Catalyst Magazine

Five Questions with HSHSL Dean Emily Hurst, MSLS

Emily Hurst, MSLS, became dean of the Health Sciences and Human Services Library (HSHSL) and associate vice provost at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) on Feb. 1.  

Hurst oversees a library that employs about 70 librarians and staff and had a circulation of more than 162,000 items in Fiscal Year 2022. The library also saw more than 140,000 visitors and reached more than 8,000 people through research consultations or library-sponsored classes during that same period. The HSHSL serves as the Regional Medical Library for Region 1, which provides programs, services, and dedicated support for Network of the National Library of Medicine members in Maryland and eight other states. 

Hurst has more than 15 years of experience working in health science libraries, most recently at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), where she served as deputy director and head of the Research and Education Department for VCU Libraries, Health Sciences Library. There, she oversaw the operations of a diverse group of liaison librarians and ensured that the library met the information needs of health sciences students, faculty, and staff.   

She serves as an elected member of the Medical Library Association (MLA) Board of Directors and is active in the Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries and the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of MLA. She has been recognized for her achievement in health science librarianship and leadership by MLA as well as state and local library associations. In 2023, Hurst won MLA’s prestigious Estelle Brodman Award as the Academic Health Sciences Librarian of the Year.  

Hurst earned her bachelor’s degree in history from the University of St. Thomas in Houston and her Master of Science in Library Science degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

CATALYST magazine talked with Hurst a few weeks after she arrived at UMB to discuss her plans for the HSHSL.  

What are your goals as the dean for the HSHSL in the next six months? As the associate vice provost for UMB?

Over the next six months, my goal as the dean is to listen to the employees and staff who work in the library as well as the students, faculty, and staff who use the library to better understand the best ways to move the library forward and provide services and support for our users and our library employees. I have already begun meeting with various groups and individuals to discuss the many aspects of the library and library services. I hope to create an environment where more voices are at the decision-making table so that we can chart the future of the library together. I want to make the library an inclusive place to work as well as study, learn, and collaborate.  

As an associate vice provost for UMB, I have looked closely at the core values and the strategic vision for the University. I feel there is more that I can do to connect students, faculty, and staff with the library and create innovative programs and services that will better serve our growing and diverse community. I am looking forward to making connections that lead to long-lasting partnerships and collaborations that center the library as a hub of engaging activity and research partner for the University.  

Describe your commitment to improving library relationships with University groups and supporting community health information needs. How do you envision furthering that commitment at UMB?

I am very interested in making new connections with University and community partners. I am already thinking of ways to relaunch some important groups such as library advisory committees that can help amplify library user voices as we make plans for the future. I am excited about working with the Baltimore community in new ways. Through the Network of the National Library of Medicine, Region 1 office, we are committed to providing access to high-quality health information to the community. I have experience supporting health information literacy in public library settings, and I hope to partner with community groups as well as the Enoch Pratt Free Library to further our ability to support the health information needs of the community.  

What is something a library dean does that people don’t realize?  

I enjoy being on committees or working with interdisciplinary teams and helping connect people at different stages of their research or instruction preparation with library services. Libraries really offer a lot, and all you have to do is ask! We help people in so many different ways that the library can often serve as an informal network connection. When people come to the library for support, we can often point them to someone else who was just at the library doing similar or related work. I really enjoy actively working to connect people at all levels with one another or the information they need. As a library dean, we support not just one school but each of them, and I see my role as an interdisciplinary and collaborative leader for our campus.  

What have been your first impressions of UMB? 

There is a lot of positive energy and excitement at UMB. I have really enjoyed meeting so many new people, and their welcoming attitude is greatly appreciated. It can be difficult to begin work when people or departments are closed off, but so far I have been connected with more and more people. I think the collaborative spirit and desire to help each other is really inspiring, and I am glad to be a part of that. There are a lot of people at UMB with new and interesting ideas, and I look forward to working with them and helping make the library part of new projects and programs.  

What would people be surprised to learn about you? 

I am a classic movie film fan. It all started many years ago while working at an internship at the Library of Congress. I sorted through boxes identifying photos but was lucky enough to find some rare nitrate film from the silent era. This got me interested in old movies and their production. I’ve learned a lot about classic films over the years and even attended the Turner Classic Film Festival in Hollywood. I am excited to see there are classic film and revival showings here in Baltimore, and I hope to catch a screening soon.  

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Jen Badie

Jen Badie is the assistant director of editorial services in the Office of Communications and Public Affairs at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

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