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Inside out with Jean Shipman: Elsevier’s ambassador to the library community reflects on her first year

By Colleen DeLory, Library Connect Editor | Sept 25, 2018



Jean P. Shipman and Elsevier’s Library Connect editor spoke recently to reflect on Jean’s one-year anniversary as Elsevier’s Vice President of Global Library Relations. You can read Jean’s impressions coming into Elsevier in her introductory article from August 2017.



Can you refresh us on your role as Elsevier’s Vice President for Global Library Relations?


My primary objectives are to represent librarians to Elsevier and also to help librarians navigate Elsevier. In my discussions with librarians, I stress that I have no sales commission requirement or sales involvement, so we have conversations, not negotiations. Our discussions this year have largely focused on how librarians envision the future of research in their environment, and the resulting impact on library projects, priorities and roles. The scholarly ecosystem is evolving at a rapid pace, and we need to work together to meet the challenges and take advantage of opportunities to advance educational, clinical and research missions and objectives.


In this position I can also help predict and solve problems related to miscommunication or a lack of communication. For example, this year some librarians shared their concerns over content being locked in or appropriated as we advance our platforms. But the good news is, Elsevier is building platforms in a way that ensures interoperability and portability, and contributes to industry initiatives (like ORCID, NISO and CrossRef) that help set these standards. I am working with colleagues internally to inform librarians of this, so librarians understand that we can be a tremendous asset to them as they partner with their researchers and their institution’s research enterprise. One example of this outreach is our open science webinar on October 11.



As a conduit between Elsevier and the library world, where do you connect and work with other librarians?


I represent Elsevier on committees and boards within CLOCKSS, Portico, CHORUS, RA21 and SSP. I also have a role with the National Library of Medicine, the Library of Congress and KB, in terms of content deposits and preservation.


I’m working with a talented team of librarians from the Boston area, in partnership with Dr. Elaine Martin at Harvard Medical School’s Countway Library, to investigate and advance research data management training for librarians (read more). And internally I’m on a curriculum advisory team for the Scopus Certification Program for Librarians, which is currently under development. It’s been exciting to help evolve the training within the context of librarians’ changing roles, so that it’s not just about search capabilities but covers metrics and institutional impact as well.


My schedule is also dictated somewhat by conferences. I attend many library-related conferences as well as publisher ones, and offer presentations on a variety of topics. At ACRL in 2019, I’ll be hosting a panel on libraries and artificial intelligence, and I am moderating one panel in a pre-conference for the 2018 Charleston Library Conference. Early in my tenure, I stepped in for a colleague and attended the IFLA president’s lunch in Poland. This was serendipitous as it provided a kick start in terms of global exposure to the incoming president and members of the IFLA governing board, including library and association leaders.


I co-chair Elsevier’s North American Library Advisory Board and am working with the Elsevier Foundation on ideas to advance health literacy. I am also working with an internal team to create a librarian award to honor Karen Hunter, who passed away this year.


Finally, I was honored to be asked to join the board of the Friends of the National Library of Medicine this year. I’ll be working with some of the premier minds in health in the country to support and promote the world's largest medical library.



What’s it like on “the inside” at Elsevier?


I expected the internal culture to be much more corporate, but in reality, there are so many transfers from academia that the culture isn’t that different from what I experienced at universities. Unfortunately, the amount of time spent in meetings seems to be the same.


The interest in librarians and libraries was a happy surprise. I knew that I was coming in as an ambassador to the library community, so obviously there was interest in issues of importance to our field, but I had no idea how pervasive it was throughout the organization. There is an innate desire to assist librarians, not just as customers but in a more holistic way. We see the tremendous expertise librarians add and want to showcase their value in research and clinical care. Working with various teams within Elsevier, I have been able to provide input this year on a range of articles, webinars and tools to support value exploration in terms of student learning, research outcomes and collection assessment.


I had a vague notion of what “global” meant in terms of a company like Elsevier, but it’s been more than simply geography and time zones. I have come to realize that the librarians I meet around the world, and also my colleagues, have different perspectives on the same broad topics, such as digital librarianship and open access. These are influenced often by local culture and conditions, including governing and funding bodies.



So you have had the opportunity to meet librarians in other countries?


It’s been a real privilege to visit librarians in nine countries over three continents. China and South Africa were farthest afield from my home base in Utah. To be honest, I was surprised by how similar the library directors’ concerns were to what I experienced in my career in the US. For example, in Johannesburg, the messages I heard were that the academic libraries were keen to become even more evidence-based and act as collaborative partners at their institutions. They are looking at adding new types of librarian roles, getting these positions funded, repurposing library space, including inviting partners to share the space, and forging partnerships to advance innovation. They’re very similar to initiatives I worked on last at the University of Utah.



You’re a little busy …


Yes! I admit sometimes I wish I had started this job sooner in my career. At the same time, I also feel like I left academia at the right time, having accomplished a lot of what I set out to do. In full disclosure, coming in to this job I thought I had a broad network of librarian colleagues and understanding of library issues, but as they say, you don’t know what you don’t know. In the last year, I’ve been exposed to a diverse group of libraries and librarians in terms of geography, functionality, and environments, and have deepened my knowledge accordingly. I want to continue to share this privilege and these perspectives with the global library community and within Elsevier as I move into my second year.