For Aidy Weeks, the most satisfying part of working at UNLV is supporting the growth of the health care infrastructure and workforce in the Las Vegas Valley. As the graduate medical education liaison librarian and collections manager for the UNLV Health Sciences Library, Weeks uses her information and health care skills to support the growth of the UNLV School of Medicine while engaging in faculty collaborations, scholarship, and community outreach.
Alongside her colleagues in the Health Sciences Library, she is supporting clinical faculty, residents, and fellows to make a positive impact on research, scholarship, and the patient care journey, and supporting Las Vegas’ efforts to improve health care across Southern Nevada.
What attracted you to working at UNLV?
What stood out for me was UNLV’s mission to promote faculty, staff, and student diversity at all levels. As a Latinx faculty member, I was eager to come and work at a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) with a focus on celebrating the diversity of its members. Promoting and supporting a racially and ethnically diverse body fosters empathy, inclusivity, and collaboration.
In addition, I was (and still am) super impressed by the caliber of faculty librarians at UNLV. Not every institution designates librarians as faculty nor provides the opportunity for tenure-track. Here at UNLV, librarians are instructors, research scholars, and change agents. It’s empowering to see the role of librarians on par with other faculty at the university level doing amazing things to support the profession and our faculty, staff, and students while making an impact in higher ed.
How did you become interested in becoming a librarian?
I became a librarian because of my love for knowledge and the belief that knowledge is powerful. I started my career in libraries as a public library staff member and learned firsthand how crucial it was to help my community with access to information and access to tools that leveraged their ability to apply for jobs, complete school projects, or start a business. I continued connecting others to information in a medical library setting and saw how my skill set helped patients, their caregivers, physicians, nurses, and allied health and hospital workers get access to evidence-based information for critical patient-care decision-making, which really impressed on me the need to pursue a degree in librarianship.
What attracted you to the health sciences fields?
Wellness comes in many forms. When I was working in the public library I was able to support the wellness of community members by assisting in library programming, locating library resources such as popular consumer health books and health-related consumer databases. What drew me to the health sciences field was the potential to extend these skills and continue that mission of wellness in a hospital library setting. The skills needed for how information is gathered, organized, understood, utilized, disseminated, and accessed are very transferable amongst different library types. When I made the transition as a medical library tech assistant, I was able to use those skills to support hospital workers, hospital administration, physicians, nurses, allied health workers, and patients.
How does your work support faculty and graduate medical education in the School of Medicine?
I engage and support the UNLV School of Medicine’s graduate medical education (GME) program, which is made up of clinical faculty, residents, and fellows. Graduate medical education is the next step for an individual who is on the path of becoming a medical doctor. GME provides newly minted physicians with training at the bedside or the patient care setting prior to pursuing independent practice. With my background as a hospital librarian, I am able to draw on my experiences to support these doctors in providing informed patient care.
What is one of the research projects you’re working on?
I just completed the 2020 Research Training Institute for Health Sciences Librarians, a week-long professional development opportunity with the Medical Library Association. So, I’m in the very beginning stages of my research project, hoping to explore Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) leadership representation in health sciences librarianship. Part of this research includes exploring critical frameworks and reviewing the history of health sciences librarianship. I hope this research provides a roadmap for how our profession can be successful in raising up and empowering BIPOC librarians.
What is the most “Vegas” thing you’ve done since moving here?
We’ve become quite the foodie family. I think the most Vegas thing we’ve done since moving to the city has been enjoying the buffets and sushi revolving restaurants (pre-COVID). Those have been so much fun and we love to watch the dishes come around our table and seeing the menu variety. We once went to a restaurant where the more plates you ate the more likely you were to get prizes from a dispensing machine at our table. We really enjoyed it!
What person or experience has had the greatest impact on your career?
Without a doubt, that would be my mama. She’s a strong woman who raised me and my siblings as a single mother. When we moved from Puerto Rico to Florida in my youth, she made sure that we were always cared for, no matter the circumstance. I have always looked to her as my role model for developing a strong work ethic. Her strength and perseverance, despite not finishing college, were the values I held when I pursued my undergraduate and graduate studies while working full time. I could not be where I am today without her love and support. To be honest, she’s still waiting on the Ph.D., so I still have a ways to go (laughs).
What is the biggest misconception about being a librarian?
I think the biggest misconception about being a librarian comes with its stereotypes. We tend to be portrayed by a certain demographic: White, middle-aged men or women, wearing glasses and cardigans, shushing library visitors while pushing dusty book carts. Though the evidence does reflect that our profession is majority white, librarians encompass different identities, intersectionalities, educational backgrounds, and skill sets. Many libraries are reducing their print collections rather than adding and as an example, the collection in the UNLV Health Sciences Library is nearly 97 percent electronic. In addition, our librarian faculty have been actively working on 3D printing projects and co-instructing in courses.
What problem in the world would you most like to fix?
Now that’s a question! I think any problem on a global scale cannot be solved by one person. If there was one problem that would benefit from everyone’s genuine participation that would be holding each other accountable (myself included) to the ways in which racism, power, privilege, and bias play a role in how we interact with each other within the shared society we live in. Now more than ever, it requires listening and being humbled enough to reflect on these realities.
Health care is not impervious to institutionalized racism or systems of oppression. We’re seeing that especially with COVID-19. Medical librarians have an opportunity to address issues related to racism in medicine, health disparities, and social determinants of health by connecting library users with knowledge about these topics, evidence that unequivocally shows how it exists and affects the care of patients, and resources to better understand and help advocate for change.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I am fascinated by various forms of architecture, but one in particular is close to my heart: lighthouses. I’m unsure exactly why, but it’s most likely due to my love of beaches and coastlines. A few years ago, I set aside my fear of heights and climbed the tallest lighthouse in Florida with my family, Ponce Inlet Lighthouse, at a height of 175 feet. It’s a straight climb up to the top with grated steps. You can see all the way down several feet to the floor below as you climb up. When we visited, they did not have any netting down the center column. To say I was scared is a complete understatement. Once we made it (very slowly) up to the top, the view of the inlet was breathtaking.
What are you most looking forward to doing once the pandemic ends?
What was the last book you couldn't put down?
I’ve begun reading Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet A. Washington. The book opens with Washington describing her journey from hospital worker to research scholar. She uses a wealth of archival and primary sources such as physician journals, plantation manuscripts, and old news articles and journal articles to create a thorough examination of the ways in which Black Americans were subject to harsh and inhumane treatment by the medical complex. The book reflects on how medical racism is institutionalized and how these acts impacted the way Black Americans engage with health systems and health care providers.