Estelle Brodman may not be a familiar name to most, but a tribute article published in the Journal of the Medical Library Association remarked that academic medical librarianship lost “a towering figure of the profession” after her death in 2007. Brodman brought “a great intellect” to the field of medical librarianship, as well as a “personal drive and ambition to enhance the delivery of medical information to the practitioner in the field.” In 1988, the Medical Library Association established an award bearing Brodman's name, intended to honor a medical librarian who “demonstrates significant achievement, the potential for leadership, and continuing excellence.” The award criteria focus on excellence in four areas: leadership, publications, research, and service.
This May, the Medical Library Association named Holly Grossetta Nardini, associate director of Yale’s Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library, the Estelle Brodman Academic Medical Librarian of the Year. John Gallagher, director of the Cushing/Whitney Medical Library, said of Nardini: “Holly is a dynamic and energetic professional, who epitomizes the modern health sciences librarian; one keenly dedicated to the needs of our users. Through her expertise and passion for her work, she adds tremendous value to the scholarship and work of the clinicians, researchers, educators, students, and communities we serve. Like Brodman, Holly is a champion for change and forward thinking. She has a proven track record of demonstrated creativity, and has developed and expanded services that benefit users and librarians here at Yale and beyond.”
Nardini began her Yale career in 1992, as the office manager for the University Librarian. This work inspired her to pursue a master's degree in library science—a prerequisite for most academic librarian positions—which she earned from Simmons College in 1994, while continuing to work at Yale. Nardini accepted a position at the Cushing/Whitney Medical Library in 1994, where she worked as a reference librarian and as the Medical Library's inaugural webmaster. She left Yale in 1996 for a fellowship at the National Library of Medicine in Washington, D.C., but returned to New Haven in 2000, spending her first few years back on campus as Yale University Library’s service quality improvement director.
Nardini returned to the Cushing/Whitney Medical Library in 2003, to coordinate the Library Liaison Program in conjunction with her Medical Library colleagues. This model, which now exists at many medical libraries nationally, embeds librarian specialists in medical departments in order to support the needs of practicing physicians and medical researchers. Nardini personally served as the liaison to the Departments of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences; Radiology & Biomedical Imaging; Pediatrics; and Ophthalmology. “In her role as a library liaison to several departments, Holly proved herself an exceptional model for her colleagues, and demonstrated the importance of getting out from behind the information desk to serve users in their departments, offices, and clinics,” said Gallagher. “She helped others build their confidence to be ambassadors for the library, and would accompany more cautious librarians on their visits with department chairs.”
In 2014, Nardini was tapped to establish an expert search service at the Cushing/Whitney Medical Library and to help train a team of librarians to conduct systematic reviews of the medical literature. Nardini worked with Cushing/Whitney Medical Library colleagues Jan Glover and Lei Wang to create the Yale MeSH Analyzer, a web-based tool that enables medical librarians at Yale and beyond to design comprehensive searches more efficiently. Reflecting on the significance of the MeSH Analyzer, Nardini explained that when she initially demonstrated it at a large conference several years ago, the audience burst into applause—something which, she humorously noted, “does not happen at library conferences.” Nardini finds scholarly collaboration to be one of the most satisfying parts of her job: she has been a co-author on five systematic reviews, as well as multiple research articles. Gallagher notes that these publications “are a result of the successful collaborations Nardini has forged with faculty and researchers in the departments she supports.”
After a national search, Nardini was appointed to her current role of associate director of the Cushing/Whitney Medical Library in 2016. Reflecting on her medical library career of nearly 25 years, Nardini notes that while technology has certainly transformed libraries over the years, “the core responsibility of the medical library staff has not changed: connecting people with information.” She explains that while it is easier than ever to access information, librarians play an even more significant role in research than ever before. With so much information available, librarians can help researchers at all stages of their careers identify their core questions, design search strategies, provide access to innovative tools and technologies, assess research for quality and bias, and consult on research impact and other issues in scholarly communications.
While Nardini is tremendously honored to receive the professional recognition of the Estelle Brodman Award, she notes that the honor is not hers alone. She explains, “part of the reason it is so affirming to receive this award is because of the work-life balance decisions I made over the course of my career.” Nardini is grateful for her colleagues at the library making it possible for her to contribute meaningfully to her profession during the years she worked part time as she raised four children. She feels that she accepted the award on behalf of the entire Cushing/Whitney Medical Library staff, noting that “the dedication of the library team makes all members shine.”