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Hoffman (Kathryn Jones), MSLS, Oral History Interview: Home

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Interview Information:

Two sessions:  19 March 2018,

Total approximate duration: 3 hours 10 minutes

Interviewer: Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D.

For supplementary materials:

Please contact, the Historical Resources Center, Research Medical Library:
Javier Garza, MSIS, jjgarza@mdanderson.org

 

About the Interview Subject:

Kathryn Jones Hoffman, MSLS (b. 1 November 1948, Cleveland, Ohio) was recruited to MD Anderson in 1995 to serve as the Executive Director of the Research Medical Library.  She served in that role until her retirement in 2011.  In this interview, Ms. Hoffman provides an overview of her experiences working with three UT System libraries.  She recounts the direction she brought to the Research Medical Library and provides perspective on the role of librarians and the practice of librarianship as the value of these institutions is changing.

 

Major Topics Covered:

Personal background and education

Texas Medical Center Library, UT Southwestern Medical School Library

Texas Health Science Library Consortium

Research Medical Library, MD Anderson: development of physical plant, staffing, services

The Historical Resources Center

Leadership: ambitions, challenges, conflict management

Teaching, professional organizations

 

About transcription and the transcript

This interview had been transcribed according to oral history best practices to preserve the conversational quality of spoken language (rather than editing it to written standards).

The interview subject has been given the opportunity to review the transcript and make changes: any substantial departures from the audio file are indicated with brackets [ ].

In addition, the Archives may have redacted portions of the transcript and audio file in compliance with HIPAA and/or interview subject requests.


 

Table of Contents

 

Interview Session One: 19 March 2018

 

A Family Tradition of Librarianship
Chapter 01 / Personal Background

 

Education and Activities Reflect a Broad Perspective
Chapter 02 / Educational Path

 

The Texas Medical Center Library: Aspirations to Leadership and How Context Affects Library Administration
Chapter 03 / Professional Path

 

The Texas Health Science Library Consortium: Building Collaborations and Connections around the TMC Library
Chapter 04 / Overview

 

Stepping into Leadership at UT Southwestern Medical School
Chapter 05 / Overview

 

A New Opportunity at the Research Medical Library
Chapter 06 / Joining MD Anderson/Coming to Texas

 

First Steps to Develop the Research Medical Library
Chapter 07 / Building the Institution

 

Developing Areas of Staff Expertise in the Library
Chapter 08 / Building the Institution

 

Interview Session Two: 27 March 2018

 

Working on Leadership Structure and Developing Service s to Align with Institution Mission
Chapter 09 / Building the Institution

 

The Creation of the Historical Resources Center
Chapter 10 / Building the Institution

 

The Library’s New Location on the Penthouse Floor of Pickens Academic Tower
Chapter 11 / Building the Institution

 

The 2008 Layoffs
Chapter 12 / The Administrator

 

An Interest in Teaching and Work with Professional Associations
Chapter 13 / Building the Institution

 

On Leadership, Leading, and Dealing with Kids
Chapter 14 / Professional Service beyond MD Anderson

 


Chapter Summaries

 

 

Interview Session One: 19 March 2018 (listen/read)

 

Chapter 00A
Interview Identifier (listen/read)

 

Chapter 01 (Personal Background)
A Family Tradition of Librarianship (listen/read

 

Topics Covered

  • Personal Background
  • Influences from People and Life Experiences
  • Experiences Related to Gender, Race, Ethnicity
  • Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents

In this chapter, Ms. Hoffman sketches her family background and talks about the number of people in the family who have become librarians, beginning with her father, who headed the Saint Louis University Library.  She tells several anecdotes to shed light on her own choice to enter library science.

 

Chapter 02 (Educational Path)
Education and Activities Reflect a Broad Perspective (listen/read)  

 

Topics Covered

  • Personal Background
  • Influences from People and Life Experiences
  • Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents

In this chapter, Ms. Hoffman talks about the range of strengths and interests that emerged during her youth: a gift for mathematics, a love of reading, interest in music and sewing.  She talks about her choice of undergraduate institution, Case Western Reserve University (B.A., 1971).  For graduate school, she elected to go to the University of Illinois (M.S.L.S., 1973) because they has a program in biomedical librarianship.

 

Chapter 03 (Professional Path)
The Texas Medical Center Library: Aspirations to Leadership and How Context Affects Library Administration (listen/read)  

 

Topics Covered

  • Overview
  • Professional Path
  • Definitions, Explanations, Translations
  • Technology and R&D
  • Leadership; On Leadership

In this chapter, Ms. Hoffman talks taking her first position out of school at the Texas Medical Center library.  She notes her early aspirations to rise to leadership positions where she would be “in charge.”  She then talks about what library management meant in her experience and briefly discusses several changes in libraries that have presented management challenges.

Next, Ms. Hoffman talks about the administrative environment at the TMC library, noting that resources dried up in 1986 with the drop in oil prices.

 

Chapter 04 (Overview)
The Texas Health Science Library Consortium: Building Collaborations and Connections around the TMC Library (listen/read)  

 

Topics Covered

  • Leadership; On Leadership
  • Professional Practice; The Professional at Work
  • Collaborations
  • Career and Accomplishments

Here Ms. Hoffman talks about her role and the challenges involved in setting up a the Texas Health Science Library Consortium, a system of shared services at the Texas Medical Center. 

Next, she talks about her involvement in professional associations and explains why they are important to the progress of a librarian’s career. 

She then talks about leadership lessons she learned through experiences at the TMC library and recounts an anecdote about her work on a credentialing committee.

 

Chapter 05 (Overview)
Stepping into Leadership at UT Southwestern Medical School (listen/read)  

 

Topics Covered

  • Leadership; On Leadership
  • Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents
  • Professional Path
  • Career and Accomplishments
  • Evolution of Career
  • Professional Practice; The Professional at Work

Ms. Hoffman begins this chapter by explaining why she chose to leave the Texas Medical Center Library and take a position as Executive Director of the Library and UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas.

            [The recorder is paused.]

She talks about the situation she inherited at UT Southwestern, digresses briefly on her role as Executive Director at MD Anderson’s Research Medical Library, then returns to talk about how her goal in Dallas was to take the library into the 21st century.  Ms. Hoffman lists some differences in working at a public versus a private institution and comments on what she was able to achieve at UT Southwestern.

Next she talks about her particular strengths in strategic planning. She notes, “I was a visionary,” and describes her vision for the UT Southwestern Library and how she set about making that a reality.  

 

Chapter 06 (Joining MD Anderson/Coming to Texas)
A New Opportunity at the Research Medical Library (listen/read)  

Topics Covered

  • Leadership; On Leadership
  • Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents
  • Professional Path
  • Career and Accomplishments
  • Evolution of Career
  • Professional Practice; The Professional at Work
  • Building/Transforming the Institution

Here Ms. Hoffman tells the story of being recruited to MD Anderson to become Executive Director of the Research Medical Library.  She explains the situation she stepped into, commenting on limitations of staff at that time.  She also talks about the pressing need to develop the Library’s technological base. 

She shares a story from her on site interview: an interaction with a faculty member very committed to the Library’s technology.

 

Chapter 07 (Building the Institution)
First Steps to Develop the Research Medical Library (listen/read)  

 

Topics Covered

  • Overview
  • Leadership; On Leadership
  • Career and Accomplishments
  • Professional Practice; The Professional at Work
  • Building/Transforming the Institution

In this chapter, Ms. Hoffman explains the situation she inherited from the previous director, Marie Harvin.  She discusses two challenges that she first address first, helping the staff address difficulties stemming from a staff members alcohol problems and, second, limitations places on the Library due to physical space in its location at that time in the Bates Freeman Building.  She notes that originally library use was restricted to physicians and researchers only.

 

Chapter 08 (Building the Institution)
Developing Areas of Staff Expertise in the Library (listen/read)  

 

Topics Covered

  • Overview
  • Leadership; On Leadership
  • Overview
  • Career and Accomplishments
  • Professional Practice; The Professional at Work
  • Building/Transforming the Institution
  • The Value of the Oral History Project

Ms. Hoffman begins by explaining that she strengthened RML services by recruiting individuals to perform high level online searches.  Next, she discusses the creation of the Historical Resources Center, an action that was associated with the Library’s acquisition of the papers from the Office of the President.  This acquisition brought awareness to the need for a formal mechanism to preserve the institution’s history. (Ms. Hoffman notes that her interactions with Beth White at the TMC Library underscored the importance of such archives).   She explains that a task force was created to address the issue of preserving MD Anderson history, also resulting in the creation of the oral history project.[1]

DOCUMENT AVAILABLE: white paper proposal for creation of the HRC.


[1] Email communication, TexTreasures Grant. However, during this segment, I think you mentioned The TexTreasures grant.  I was referring the the NHPRC (National Historical Publications and Records Commission) grant. It was hugely bigger than the TexTreasures grant. We got $368,213 (which included a 50% match from the institution.) This is grant we used to hire a second archivist and processing assistant to process the records of the office of the president.

Interview Session Two: 27 March 2018 (listen/read)

 

Chapter 00B
Interview Identifier (listen/read)

 

Chapter 09 (Building the Institution)
Working on Leadership Structure and Developing Services to Align with Institution Mission (listen/read)  

 

Topics Covered

  • Leadership; On Leadership
  • Education; On Education
  • Research
  • Institutional Processes
  • The Business of MD Anderson; The Institution and Finances
  • Institutional Processes
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Working Environment
  • Institutional Mission and Values

Ms. Hoffman begins this chapter by explaining how she changed the reporting structure in the Library for greater efficiency.  She refers to an article she published in the Journal of Hospital Librarianship (document available).  She discusses where the RML fits within the institution.

Next, Ms. Hoffman explains the Library’s different service areas and how they align with the institution’s mission areas: research, education, patient care, prevention.  She explains her role in establishing The Learning Center for patients, an initiative led by Louise Villejo [oral history interview].

Next, she discusses funding for the Library, noting that it always has had good support from the institution.

 

Chapter 10 (Building the Institution)
The Creation of the Historical Resources Center (listen/read)  

 

Topics Covered

  • Leadership; On Leadership
  • Institutional Processes
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Building/Transforming the Institution
  • The Value of the Oral History Project

In this chapter, Ms. Hoffman talks about the creation of the institution’s Historical Resources Center.  A task force submitted a white paper to elaborate on the importance of this new center.  She then talks about the three projects undertaken once the Center was establishe creating a physical place to safely house documents and artifacts; writing the institution’s history; creating the oral history project.

 

Chapter 11 (Building the Institution)
The Library’s New Location on the Penthouse Floor of Pickens Academic Tower (listen/read)  

 

Topics Covered

Leadership; On Leadership

  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Working Environment
  • Institutional Mission and Values
  • Education; On Education
  • Research
  • Building/Transforming the Institution;
  • Growth and/or Change

In this chapter, Ms. Hoffman explains how, against standard corporate practice, the Library came to be located on the top floor of the newly build Pickens Academic Tower (with the presidential and other c-suite offices underneath).  She talks about the process of designing the new library for that space and some of its special features. 

 

Chapter 12 (The Administrator)
The 2008 Layoffs (listen/read)  

Topics Covered

  • Leadership; On Leadership
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Working Environment
  • The Administrator
  • The Leader
  • The Mentor
  • Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose
  • Professional Practice; The Professional at Work

In this chapter, Ms. Hoffman discusses the “most difficult thing she had to do as a manager”: cut 10% of the library’s budget.  She describes the instructions she received from the institution on how to make her decisions.  She talks about the support the institution provided for you to go about notifying employees of layoffs.  She provides advice to other managers facing this challenge.

Next, Ms. Hoffman talks about the areas she targeted for cuts and why.  She discusses the impact of this financial crisis on the staff.

She segueways to another management challenge: dealing with an incident of violence against a staff member, then returns to final comments on the reduction in force.


Chapter 13 (Professional Service beyond MD Anderson)

An Interest in Teaching and Work with Professional Associations (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • Leadership; On Leadership
  • The Mentor
  • Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose
  • Professional Practice; The Professional at Work
  • Post-Retirement Activities

In this chapter, Ms. Hoffman talks about the pleasure she took in teaching and describes the intensive courses she taught all around the world on MeSH and the NLMC classification systems.   She also discusses the importance of her work with associations and talks about some of her ongoing, post-retirement activity with them.

She then talks about retirement, noting why many people are afraid to retire.  She discusses her involvement in the MD Anderson Retirees Association and comments on the continuing relevance of libraries and librarians.