Just dive in and learn!  Advice from a System Librarian with an enduring belief in lifelong learning, a commitment to serving others, and a willingness to look for opportunities to make a difference

By Caitlin Williams

This month’s interview is with Aidy Weeks, Systems Librarian in the Health Sciences Library, within the Library Services Department for Orlando Health.

As you read through this interview, notice the wide range of subjects Aidy pursued in her undergraduate education, in addition to her master’s degree.  In particular, notice how she has been able to put her past education to work for her in her current position. Consider how you can do the same – whatever your background.  All of our training, education, and experience can help us advance our careers.

Also, look at how Aidy wears many “hats” during her workday.  It’s likely you do, as well. Are you making full use of the variety of tasks you do each day to spot opportunities to make a difference and move your career forward?

Caitlin: Thanks for the opportunity to do this interview with you.  I’m looking forward to learning about worklife inside a medical library!  How long have you been in this position?

Aidy: I have been the Systems Librarian since February 2015.  Before that I was a Medical Library Technical Assistant (LTA) in the same system.

Caitlin: Can you tell us how you got your position?

Aidy: I first began working in libraries back in 2004 when I was very young.  I started in my local public library system and I worked up into different positions throughout the library – starting in community relations, then in reference, and also telephone-based customer support.  After I graduated with my BA degree in 2011 – in addition to my public library experience, I applied to work in the medical library after seeing that an LTA position opened up.

So, with my experience in the public library setting and my bachelor’s degree, I was able to get a position here in the hospital.  And, as I was doing my duties as an LTA, I decided to go back to school and complete a library degree.

I did the Florida State University program, which is 100% online, and I did that in for about 2 ½ – 3 years. By the time I graduated, the Systems Librarian who was here at the time left to work at another institution; which left that position vacant.  I was able to talk to my manager to make the case that by getting my master’s degree and being knowledgeable with the resources and services in our medical library, I would like to become the next Systems Librarian.

Caitlin:  Serendipity!  How nice for you that you could stay at your same place of work.

Aidy: Yes!  It was great!

Caitlin: What was your undergraduate degree in?

Aidy:  I have a B.A. in English in the Creative Writing discipline. I also have an Associate’s degree in Sociology.  I had a very interesting college education that combined a bit of Social Sciences, Legal Studies, Mathematics, (at one time I wanted to become an engineer).  Through it all, I settled on the English degree, which I enjoyed. Writing is one of those skills that takes a special talent to do successfully.

Caitlin: Do you think the variety and breadth of the academic studies you participated in helps you today?  Does it contribute to what you’re doing in some way?

Aidy:  Absolutely – it’s so very fascinating now that I look back (hindsight is 20/20).  I got a year’s worth of legal studies that I did back when I was thinking I might want to go to law school (which I decided wasn’t for me).

However, one of the things I do in my current role is to review licensing agreements and contracts.  I don’t have the final say – it’s left to our Legal Affairs department. However, I do get the opportunity to review legal documents that I’m familiar with, having done classes at UCF on that topic. But, truly it’s a skill that one learns as they go.

As far as the social sciences, it’s very fascinating, the way that sociology works – the study of individuals and social determinants in life as it provides a very interesting perspective on our users.  Working in a medical library setting, you have to work and assist with patients, caregivers, team members, nurses, and physicians that all have different motivations, different backgrounds, and different social determinants that you have to be mindful of when you’re providing the right type of assistance, the right information, at the right time.

I think having a varied background and having different areas of study in your undergraduate and graduate degrees can only benefit you because of how diverse librarianship is.

Caitlin:  In terms of the kinds of job responsibilities you have now – can you talk about what areas you get involved in?

Aidy:  The Systems Librarian role is essentially the Technology Librarian.  They are the ones who manage and maintain the e-resources and (in my case) also the print resources in the health sciences library collection.

That entails maintaining and managing the library’s website, the databases, e-book collection, discovery tools, as well as updating holdings information, working on platform migrations, troubleshooting, and also a little bit of cataloguing. But, an extension of that is also that I manage and maintain our computer classrooms.   I’m also the IT liaison between Health Sciences and our IT department. So, when something breaks down or something happens I’m usually the one putting in a ticket, coordinating with IS, trying to figure out what the issue is.

Because we’re a small team, we crossover a lot in responsibilities and duties, it’s all about team work, so I also handle circulation activities; I assist with the duties of what the LTA does, and check out library materials to team members and even send out late notices.

I also work on discovering new resources that are relevant to our users and consult with other departments. Sometimes I’m a technology/resource consultant for other departments.  Sometimes a department is looking to buy a product and they may reach out to the Library to get our opinion because of our history of being able to review products, finding out what’s the access model that’s being used, how much it costs, and so on.

I also have extended further beyond the typical role of a Systems Librarian and have become a tech literacy advocate by starting an upskilling program in our hospital.  It is a very similar to what I remember in my public library days, we offer computer classes and webinars, similar to what a local library may offer to their community.

And that’s because though we get the typical requests for clinical information or reference assistance, we were discovering that there was a need to provide computer classes to help frontline team members gain basic computer skills. We also learned that it was just not frontline, but all sorts of team members who benefited from providing classes right on the hospital’s campus.

Caitlin: How many team members do you serve?

Aidy: At the last count – our library provides resources and services to around 18,000 team members.  Because were so spread out, a lot of our interactions take place online, so even though we have a physical space, oftentimes, the best way we’ve been able to serve our team members is through online content and online service.

Caitlin: Sounds like you also do patient and caregiver support, as well?

Aidy:  We have a dedicated consumer health librarian, Jessica Daly.  She covers both the Clifford E. Graese Community Health Library, which is the only library of its kind in Central Florida and the MCRG Patient & Family Learning Center dedicated to providing consumer health resources related to cancer care. She’s doing amazing things in the hospital, providing classes, visiting with patients and providing consumer health consultations at no cost to our patients and caregivers.

Caitlin:  When did you determine that you wanted to go into librarianship?

Aidy:  I haven’t always known.  My first venture into anything related to libraries was as a teen volunteer in a public library.  I actually became interested in libraries because that was where my sisters and I went after school.

As time went on, there were so many other careers that I was interested in; but I always kept coming back to a library.  I would be working in the library while I was dreaming of other careers I might want!

And then it hit me when I finished my bachelor’s degree – I realized that I am, by nature, a person who loves to seek out information.  I like being able to help others connect to that information and see it help them grow professionally and personally. One of the things I always have told myself is that I’m a big believer in libraries being the great equalizer in our society; and I have always loved seeing people use the library to better themselves and their community.

At the time that I went to library school, I wasn’t 100% sure that I would end up being in medical librarianship.  I was open to whatever was available because of how fluid I was in my current career path having gone from public to working in medical – but I was sure that I could work in different kinds of libraries.

But, the opportunity came to be a health sciences librarian and I took it!

Caitlin:  What’s the most fascinating and the most challenging part of what you do?

Aidy:  I would say what I find most interesting is how much we are integral to the health care system.  There is so much that our library team does that integrates into the rest of the health care system.  I’m fascinated by how much we help support that. Many health care systems don’t have hospital libraries because ages ago the requirement to have one in place was removed by Joint Commission (which is one of the major organizations that accredit health care systems).  

Basically, they said that as long as there is a means for people to access the information, a physical health sciences or hospital library wasn’t necessary.

So, over time, there has been a decrease in the number of hospital libraries.  However, when people find out that we have a hospital library and then they find out all the resources they have to help either take care of patients, upskill their abilities as an employee, or just get information that will help them in their process of getting a health care degree, they’re amazed at the resources here.  I’m always fascinated that the resources that I help put together and maintain have an impact on our patients and our team members each and every day. I like the link between what we have to offer as a resource, both in content and in personnel, and how that helps to drive better patient care. And better engagement as well, with employees.  If they have the resources they need to be better at what they do, there’s always a positive outcome to that.

Caitlin: How nice to know that what you and your staff do is so valued and valuable to those you serve.

Aidy:  Absolutely, yes – I’m thankful and grateful that I work in a health care system where our services and resources are valued.  Because in many systems, their librarians have an uphill battle trying to justify and find resources and personnel that some individuals might not see as profitable. 

Caitlin: And the most challenging part for you?

Aidy: A part of the challenge is letting team members know what we have to offer to them.  We have our regular users who know what we have and come often, on a daily or weekly basis.  And then we have team members who have been with us for decades and didn’t know we had a health sciences library.  So, making that connection – letting them know we have these resources to help them – is a challenge. Luckily, we have good relationships with the department that handles promoting that content to staff.  So, anytime we get some new resource, or we get a new service we’re always trying to make sure we promote it to the right people who can share it with our team members

Any time we have something come out – like a new resource, I make sure I write it up it, I make sure it’s accessible on the website, and three other different places, and then I make sure I’m sending it out to our Communications department so they can disseminate it to the rest of the team.

The other challenge we have is more in the area of our upskilling classes. It’s trying to be able to connect with frontline staff.  Upskilling is a phenomenon that started a few years ago with the Obama administration where corporations were encouraged to create programs that would help their employees have access to a high school diploma education program, classes that provide English speaking skills for those who have English as their second language, and also just basic technology computer- related classes.

So, we started that a few years ago and the issue that we’ve come across is that it’s hard to get the folks that we want to attend the class to come.  We’re a health care system, so we’re on 24/7, so to be able to get them to the class is difficult. We’re always thinking of different innovative ways to get our content and classes out to those folks.  

Caitlin:  How about when it comes to upskilling librarians – what would you say to librarians if they wanted to keep their skills current or not get outdated.   What areas would you recommend or suggest?

Aidy: A couple weeks ago I was involved in a Twitter chat that was talking about “the imposter syndrome” and it delved into the question: how do you feel like you are competent and capable in what you are doing?

One of the things I mentioned was that you have to just dive into the unknown. There are things you may be curious about but you’re afraid to try and do them because you think you’ll fail.

I’m the first person to say I have a fear of failure.  I’d rather know that I’m on a path where I can guarantee no failures – all successes – and that I’ll be fine.  If I go into an area where it’s a bit difficult and I’m not sure if the project is going to be successful, I become a bit hesitant.  But, having said that, I know that there’s always new technologies coming out – and new platforms out there that are slowly becoming more integrated with our library resources and one of the best ways to stay current with your skills and up-to-date is to dive right in, take a webinar, go onto the website to learn about the technology. A fascinating area that I’m delving into is micro-learning, short, self-paced and accessible learning modules in the form of video tutorials, apps, and online courses. I’m looking for what’s currently out there and are there any free resources we can point our team members to or even consider doing ourselves.

I was reading a study by the consulting group, Deloitte. They talked about this fascinating figure: the half-life of a learned skill.  They said that the half-life of a learned skill is five years. The skill you learned 10 years ago is obsolete, and the skill you learned five years ago is irrelevant.

You always have to consistently be on the go and learning.  

Micro-learning can also benefit the library professional. I’m fascinated with lots of different technologies but obviously, who has the time to immerse yourself in all of them?  So, with micro learning, what you’re doing is you’re taking little snippets of that information by watching a short video or taking a course here and there. What I love about them is they are sometimes completely free or, in the case of Lynda.com, you can get to that with your library card, which I always try to promote with our team members.

Or you can go online to sites like Udacity or Coursera or others to take classes, where you might have to pay an affordable fee (less than what it costs to get a master’s) and add courses and certifications to your career profile.  So, I would say that there’s a lot out there for people to do. But, you also have to be willing to step outside your comfort zone. If you don’t, you’ll never find out how capable you are in trying something different.

There was a part of me that thought I was going to stay in public libraries forever because that was what I was good at.    I understood the Dewey Decimal System, I understood our patrons, I understood our strategic imperatives. I understood what it took to run a library and what the focus was.  And so, I was able to tailor my skills really well to that audience.

When I jumped in medical libraries, I didn’t know the first thing about the classifications system, and what the needs of the physicians vs. the nurses were, and what are the resources that you use, and how does the library fit into a health care system.  I had no idea.

And I had to learn on the go – and it was hard.  There were days it was difficult for me to truly understand how a health sciences library functioned, primarily because my background wasn’t in health sciences.  Over time, and consistently trying and attempting things that were outside my comfort zone, I ended up developing newer skills. I became more comfortable engaging with physicians and nurses and with being able to find the content and the critical information they needed.  It just became second nature.

I think that consistently stepping out of your comfort zone and taking advantage of resources that are out there are great ways of upskilling in librarianship.

Case in point:  one of the things I’m trying to do is to write more, using what I learned in my bachelor’s degree and do some writing for library journals.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had to write. I’m having to step out of my comfort zone for that, but I know if I stick to it that the outcome will be worth it.

Caitlin:  Any other advice that you would give for students getting ready to graduate or for new professionals in the field?

Aidy:  One of the biggest pieces of advice that I remembered hearing was: while you’re still in school or going into the field – if you know you want to be working in a library, as a master’s level professional, either try to locate a job that’s in a library (even if it’s entry level) or volunteer, volunteer, volunteer. Because you’ll need something that shows you have had some sort of exposure to libraries.

If you can’t volunteer in a library, then definitely volunteer in some sort of library association that you have an interest in, like at your school’s association, or your ALA chapter, the one for your state.  If you’re doing medical libraries, that would be MLA, or a local chapter related to MLA. Whatever association you have a connection with, try to volunteer in that capacity. Not only will you get your exposure, you’ll also make connections.

The other thing I would say is, if you’re getting ready to graduate, still look for any sort of funding opportunities in your particular library association.  Also look for fellowships; they don’t come up often, but if it’s not your time yet to find a job in the library and you still want to be in the academic realm, fellowships are another the way to go.  Health Sciences Librarianship has a fellowship through the National Library of Medicine.

And there are fellowships in a ton of other subspecialties within librarianship that may be of interest.

The other piece of advice I heard is to be willing to relocate.  The unfortunate reality, that I’m very familiar with here, is that librarianship positions are limited. Just be willing to relocate because It may take time for you to secure a position that you want to do. (I heard that advice a lot).

Caitlin:  Did you have to relocate?

Aidy:  Luckily, I didn’t have to relocate.  But I was mindful not to buy a home or do anything permanent in case I’d have to relocate.  

Caitlin: What’s next for you?

Aidy:  Writing is the big one. I’m trying to be more involved in doing that.  (I just remembered that one of the things I did in library school was that I applied for and became a Hack Library School blogger and I did that for a little bit – so I used my writing skills there!)  It was my way of doing something above and beyond library school and working through my writing.

Aside from writing, there are two main avenues that I’m trying to pursue.  One, I’m wanting to hone in on my instructional skills. I do provide instruction on some of the PC classes we offer here.  But everything, like I said, is out of the comfort zone. I also want to improve my bilingual skills. I speak English and I speak Spanish.  I was not formally trained in speaking Spanish – my Spanish I learned through conversational dialogue with my family growing up.

One of the things we’re trying to do right now is promote health literacy. We have a big Hispanic population and one of the areas I need to brush up on and polish more is being able to communicate that in my native tongue.

Caitlin: How is that going for you?

Aidy:  It’s going great – which is good because I have a TV interview on Monday.  We’re going to be promoting our consumer health library to one of the major TV stations here.

Caitlin: Could you say more about that?

Aidy: We’ve got three libraries and two of them are dedicated consumer health libraries.  It’s very cool because in central FL in the health care system, our hospital is the only one that offers a consumer health library.  It’s not quite a public library but it’s a library open to the community that provides credible health care information and resources for people who have been newly diagnosed or who have questions about their health care and they need someone who has the time to help them.  We know that physicians and nurses and allied health providers are quite busy with what they do. Consumer health librarians provide that additional support. We can sit with them and provide them with the right information at the right time to help them with their health care needs.

There was a need to have a Spanish-speaker share information about the library on one of our local Spanish news station and I volunteered for the interview.

Caitlin: That’s so important – to be open-minded about opportunities.

Aidy:   Yes.  Sometimes the first reaction might be:” I can’t really do that or it’s not on my job description”.  But when you have those kinds of mental barriers, it will definitely dry up your opportunities to network across departments and showcase how much of a value you are.

As much as we want to go to that place where you say “I don’t know how to do that” or “I’m not comfortable learning that skill” it’s always better to jump in and try it.  If someone is already seeking you out, that’s a good thing.

Caitlin:   I know balance is important for all of us.  How do you take care of yourself during your non-work time?  

Aidy:  A librarian’s work life can get very busy. There have been times when I’ve worked past 8 hours trying to get work done. One of the things I’ve had to remind myself is that it’s important to create to do lists and prioritize important tasks so that the work gets done within my 8-hour day. When it’s time to go home, I do my best to go home. The best self-care habits I’ve tried to incorporate (though I am not perfect) is to get 8 hours of sleep, drink plenty of water, have non-screen time and go out and have fun with my family.

Caitlin:  Aidy, thanks so much for sharing this important information with us!  I feel like I have a better understanding of medical librarianship now!



  • Did you notice how often Aidy was willing to “dive in” to the unknown?  How comfortable are you with moving beyond your comfort zone?  It’s a good idea to assess yourself on that question.  Why not determine what you would consider a “do-able” risk – even if it’s something small.  You don’t need to take giant leaps into areas you don’t know about. Just think about one or two things you could do that would take you a bit out of your comfort zone.  Once you’ve accomplished them, you’ll feel more confident.



  • Are you regularly in “learning mode”?  If you are, you’ll spot opportunities to learn important new skills or knowledge, make connections, and grow you career!