From Burlington to Lima, Peru: Dana Medical Librarian Fosters Information Exchange

Fred Pond
Fred Pond, MLS

As an Education and Information Librarian with the Dana Medical Library, I spend a lot of time implementing the most up-to-date methods to access the many resources we have here, and teaching patrons how to use them. Through a unique collaboration with the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PUCP), my colleagues and I have been over the past year sharing best practices with librarians at that institution in Lima. Our work builds on a partnership that was created in 2012 as an effort in shared expertise, particularly with biomedical engineering and libraries.

Dean of Libraries Mara Saule, Bailey-Howe Librarian Laurie Kutner, and I visited Lima in September of 2015 and again this past spring to meet librarians there and explore collaborative opportunities.  We toured the libraries, including a just-built Engineering Library that is an energy efficient LEED-certified building. We also met with their librarians, learning about the programming that serves the university of 20,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

Many of our discussions centered on how librarians can enhance access, or discoverability of library information resources, via the web. Our Research Guides by Subject feature on the Dana Library website served as a starting point for a talk about how patrons electronically access databases, journals, and other resources here in Vermont. At the end of the visit, we attended a Latin American Librarian conference, the International Congress of University Libraries (CIBU 2016), held on the PUCP campus. UVM and PUCP librarians will continue to exchange knowledge in the coming year, potentially broadening the focus to include professional exchanges in other disciplines.

These future collaborations are built on a solid understanding of our two institutions and their needs thanks to our September, 2015, visit. We spent several intensive days collaborating with librarians and staff, and meeting with university faculty. A workshop we hosted on user-centered design principles, including how different user groups look for information, and how users can get help from librarians, led to additional exchanges about how to best make resources available. We also demonstrated our “Ask-A-Librarian” service, an online offering unfamiliar to our Peruvian colleagues, and of great interest to them.

We also found time to understand more about the city itself and Peruvian culture. Lima is a city of almost 10 million people, but I was surprised how relatively easy it was to walk about.  At the beginning of our first visit we found an English-speaking tour guide, and spent an afternoon at old cathedrals with underground burial sites. We later visited a farmer’s market, sampling the food, ending with a lavish bar that served us Pisco Sours, the national alcoholic drink of Peru. We tried Peruvian culinary specialties, such as ceviche (marinated seafood), causa (mashed potato with spices), and different types of corn. Lima is on the western coast of South America, which probably contributes to weather that is similar to San Francisco – fog often burning off in the afternoon and a steady 70 or so degrees Fahrenheit.

The on-going exchange between UVM and PUCP stands to improve library services in Peru as well as strengthen our team’s understanding of information access across cultures. As academic librarians we all want to support coursework and curricula, and improve support for student and faculty research, and this partnership stands to introduce new ways to accomplish our goals.

Read more about the collaboration in the Dana Library newsletter from May, 2016, and in the December, 2016 issue of International Leads.

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