Hector R. Perez-Gilbe, MLIS, MPH, AHIP
Research Librarian and Bibliographer for Medicine, Public Health, Pharmaceutical Sciences & Pharmacology
University of California, Irvine
Editor’s note: This article is under copyright and used with the permission of BMJ. It was published in the BMJ Insider’s Newsletter in March 2020.
“What’s going to be the impact?”
One university, 280k+ students, 227k+ faculty and staff, 100 libraries, 10 campuses, six schools of medicine and five medical centers. Oh. My.
Welcome to the University of California (UC)! A world-class public research university and workplace for Hector R. Perez-Gilbe, a research librarian and bibliographer at the Irvine campus.
During 2019, failed negotiations between UC and a certain Dutch publisher resulted in the loss of new content from approximately 900 health science journals (3k altogether).
In our latest interview, Hector shares how UC Irvine (UCI) librarians prepared for this loss of content, and how they’re helping researchers, faculty/staff and students continue to have access to the lost content.
2019 proved to be a challenging year at UC when journal subscription negotiations with Elsevier failed. How did your library prepare?
From the moment the announcement came out regarding negotiations, library administration from all 10 campuses started strategizing action plans to deal with a worst case scenario. When the official statement was released about UC walking away from negotiations, we already had an action plan in place to avoid any interruption in access to the content. We had our concerns about the uncertainty of “What’s going to be the impact?”
Luckily we maintain perpetual access for content published prior to 2019. So initially the amount of content affected has been manageable. We implemented additional services to help, such as expedited interlibrary loan for affected journals titles. We also communicated with faculty regarding what measures we were taking and promoted heavily the services available to obtain access to the lost content.
What most concerns you about this current situation?
Interlibrary loan isn’t overwhelmed, which is a good thing. Though you can’t help to wonder if some faculty are relying on questionable sources or not accessing this information at all.
But I definitely support the university and understand what they’re trying to accomplish. UC is avoiding a model that has become a huge burden. I’m also concerned about the length of the interruption. We do not want to be left out of the whole research information cycle; it’s important to maintain access to the resources needed for the progress of the institution’s research output.
How do you support the UCI medical center?
I’m one of three medical librarians working at the Science Library. I support the medicine, public health, pharmaceutical sciences and pharmacology departments.
My main priority is collection development, but I do consultations and teach a pediatric rotation at the medical center, which is 15 miles from the library. I enjoy teaching, but don’t have much time. I primarily teach to stay in practice. We don’t go on rounds, but do work closely with residents, fellows and undergrads.
UCI is dedicated to research – whether that means finding evidence-based research or publishing new studies. How does the library support this?
We get the most requests to help with systematic reviews. We have a policy to be listed as a co-author before we get involved, or we can also give them the ins and outs. Most of the time it starts as an introductory meeting to teach them what a systematic review is. We provide direction and also have a lib guide on this topic.
Sometimes we are asked for assistance from authors looking to get published. So, I might look at SCOPUS to help determine high-impact journals or even create Orchid IDs.
UCI faculty and students are fortunate to have access to various online databases, programs, etc. How do you educate them on these resources?
I reach out to relevant departments to let them know about new product availability and how to access. Provide them with details to pass out to their students.
I might also present new material during a faculty meeting or send an email to the head of the department. Most departments have a communication person, so contacting them is often the best option. We typically see low attendance for webinars and training sessions, but we try if publishers offer them.
How do you determine when to invest in new resources or content?
It works in different ways. Some things are recommended by a school or department; in that case I investigate pricing and see if I have the money. If it’s a new product, I try to reach out to the departments that I think benefit from it, we can do a trial, get feedback. We follow turn aways to see if there’s interest.
We always use usage statistics when considering what to renew. We have a solid program on plastic surgery, but the department is pretty small. So I cannot expect to have huge usage because of that; but as long as there’s usage, I take that into consideration.
What are the evolving issues or trends that you are most closely watching in scholarly communication?
I’m mainly concerned about author compliance for tracking and funding purposes. We present the information everywhere, but some people don’t pay attention or comply. So, we’ve also started reaching out to chairs of departments.
For example, low submissions to PubMed Central can affect funding from the NIH, which requires articles to be in PMC 12 months after publication. We’re constantly communicating this to researchers to ensure they know about this additional step.
We also have eScholarship at UC, which is a database that tracks output of articles from our faculty. This system requires their input as well, so I’m constantly communicating about it.
There’s a video on the UC Irvine website that mentions how library renovations are creating a better place for collaboration and ensuring the space supports new technology. How have you seen this come to life?
Renovations are ongoing and librarians are asked for their opinions on how to make the spaces better. Among the four UCI libraries, we provide minimal computers since everyone has a laptop or can check out a computer. This provides more room for collaborative space.
The Science Library – where I primarily work – is redoing its grand reading room, which is the space that has most of the computers, a seating area for studying, and houses the reference collection. It’s a pretty big, open space that requires even the acoustics to be fixed.
We’re adding modern looking chairs and lounge tables, sofas. It will look more like a hotel lounge area/reception area than an actual table with four chairs. The TVs on the wall connect to laptops, allowing teams to easily project their work onto the large screen. Study areas now look more like a café. Hopefully done March 2020, was started in December.
Langson Library, the medical library, also has a great collaborative space that even includes glass you can write on.
I noticed inferences to being “ZOT” smarter at UC Irvine libraries. What’s this all about?
“ZOT” is the sound of the anteater. The anteater is our mascot and used throughout our promotional materials. It seems odd, but students selected this mascot in the late 60s, early 70s. It was not an administrative decision.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your career?
When faculty are appreciative of what we do in terms of collections and making sure they have access to the latest content. We help them teach, which helps graduate students. When the research is being used, it means I’m doing a good job.
I got an email the other day from a faculty member about a “reflection section” she conducts with her class, from which she received 20+ comments about how Hector helped them during his class. When I teach and people acknowledge it, that makes you feel good about the work you do.
What is the most challenging aspect of your career?
My main issue is collections. I make sure people are using them so I don’t have to cancel, and try to think ahead in regard to obtaining new content.
For example, we have a new PharmD program starting in 2021. UCI already has most of the resources needed because I took advantage of a few good budget years and thought ahead on this. So this is a great outcome; the program has the core resources needed for teaching and learning that can also help it get accredited.