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Bull Med Libr Assoc. Jul 2001; 89(3): 311–314.
PMCID: PMC34569

Carol G. Jenkins, Medical Library Association President, 2001–2002

Joanne Gard Marshall, Ph.D., Dean and Professor1

A quiet elegance, a strong vision for the future of the profession, and a pleasant but persistent way of getting things done are the qualities that first come to mind when I think of Carol G. Jenkins. I have been fortunate to get to know Carol as a fellow health sciences librarian over the years, first from afar and more recently at closer range, now that we serve together as colleagues on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). Carol was born in Dallas, where the Medical Library Association (MLA) will hold its annual meeting during her presidential year. Carol's Texas roots go back many generations, and she had her first medical library job there. She still has relatives in Texas and in Oregon. Carol cites her personal interests as reading (she is an avid book club contributor), gardening, enjoying art, working on restoring the family's historic farmhouse, and being a mainstay of her family.

Carol is universally admired and respected by her library staff at UNC, by the faculty and administrators who have had the good fortune to work at her side, and by the members of the health sciences community who continue to benefit from the results of her efforts. Carol is not a person to overstate her accomplishments, in fact just the opposite. She is someone who believes in teamwork and team recognition to the point where one really has to look hard to find ways to reveal her unique and important contributions. This said, there is a lot to share and celebrate about Carol's achievements and excellent reasons why she is an inspired choice for president of MLA for 2001–2002.

Carol has been at the Health Sciences Library at UNC since 1986, when she succeeded the legendary Samuel Hitt as director. Prior to that she served as the executive director of the Southeastern/Atlantic Regional Medical Library (RML) Services (Region 2) at the University of Maryland Health Sciences Library. The RML experience from 1983 to 1986 was preceded by a position from 1980 to 1982 as associate director of the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library at the University of Virginia Medical Center, where she also held an appointment as assistant professor. In earlier years, she spent a sabbatical leave at the management program at the Medical Center Library of the University of Cincinnati. This was a competitively awarded internship program sponsored by the Council on Library Resources and the National Library of Medicine (NLM). Carol told me that this experience was the genesis of her interest in leadership training and mentoring and that she appreciated working with Nancy Lorenzi, Ph.D., whom she greatly admired.

Immediately after graduating from the University of Oregon School of Librarianship in 1972, Carol became director of the Dental Library at the University of Oregon Health Sciences Center. After several years, she became codirector of the division of educational resources, also at the dental school. Carol's undergraduate degree was from Kalamazoo College in Michigan, and she spent a year at the Univerity of Clermont Ferrand in France during her undergraduate years.

In general, Carol's career shows an early commitment to health sciences librarianship and a steady progression through a series of positions of increasing professional and administrative responsibility. Somehow during this time, she has found time for a busy and fulfilling family life with her husband Brent and her two daughters. Caitlin has graduated from college and works at the National Gallery of Art. Meredith will be a freshman at UNC this fall. The Jenkins family lives in an historic North Carolina farmhouse on the Old Greensboro Highway outside of Chapel Hill. As the address suggests, the setting is rural and the surroundings have an air of authenticity and simplicity that has been respected and lovingly preserved over the years. In the living room are pictures of earlier generations of the Jenkins family that bear a striking resemblance to the current inhabitants. One can imagine the family gathered around the piano for a singsong on the weekend as they looked forward to the meal cooking in the kitchen.

Just possibly, Carol's interest in the health sciences has a genetic link. Her father was a noted medical artist, whose career included time at the Mayo Clinic and as art editor for W. B. Saunders Publishing Co. in Philadelphia. Carol grew up knowing the names of such famous medical artists as Max Brodel and Frank Netter, whose work she came to see from different angles once she became a health sciences librarian. Carol's first summer job was making labels for her father's drawings, so the stage was set for a career in librarianship.

On a recent visit to my home, Carol and Brent arrived with a bottle of wine vinegar flavored with herbs from Carol's garden. Brent is a sculptor and creative person of many dimensions whose work has been commissioned by a major public library. His sculpture has been shown in several states, including North Carolina. On one of our first visits to the Jenkins' house, we looked at a book about a mill closing in North Carolina that spoke a thousand words about the impact of the closing on the people of the town. Brent made the art-quality frames for the volume's photos when they were displayed in the North Carolina Museum of Art. These days, Brent puts a lot of effort into restoring the family's farmhouse home.

I could tell that Carol was a person of great import when I arrived in Chapel Hill, because she was able to get men's basketball tickets (Go ‘Heels!) and a good parking space. These are among the most valued benefits of employment at senior levels at this fine research university, and it takes clout to get them. So I was curious. How did Carol, who did not seem to be the pushy type in any way, come by these prized possessions? What secret powers did she have, and how did she acquire such powers? This was when I found out about the real Carol Jenkins—gracious and reserved on the outside but strong and determined on the inside. A person who has achieved much over the years both on and off the campus without ruffling her own feathers or anyone else's, for that matter. I also thought back several years to that infamous ‘50's party at the Philadelphia train station during the Medical Library Association annual meeting in 1999. Who was the babe in black with the blonde ducktail and the pack of cigarettes rolled up in the arm of her t-shirt? No, not Jimmy Dean's girlfriend—it was Carol Jenkins! I should have known then that there was much more to Carol than meets the eye when I saw her alternate persona.

In order to explore Carol's diverse talents further, I consulted a number of her colleagues in Chapel Hill. Paul Hardin, a distinguished former chancellor of the university told me that he saw Carol as competent, thorough, and wonderful to work with and an excellent manager. He said that she entered the university at a difficult time and made the most of every opportunity that presented itself, resulting in many of the achievements that the library and its users enjoy today. It was while Paul Hardin was chancellor that Carol chaired the UNC Women's Coalition and convinced him to fund a new academic leadership development program called BRIDGES.

Stuart Bondurant, M.D., dean emeritus of the School of Medicine, confirmed that Carol assumed responsibility for a strong health sciences library in “turbulent and challenging times” when there was a direct conflict between the increasing costs and flat or decreasing funding. All of this was complicated by the rapid technological changes that were occurring. Dr. Bondurant said:

With vision, skill, and persistence, Carol led the library and many of the faculty into contemporary technologies … instructional programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional levels came online … a development that could not have occurred without Carol's vision and leadership. She brought a good late twentieth century library into the twenty-first century by overcoming the forces leading to compromise in quality and purpose.

Carol has already made a great impression on Terry Magnuson, Ph.D., director of the new Carolina Center for Genomics, by assigning a librarian to work with his group and suggesting innovative ways in which the health sciences library could support the university-wide bioinformatics and genomics initiative.

The university librarian at UNC, Joe Hewitt, commented on Carol's contribution in this way: “As director of the health sciences library, Carol has shown leadership in planning for innovative, technology-based information services for the health sciences. She has experimented with new organizational structures to match evolving service environments.” Again, Hewitt emphasized how much he enjoyed working with Carol as a colleague and how, with her leadership, she had ensured that health sciences resources were viewed and used as campus-wide resources. Hewitt brought up another aspect of Carol's contribution on a regional level. Carol served on the governing board and executive committee of the Triangle Research Libraries Network from 1986 to 1990 and on the council of directors from 1994 to the present. She chaired the council of directors from 1997 to 1999.

A commitment to and leadership in public service and resource sharing have been hallmarks of Carol's career and are reflected in many of her other regional and national activities. Carol told me that she cared deeply about UNC's public service role and that this was one of the things that drew her to the university. She has enjoyed being active in the Area Health Education Center (AHEC) activities, which are based in Chapel Hill. Together with the AHEC director and staff, Carol has accomplished a great deal, including extending Internet access to health professionals across the state and training community preceptors. Most recently, Carol helped create the plan and support for the AHEC digital library, which is the cornerstone of the twenty-first century AHEC plan in North Carolina.

Carol was the moving force behind the joint initiative of the UNC Health Sciences Library and the School of Information and Library Science (SILS) to develop a statewide consumer health information database that can be linked to MEDLINEplus. She has worked tirelessly to foster ties to the NLM medical informatics training program on campus and to create health informatics fellowships for mid-career health sciences librarians. Carol's ideas for the development of a center of excellence in health sciences information and library science education go back to a NLM education and training grant received by UNC several years ago. Again with great persistence, Carol worked with others at the Health Sciences Library and SILS to conduct feasibility and marketing studies for a specialized program in health sciences information education. Carol's recent keynote address at SILS' North Carolina/Israel conference on distance education in health sciences knowledge management continued the collaborative efforts to extend health sciences information to a wider audience, including those in the workplace.

Carol's list of on-campus activities at UNC take up nearly a page on her curriculum vitae and include everything from the UNC women's center advisory board to the executive committee of UNC faculty council. She has been extremely active in promoting women's issues over the years, including being an instructor and board member for the BRIDGES women's leadership program mentioned earlier. She has served on university search committees at the most senior levels and played a strong role in the creation of a campus-wide priorities and budget committee. As former chair of the faculty, Pete Andrews finds Carol has a great deal of strength and determination, and she makes major contributions to the solution of important issues that affect the entire university community.

In MLA, Carol has played many key roles both at the chapter and national levels. Carol has served on various national MLA committees, including chairing the National Program Committee in 1987. She was designated a fellow of MLA in 2001. She was named “Librarian of the Year” by the Mid-Atlantic chapter of MLA in 1999, serving as president of the Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries (AAHSL) in the same year. During her term, AAHSL embarked upon a major new leadership and recruitment effort to ensure that excellent leaders will be available to fill academic library director vacancies. Carol twice chaired the joint legislative task force of AAHSL between 1989 and 1996. She also served on the board of directors of the new Group on Information Resources of the Association of American Medical Colleges in 1999–2001.

After reading about all of these activities, finding something that Carol Jenkins has not done over the years is difficult. She has played important roles in her own library, the UNC health affairs schools, and the campus generally. She has mentored many members of her library staff and continues to promote the most progressive ideas in library and information service. She is a proven researcher and author, and she has received numerous grants for important regional and national projects. She has facilitated access to quality health information throughout the state and taken on major responsibilities in the health sciences area at the national level. She is a true partner and colleague to information and library science educators as well as educators in the health professions.

Also, she has done all this without ruffling many feathers, or at least so it seems. I have a feeling that there is a lot more to Carol Jenkins than meets the eye. Under that calm and elegant exterior lies a very bright mind and the heart of a person who truly cares about her family, her work, and the people she works with—a person who is deeply committed to the profession of health sciences librarianship, to public service, and to the values that we all share. We are very fortunate that there is one thing that Carol has not done yet and that is to be the president of the Medical Library Association. With the progressive ideas, talent, experience, organizational ability, and team-building and mentoring skills that Carol will bring to us as president, we are in for a very special year indeed.

figure i0025-7338-089-03-0311-f01
Carol G. Jenkins

Articles from Bulletin of the Medical Library Association are provided here courtesy of Medical Library Association
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