September 27, 2017

Purdue Profiles: Bethany McGowan

Bethany McGowan Bethany McGowan, assistant professor of library science and health sciences information specialist. (Purdue University photo/John Underwood) Download image

Growing up, Bethany McGowan loved spending time in libraries. She volunteered at her local public library in high school and worked as librarian assistant throughout college. After completing her undergraduate degree at the University of South Carolina in 2008, McGowan made the decision to pursue a master’s degree in library and information science. She decided to focus her studies on medical librarianship, and moved to attend the University of Pittsburgh where she earned a specialized certificate in health sciences librarianship.

McGowan has over seven years of academic medical librarian experience, and has been employed at Purdue University Libraries since the fall of 2015 as an assistant professor of library science and health sciences information specialist.

What is your role as a medical librarian and what all does it entail?

My role as a medical librarian, specifically as an academic medical librarian, involves assisting students and faculty with their health sciences research needs. This includes making sure that students and faculty have access to the right journals and accurate information to perform their research. It also entails teaching individuals how to correctly build searches, including how to search databases, use proper citations and use library resources. My role can also get into things like data management. I help students and faculty handle the health data that they collect by teaching them proper data management techniques and strategies.

What do you consider to be the most important part of your job?

The most important part of my job is that I work with health professionals. I get to work with the public, and that’s a great experience, but getting to work with health professionals allows me to reach out and make an impact on the lives of so many people that I wouldn’t be able to otherwise. Knowing that the information-seeking and evidence-based practice skills that I teach to current and future health professionals helps them find health information that is useful for them and their patients is very fulfilling for me.

How does your work influence the lives of others, especially Purdue students?

The students that I work with are primarily studying nursing; nutrition; or speech, language and hearing sciences. I get to work with these students right as they’re beginning to establish research habits. The strategies that I teach them, including how to find appropriate journal articles for research purposes and how to critique information sources, are useful to them not only during their time in school, but also further down the line. These are skills that these students will carry with them into their future careers. I teach students strategies that make them more efficient researchers and more informed caregivers when they go out into the world and begin practicing. 

What kind of things do you like to do outside of your time at Purdue?

I love Chicago. I like living in a small town, but I enjoy getting away and spending a lot of my weekends in a large city. I am involved with Big Brothers, Big Sisters, a mentoring organization, and I have been matched with a "Little" for over a year now. I am also a part of the International Friendship Program here at Purdue and am matched with an international student. It’s been a lot of fun getting to hang out with her and learn about another culture.

What are some of your favorite memories from your time here at Purdue?

Some of my favorite memories may seem like very small and basic things. I still remember the first time that I visited the farmers market on Purdue’s campus. That was only a short time after I first began working here, and a lot of my colleagues had decided to get together and eat lunch at the market. The weather was extremely nice that day, and I remember feeling reassured that moving here was going to be OK. I’ve also gotten to work with a lot of great faculty during my time here, and I’ve had some really good interactions with them. My first time teaching a really large class was here at Purdue, and that has now become a learning experience that I really enjoy.

Writer: Olivia Crouse, 

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