Karin Perols has been a member of CUP’s International Librarian Advisory Board for more than five years and during this time one of its most active members. She will shortly be stepping down from the Board to concentrate on a new role which, as well as focusing on metadata, will develop access more broadly. We have taken the opportunity to thank Karin for all the work she has done for the Board and ask her about her job and her views on librarianship; and also to find out a little more about Karolinska Institutet.

Q: What is your current role?
My job involves coordinating the workflows for metadata within the Information resources department, trying to make sure we input metadata as few times as possible and making use of it in several different systems. My new role will also be to act as coordinator for all the staff who work to make our e-resources available to our users.
The main challenges I hope to meet this year will be to implement the Alma library management system, with which we plan to go live in May, and adapting our department to new workflows to better meet our users’ needs. With these two projects, I think we shall have our hands full for this year!

Q: Could you describe Karolinska Institutet and its main areas of activity?
Karolinska Institutet (KI) is one of the world’s leading medical universities. KI accounts for more than 40 per cent of the medical academic research conducted in Sweden and offers the country’s broadest range of education in medicine and health sciences. Its mission is to contribute to the improvement of human health through research and education.

In 2013 there were 6,014 full-time students. KI offers several Master’s one-year and Master’s two-year programmes, as well as single-subject courses. Most of the programmes lead to a professional degree, and several offer degrees at a Bachelor’s or Master’s level. In 2013, 2,147 degrees were issued to 1,758 individuals.
The history of Karolinska Institutet is very much the history of Swedish medicine. KI was the first seat of learning to focus exclusively on medicine, and is today Sweden’s only purely medical university. KI was founded by Kung Karl XIII on 13 December 1810 as an “academy for the training of skilled army surgeons” after one in three soldiers wounded in the Finnish War against Russia died in the field hospitals. The medical skills of the army barber-surgeons were manifestly inadequate, so Sweden needed to train surgeons in order to better prepare the country for future wars.
In his will (dated 27 November 1895) Alfred Nobel appointed KI to award the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. This mission is executed by the Nobel Assembly, consisting of fifty professors currently working at KI.

Today, KI scientists are at the cutting edge of several key biomedical fields, such as cell therapy, new vaccines, LifeGene, integrative medicine, and research into cancer, cerebral function, cardiovascular disease and inflammation diseases. KI is investing heavily in new buildings to meet future needs of research and education, including new laboratory facilities in both campuses.

Q: What is it like being an academic librarian in Sweden?
Academic librarianship has itself become more academic since I went to library school in the 90’s. At that time it was more of an education for a profession. One thing I think is different in the Swedish education system is that you can start your library education directly after high school (‘gymnasium’ in Swedish) where you study when you are between 16 and 19.

In general, Swedish workplaces are not very hierarchical and this also applies to academic libraries. For example, it becomes obvious when you are implementing a new system that there are several levels of each role in the system, to accommodate the more hierarchical structure of library services in other countries, whereas we would use just the manager role for everything. Almost all staff are allowed to do the different tasks. I also think we have been fairly fast in adopting new technology.

Q: How you think the role of the librarian will change over the next 3 – 5 years?
Focus will probably shift from acquisition to access and discoverability, with more resources being available through Open Access. Hopefully there will be more collaboration between libraries: many universities subscribe/give access to the same resources and it would make sense to share metadata, etc., for these. We shall have to be even more flexible and able to adapt to new tasks needed within the universities, such as collecting open data and helping researchers carry out publishing processes. These tasks don’t have to be fulfilled by the library, but they can be.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?
I have two children, a boy of 13 and a girl of 10, and they keep me fairly busy. I really like to relax in our cottage in the countryside, which is situated by a river and surrounded by forest. I also like to spend time by the seaside and bought a 100 year old small boat last year. I hope to get it afloat this summer. I like to read (I am a librarian after all!), preferably fiction written in English. I also enjoy listening to music and am really happy that I can go to more concerts now that my children are a bit older.

Image top left: Aula Medica Lecture Hall, Karolinska Institutet


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *