Story by Rebecca Williams, Archives Librarian for Research, Outreach & Education
As Pat Thibodeau, Associate Dean for Library Services & Archives, prepares to retire at the end of March, she leaves a rich legacy of innovation, collaboration, and mentorship. During her entire career and twenty-four-year tenure at Duke, the medical and library professions have both undergone many changes and faced many challenges, yet Pat has admirably led and guided the Duke Medical Center Library & Archives into the digital age. Under her leadership, the library has pushed forward and not only survived, but also thrived and grown to become an important leader in the field.
Pat first came to Duke in 1993 as Associate Director for the Library, but her work in libraries began long before then. Her passion for the field was born while volunteering in her high school library where she enjoyed all types of tasks from mimeographing catalog cards to helping out fellow students and teachers with cranky movie and filmstrip projectors. While the specific equipment has changed, Pat remains skilled at learning new technology, adapting to new challenges, and embracing new ideas.
After graduating with degrees from the University of New Hampshire and University of Rhode Island, Pat took her first professional job as a cataloger at Rhode Island College. As she gained experience in that position, her colleagues informed her of a nearby open position at the Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island. Pat was appointed Director of the Health Sciences Information Center and Research Administration at the hospital in 1977 where she began her career in both administration and medical libraries. While the hospital was small in terms of bed size, NIH funded research was a part of the daily operations of the institution and thus Pat was exposed to the full realm of academic medicine including residents, medical students, fellows, researchers, and experts in clinical medicine. Additionally, she was the research administrator for the IRB, which required her to coordinate the 26-member board and ensure compliance with federal regulations. Computers were a rarity at the time, but Pat used her own personal computer to create the IRB policy manual, yet another example of her embrace of new technologies and ability to proactively look ahead.
Pat eventually managed herself out of the job by successfully planning the merger of her library with the larger hospital library. She then accepted another library director position at the Mountain Area Health Education Center (AHEC) where she worked from 1983-1993. During her tenure at AHEC, personal computers were first introduced into the library, and Pat built the first computer training lab for the AHEC staff and then expanded it for health professionals. It was also during her tenure at AHEC that Pat earned her MBA degree, which has certainly benefited our Library by her deep understanding of the thought processes of administrators and the pressures with an institution.
Pat’s record prior to Duke is impressive and she certainly has built upon these professional successes during her tenure here. After arriving at Duke as Associate Director, Pat quickly assumed responsibility for most of the activities and duties of Director during the illness of the then Director. She was appointed Acting Director in 1999 and officially appointed Associate Dean for Library Services & Archives in 2000.
Pat has proactively transformed the medical library from a space dedicated to the storage of print volumes to a space devoted to the study and research needs of students and faculty. Under her direction, the library became a leader in the transition to digital libraries as the library staff dramatically reduced the print collection long before others in the field were doing the same. This is simply one example of Pat’s forward-thinking leadership. Open to new ideas, Pat more than willing to explore and support new initiatives. From successfully petitioning the hospital to adopt personal digital assistants to developing and refining the library liaison program, Pat has been active in cultivating partnerships and advancing the information goals of the Duke Medical community.
Before Pat was Director, the Medical Center Archives were a well-kept secret. She has allowed the department to grow and flourish by actively advocating for and promoting archival resources. She has been a member of an impressive number of committees and task forces which has allowed her to continue to find new opportunities and initiatives for the library to be involved in, such as the redesign of the School of Medicine curriculum, bibliometric work, and faculty publishing.
Pat also has a reputation as an authority on scholarly communications. Her understanding of the issues and processes in the academic research cycle has made her an invaluable resource to the Duke community as well as the larger scholarly community. Particularly remarkable is her leadership in compliance work on the NIH Public Access Policy. This policy requires NIH-funded researchers to deposit a version of their article manuscripts in an open access repository so that the results are freely available and not locked up in subscription only sites. Under Pat's leadership, Duke achieved a 97% compliance rate, one of the highest in the nation, preventing the loss of NIH grant funding for Duke faculty members and demonstrating to others nationally how the library can lead this important, value-based initiative at their own institutions. Her knowledge about scholarly communications has also led to her engagement with PubMed Central, the Association of Health Science Libraries (AAHSL) Scholarly Communication Committee, the Chicago Collaborative, the Joint Publishers Task Force, the MLA Task Force on Scholarly Publishing, and other national groups in this domain. As a result of this work, she received the Medical Library Association President’s Award for work in scholarly communications in 2005. More recently, the Board of Regents for the National Library of Medicine appointed her to the National Institutes of Health PubMed Central National Advisory Committee from 2011 to 2014, where she served as chair for two of those years.
On a national level, Pat has lead the profession as AAHSL President-elect, President, and Past President from 2009-2012 and Medical Library Association (MLA) President-elect, President, and Past President from 2003-2005. Contrary to what her impressive resume might suggest, Pat is someone who does not need the spotlight. Her colleagues are quick to praise her constant support, open door policy, and listening ear. She is a great mentor who trusts her employees, supports their ideas, and encourages participation.
When asked what has kept her at Duke, Pat cited presence of the constant change, opportunities for learning, and the collaborative nature of Duke. While this is undoubtedly representative of the larger Duke community, it is specifically descriptive of the Duke Medical Center Library & Archives culture as well, a culture dramatically shaped by Pat and her leadership. She has been a leader who has pushed the Library forward with calculated risks, worked with people where they are, and encouraged learning and exploration.
After retirement, Pat plans to continue to enjoy her time gardening, hiking, traveling, and spending time with her husband and their poodle. An artist who works with both glass and pottery, she will certainly have plenty of things to occupy her time, but she will still actively benefit the profession by working on the National Library of Medicine’s Strategic Planning committee.
The Medical Center Library & Archives thanks Pat for helping to set the Library’s future vision, while ensuring the very best services and resources for the present. Duke University Medical Center faculty, staff, and students have appreciated her many contributions to the Library and Medical Center. She will be missed, but thanks to her dedicated leadership, she leaves the Medical Library well poised for future success.