Helping Health Science Librarians Thrive

Helping Health Science Librarians Thrive

Emeritus librarian creates permanent award for library health staff’s professional development

It’s often been said that a boss can make or break your career, but it’s not as common to hear about a boss being the inspiration for a philanthropic gift.

But such was the case for Jo Anne Boorkman. The retired former head of the Carlson Health Sciences Library at UC Davis made a donation to create a professional development fund for the library’s health sciences staff because she was inspired by the leadership philosophy of her first boss at UCLA.

This supervisor’s efforts to provide Boorkman and all of the staff at the UCLA Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library with professional development and training not only set their careers off on the right foot, according to Boorkman, the training also helped ensure that they could better serve visitors of the library. Eventually Boorkman and other staff became experts in their field and started teaching other library professionals throughout their region.

“That was the impetus for starting the endowment at UC Davis,” said Boorkman, whose father was the first head librarian at both Cal State Los Angeles and Cal State Long Beach, building the library programs at each of those colleges. “It is the whole idea that your staff are the key to opening up the library and its resources to the clientele. And they need to be constantly refreshed and maintain a level of knowledge on what the latest thing is and how to do it.”

She continued, “It also was beneficial for our personal, professional development. We were encouraged to stretch, learn more and challenge ourselves and that was invaluable. I wanted to do the same thing for the staff at UC Davis.”

Boorkman created the Health Sciences Staff Development Fund to help health sciences staff at the UC Davis Library have the money needed to attend conferences and trainings for librarian professional development. Boorkman said it was important to her to ensure there was a permanent source of funding for this type of activity because it is often one of the first things to be cut from budgets during tough economic times.

“I felt like I wanted to leave something to the library that could go on, something that could be given in perpetuity. An endowment gives some stability for ongoing support and that’s very satisfying,” she said.

“We are so grateful to Jo Anne for her thoughtfulness in creating a fund that helps afford health sciences staff the opportunity to take classes, attend conferences and more,” said University Librarian MacKenzie Smith. “Gifts like Jo Anne’s are critically important to the library’s mission and vision. Her gift helps our staff grow, which in turn helps us continually improve the service we provide to UC Davis students, faculty and researchers in the health sciences.”

Boorkman, who is currently president of the UC Davis Emeriti Association, committed her entire career to working in health sciences libraries. She started at UCLA, then worked at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and finally came to UC Davis in 1985. She worked up the ranks, teaching health sciences library research courses along the way, and eventually became head of the health sciences library, which was a full-service library at the time. She served in that role until she retired in 2008.

“From my experience, different constituencies have different approaches to learning and the health sciences has its own culture,” she said. “Since my whole career was helping serve this particular clientele group, I wanted to leave my legacy for the health sciences library — so those possibilities could still be realized.”