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J Med Libr Assoc. Jul 2008; 96(3): 192–193.
PMCID: PMC2479045

Mary L. Ryan, AHIP, FMLA Medical Library Association 2008–2009

WhenWhen the authors think of our friend Mary Lynnette Ryan, AHIP, FMLA, we always smile, as she is just that kind of friend and colleague. She brings smiles to the faces of people she interacts with regardless of where she encounters them. We are grateful to know and work with her and proud that she is the incoming president of the Medical Library Association (MLA). She brings to this role her enthusiasm and dedication for the profession, her willingness to involve and encourage all colleagues to join her in the mission, and her persistent desire to learn and apply new knowledge to life.

figure mlab-96-03-04-f01

Mary is an Arkansan, born and bred, and proud of her state and its academic health sciences institution. The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Library's mission is to support the creation of new knowledge, education of health professionals, lifelong learning, timely access to information, and informed health care decisions. This mission also says a great deal about Mary, as she is dedicated to these goals on both personal and professional levels.

Mary has been the director of the UAMS Library since May 1997. Just stating her title does not however, begin to describe what she does there and in her profession. Her colleagues know, and her curriculum vitae shows, that she has presented, facilitated, and taught more than fifty classes, papers, posters, and programs to a variety of audiences including librarians, educators, the general public, students, and health professionals. Her professional interests and passions are equally varied. During her career, they have ranged from the history of medicine, to interactive media, to consumer health, to hospital library optimization, to international librarianship, and finally, to two of her current passions, public health information and new trends and issues in scholarly publishing. Her work on the Scholarly Publishing Committee of the Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries is especially noteworthy.

As director, Mary has the philosophy that her position as an administrator is to give her staff the tools they need to do their jobs effectively. Her caring attitude and her collaborative approach are evident to her staff as she fosters a team approach, listens and seeks input, and works together with the staff to make informed decisions. Mary's generous spirit and incredible work ethic show through in all she does.

While leading the UAMS Library, Mary earned her master's of public health, with honors. Growing up in a rural area of the state where health care was limited, she developed a vision for Arkansas: to put reliable health information in the hands of every health professional in the state. She is now working with the Area Health Education Centers to provide statewide access to an information product at the point of care.

Mary stimulates and embraces change and innovation when it ensures that the library is current and relevant to users. For example, she recently worked tirelessly to extend UAMS Library hours for students and residents. Creating a twenty-four-hour space in the library required that she seek funding and plan for adequate security, furnishings, and structural changes. All of these called for countless meetings and endless conversations. Persistence is one of Mary's many strengths.

How did Mary get her start in medical libraries? While earning her master's in library science from Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, she began her career as a paraprofessional, then as serials librarian at the Rudolph Matas Medical Library of Tulane University's Medical Center (where she also began a lifelong love affair with the city of New Orleans). After six and a half years in the Big Easy (to Mary, the city of crawfish, muffulettas, and beignets), Mary decided to move back to Arkansas and served as assistant director for technical services at UAMS for twelve years.

Prior to returning home to Little Rock yet again in 1997, this time to become director of the library at UAMS, Mary served for seven years as executive director of National Network of Libraries of Medicine for the South Central Region in Houston. There she learned more about the needs of all types of libraries and found herself actively engaged in ensuring the mission of the National Library of Medicine (NLM). She continues that dedication as a Friend of the NLM. She had a taste of federal experience as chief of the Technical Operations Branch, Food and Drug Administration Medical Library, in Rockville, Maryland, from 1990 to 1991.

Mary's service to MLA has spanned more than thirty years. She has served in almost every unit of the organization, from chapters and sections, to committees and juries, to the Board of Directors. She became an MLA Fellow in 2007. Through her MLA activities, Mary has made lifelong friends, acquired traveling buddies, and found an outlet for her commitment and devotion to our profession.

Mary has been active professionally not only in MLA, but also the Arkansas Library Association, the UAMS History of Medicine Associates, and the Arkansas Public Health Association. Amazingly, she has held offices in more than twenty organizations and been a contributing and valued member of more than thirty committees of those groups. Mary is truly devoted to improving the health of those who live and work in her beloved state, in the nation, and, ultimately, across the globe.

Mary's personal passions are as numerous as her professional interests. She and her twin sister, Marie, are world travelers, having visited almost every continent of the world. Consistent with that theme, they are both dedicated viewers of television show The Amazing Race! Mary is a skilled and creative photographer; her work is often exhibited by the Arts of UAMS and is sought after by friends and family. Traveling with a small digital camera in her purse, she is ready at all times to snap a shot when she spies an image of interest. A picture taken by Marie at the Hanoi Hilton on her trip to Vietnam is stunning. She even got an exquisite shot of the river on a cold winter night in Chicago during the February MLA Board meeting. Mary's photos grace the office walls of several of her medical librarian colleagues.

Mary is an avid gardener; a dedicated aunt, sibling, and daughter (she comes from a family of nine children); and an excellent and competitive player of games including Trivial Pursuit. She even auditioned as a contestant for Jeopardy—and almost made it through the first round of tryouts! And anyone who knows Mary well is aware of her love of animals, especially her two canines, Honey and Bandit. Mary enjoys adventure and good eating with close friends, loves to visit cathedrals, and is a connoisseur of fine sorbets. She is a precious and loyal friend to her South Central Chapter and MLA colleagues. We all know she will enjoy her presidential year and look forward to seeing photographs and reading about her association initiatives and travels to chapters and beyond.

Contributor Information

Jacqueline Donaldson Doyle, Arizona Health Sciences Library–Phoenix, University of Arizona College of Medicine, Phoenix, AZ ; ude.anozira.liame@elyoddj..

Julia Sollenberger, Edward G. Miner Library, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY ; ude.retsehcor.cmru@regrebnelloS_ailuJ.

Dena K. Plaisted, UAMS Library, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR ; ude.smau@kaneddetsialp.


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