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Visiting Librarians: Affra Al Shamsi

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Central Medical Library, Royal Hospital-Sultanate of Oman

International Associate, Summer 2009

Affra AlShamsi

In the summer of 2009, a new page was added to the Library’s growing album of initiatives related to the Middle East with the three-month internship of a medical librarian from the Sultanate of Oman.

Affra Al Shamsi, Head of the Central Medical Library, Royal Hospital-Sultanate of Oman, was the tenth information professional to come to Yale under the auspices of the International Associates Program, a Library-funded initiative launched in 2005.

Affra holds a B.Sc. (Bachelor of Science) in Chemistry from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) University, a Higher Diploma in Medical Librarianship from Sultan Qaboos University, and is registered for enrolled in the Information Management (M.Sc.) program at Sheffield University, in the United Kingdom.

The Royal Hospital is a “large, tertiary, acute-care hospital, which provides state-of-the-art services in the specialties and sub-specialties of medicine, surgery, paediatrics, obstetric & gynaecology, oncology and laboratory medicine (...) Established in 1987, it is owned and run by the Ministry of Health, Sultanate of Oman.” The Central Medical Library supports the clinical and the academic (teaching and research) mission of the Hospital by providing access to, and specialized training on, biomedical information resources and services. Recently, CML launched the first medical electronic library in the country, and is now running a pilot project to implement a similar approach among other medical institutions in Oman. It also started building an Omani Medical Library consortium to be launched in 2010, an initiative in which Affra was prominently involved.

In her current position as Head of the Central Medical Library, Affra’s responsibilities include: preparing a strategic plan for the library and hospital’s information resources; developing the library’s collection; building relationships with other medical institutions in the country and abroad; increase awareness of the effects of biomedical information on medical research/education and healthcare provision. As medical librarian and information professional, she introduced new services such as CMEIS (Continuous Medical Education Information Service) and EBMRS (Evidence-Based Medicine Reference Service); organizes regular workshops, seminars and lectures on computer & internet skills, evaluation of information on the Web, including medical resources and search tools; organizes an annual conference/exhibition for medical librarians and healthcare professionals; designed the library Web portal; expands the Library’s electronic resources and support remote access to them; and edits the library’s newsletter.

Affra is very active in professional organizations, most notably as member of the Library and Learning Resources Training Committee (LLRTC), the main forum for Omani libraries under the Ministry of Health; board member of the Omani Library Association and president of its Medical Library Chapter; board member of the Special Library Association-Arabian Gulf Chapter and Professional Development Chair.

At Yale, Affra worked in the Electronic Collections department under the direction of Interim Head Nisa Bakkalbasi.

Affra received training and prepared summaries of license agreements to be entered into the Library’s Electronic Resource Management system (ERMs), Verde. She also tested and evaluated a new version of this service and reported on her findings to members of Committee on General Digital Electronic Resources (CoDGeR).

Part of Affra’s time was spent reviewing the Medical Library’s core print journal collection and drafting a document that summarizes journals that could be moved to e-only based on existing licensing agreements and information provided by the Library’s serials agent.

Her efforts helped identify approximately $60,000 in cost savings from transiting these titles to e-only for 2010. Affra compiled COUNTER compliant usage statistics for key biomedical databases to allow, for the first time, a comparison of user sessions and searches with cost per session numbers across these resources. She also revised and updated the UpToDate usage data spreadsheet used by the Library and Hospital to track the utilization of this important, and expensive, clinical resource.

Affra’s observation of Medical Library operations and collection development included meetings with the Clinical Support Librarian, to learn about the library’s history and current engagement with the provision of clinical information resources via mobile technologies, such as PDAs and Smart Phones, to physicians, residents and other health care professionals working at Yale and the Yale-New Haven Hospital.