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Faculty-Librarian Collaborations Embody “The Drexel Difference:” An Interview with Karyn E. Holt

April 27, 2018

Drexel’s liaison librarians work hard to develop strong support partnerships with faculty, staff and students to ensure they’re successful in teaching, learning and research. This year, we’re exploring some of those partnerships. This month, I talked with Karyn E. Holt, PhD, CNM, NCC, Clinical Professor in the Graduate Nursing Program at Drexel, about her work with the Libraries.


Q: Tell me about your background both as a Certified Nurse Midwife and a Clinical Professor at Drexel.

A man holding a laptop on his lap sits next to a woman who is also holding a laptop.
Gary Childs (L) and Karyn Holt (R) have a rare in-person meeting in the W. W. Hagerty Library during Karyn's recent trip to Philadelphia, PA.


A: I've been teaching at Drexel since 2003 and am now a Clinical Professor in the Advanced Roles Graduate Program at Drexel University, which is part of the College of Nursing and Health Professions. I’m also the Director of Online Quality within the Division of Nursing at Drexel, and I’ve held this position for the last six years. As well as teaching, I have over 30 years’ experience in the maternal and child health arena. I’m an Advanced Practice Nurse in the field of nurse midwifery, and I’m a Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM). In fact, I’ve delivered over 2,000 babies to date! I’m also a designated Subject Matter Expert with the American Red Cross, and I have been responsible for collaborating with Red Cross Nurse leaders in the United States to design and implement nursing research in the areas of disaster response, nurse training and development as well as deployments. I regularly speak to audiences of nurses, nurse practitioners, emergency services departments, EMTs, firefighters and paramedics regarding disaster response within communities.


Q: You teach all your classes online from your home in Alaska. Tell me about the unique challenges this presents.

A: Working remotely from Alaska can definitely be a challenge. The Alaska Time Zone (UTC-9:00) is four hours behind the East Coast, which means I find myself waking up at 4:00 AM Alaska time to call in to a 8:00 AM EST meeting.  On the other hand, by 1:00 pm UTC-9:00, my Drexel meetings are wrapped up. Sometimes I feel like I have baker’s hours.  I usually schedule office hours and class meetings in the evenings (Eastern Time), which is the afternoon in Alaska. Interestingly, I find that students in Europe and China have more difficulties with synchronous meeting times at odd hours.  For the most part, I have found that I can incorporate certain tools so we can meet both synchronously and asynchronously, and as a result, the time zone differences are not as obvious.


Q: Tell me about your work with the Drexel Libraries. What are some of the projects you’ve worked on with liaison librarians and other ways in which you’ve collaborated?

A: Gary Childs – Drexel’s Liaison Librarian for Nursing and Health Professions – and I have been working together since 2002, but we’ve always been geographically distant. It’s sort of like we’re always in two different rooms. Our first collaboration came about because I was teaching research classes, and I wanted my students to have more experience with librarians. I wanted them to learn that librarians are your collaborator-friends, so to speak. I invited Gary to talk about searching the literature and using the Drexel Libraries’ resources, and we created an assignment around that. Now, here we are—16 years later—and we’re still using this model, now expanded into four programs and about ten courses, all part of the undergraduate and graduate nursing programs. Gary and I—along with other faculty colleagues—have presented papers on our collaborations that focus on student improvement and satisfaction with learning. Currently, Gary and I are looking at designing an alternative online platform for our research courses. We want this online platform to be structured around multimedia content, lectures and weblinks that illustrate how to perform tasks required for the research courses. This platform will allow us to give our students targeted and individualized help with their courses. 


Q: How has your work with the Libraries benefited you and your students?

A. I will try to recount several ways, but there are many.  One of my expectations for students is that they use the Libraries’ online resources. I want them to become comfortable using the Libraries to complete assignments in their programs, but I’m also encouraging them to use the Libraries as a necessary tool for learning beyond one course, beyond Drexel. That’s where Gary comes in: students learn to use the Drexel Libraries during our live sessions he leads. It’s a great addition to the course, and students really appreciate it. There are so many “thank you” messages scrolling in the chat bar by the end of the sessions; Gary gets quite embarrassed.  Students speak to how easy it is to use the Libraries’ online resources, now that we’ve built these sessions into our program.  For example, I require the use of PubMed in my courses, and Gary will demonstrate how to use this specific resource, knowing it will be available to them after graduation as well. While it’s not the easiest database to use, it is the one funded by the National Library of Medicine, and one that our students will have to use after graduation. So, it is sustainable and feeds into that idea of learning and information seeking outside of courses—the Drexel Difference!