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IHP Librarian Receives National Award

January 15, 2021
Jessica Bell
Jessica Bell is the only Massachusetts librarian to be recognized. 

Jessica Bell is one of just 10 librarians in the United States to be recognized by the American Library Association. 

Bell, director of the Janis P. Bellack Library and Study Commons and the instructional design team, received the “I Love My Librarian” award in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the Institute’s research and instruction efforts. She was selected from 1,865 nominations submitted by both educational and public library users across the country and is the only librarian in Massachusetts to be recognized.  

When Bell arrived at the MGH Institute in 2008, she was its only librarian, overseeing an exclusively virtual library. Over the past 12 years, she has led an effort to expand the library to include a new physical space and a staff of librarians and instructional designers. She and her team have played an indispensable role in supporting student learning and faculty scholarship, from coauthoring academic papers to incorporating information literacy training in all the Institute’s academic programs.  

During the first months of the coronavirus pandemic, Bell worked with her team to meet the unique needs facing the IHP’s 1,600 students and its faculty. When students were no longer able to receive clinical training on site at local hospitals early on, Bell invested in top-quality medical database access to ensure they would not fall behind in completing their studies. In addition, she created extensive online instructional content and helped the library host virtual community-building events to relieve stress and keep students connected.  

“She is committed to making the library central to the mission of the MGH Institute, constantly adapting it to address new academic and societal needs,” wrote Dr. Peter Cahn, associate provost for academic affairs, in a nomination letter he co-authored with Amanda Tarbet, assistant director of library services. “The array of task forces, committees, and working groups Jessica is invited to serve on attest to how much faculty and staff value her input.”  

Bell attributes her success to the people around her. “I know my name is one on the award, but I truly believe it is less a reflection on me as an individual and more on me as a member of our incredible IHP community,” she said.  

Along with the other nine awardees, Bell on January 23 will receive a $5,000 cash prize, a $750 donation to their library, and complimentary registration to ALA’s 2021 Virtual Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits.