Shannon Jones
director of Libraries

But she also expects the membership to keep her busy.

“The challenge we have – and it’s a good challenge to have – we’re taking over a very active network and a very active member base,” she said.

Not only is this MUSC’s first year as a regional medical library, but this is the first year for this new region. Previously, the Southern states were part of the region that extended north through West Virginia and Maryland. For the new cooperative agreement period, the National Library of Medicine realigned the regions to better balance the membership in each district.

The University of Maryland at Baltimore, which previously served as the regional medical library for the old Southeastern/Atlantic region, is now serving a new region that extends from Virginia and Kentucky up through Pennsylvania as well as a mentor for the region headquartered at MUSC.

Jones said she’s received a lot of support from colleagues across the nation as well as here on campus, including the Office of the Provost and Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.
The first thing she’ll have to do is hire seven staffers to implement the programs and mission of the regional medical library.

She expects one position in particular, the research and data science coordinator, to help laypeople to understand data curation and the importance of research data and how to store, preserve and replicate data. This will be geared toward community groups that are running health programs but aren’t necessarily thinking that they might want to use their data 10 years from now for research.

She’s also going to be reaching out to the membership. Last year, while preparing the application along with Monique Hill, program manager of Hands on Health South Carolina, and Heather Holmes, associate director of Libraries, they talked to network members to find out what their experiences have been and what they’d like out of a new Southern office. Now, she’s happy to return to those who gave their feedback and ask them to sit on advisory boards.

And while Jones is busy getting this new region off the ground and keeping the library running in its temporary space, she’ll also be taking on yet another major task: She recently learned that she was elected as president-elect of the Medical Library Association, only the second Black librarian that will have served in this position in the association’s 123 years.

Despite all that’s going on, Jones is eager to begin work as the regional library and is already hopeful for a successful reapplication in four years.

“We're going to represent the university well,” she said.