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Visualizing Big Data: National Library of Medicine fellow spends second year at ADA

January 07, 2019

By Kimber Solana

Photo of Ms. Strayhorn
Fellow: Nicole Strayhorn, a National Library of Medicine associate fellow, poses for a photo at ADA Headquarters. Ms. Strayhorn is spending her second year of the fellowship with the ADA Library and Archives, creating data visualization projects for various ADA departments and divisions.
While others may only see random sets of numbers, Nicole Strayhorn, a National Library of Medicine associate fellow, often sees an opportunity to tell a story.

"On a personal level, data visualization is fun," Ms. Strayhorn said. "To me, it's important to make Big Data more digestible, more concrete and less abstract. It helps researchers spot trends and helps people understand what's going on."

Pairing data visualization with an interest in public health, Ms. Strayhorn is spending her second year of the fellowship with the ADA, more specifically at the association's Library and Archives.

The National Library of Medicine Associate Fellowship Program is a one-year postgraduate training fellowship at the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland, with an optional second year program component. The program is for early career librarians interested in developing as a leader in health sciences librarianship. Although most fellows spend their second year in academia settings, Ms. Strayhorn is the first to be placed at a national association.

"The ADA presented a more unique opportunity for me," she said. "It enables me to combine my interest in public health issues, data visualization and working in a library."

Ms. Strayhorn, who began her second year fellowship this fall, said she'll be working on data visualization projects for various departments and divisions at the ADA, including the Center for Professional Success, Department of Testing Services and Membership and Client Services.

"It's about telling a story using data," she said. "This allows various stakeholders, including ADA members, to understand complex issues."

Ms. Strayhorn received her master's in library science from Florida State University in 2017. While at FSU, she worked as an e-resources grad assistant at the university's Strozier Library, assisting in electronic resources management and providing consultations and instruction on topics related to geographic information systems.

In addition, she interned at the National Transportation Library of the U.S. Department of Transportation, working on projects that focused on public access, data management and data visualization.

In her first year as a fellow, Ms. Strayhorn leveraged data from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine to build a data visualization blueprint of over 70 dashboards, enabling them to make data-driven decisions, according to the National Library of Medicine.

"This is an amazing opportunity for the ADA Library & Archives, the various divisions within the ADA and ADA members," said Dr. Judith Fisch, ADA 1st District trustee and chair of the Library & Archives Advisory Board. "Nicole's presence continues to strengthen the already-extensive ADA Library services and enhances the future for the ADA and our members in the realm of data visualization. I hope all members continue to see the value of our library services; the library is an amazing resource and member benefit."

Born and raised in Atlanta, Ms. Strayhorn's passion for libraries began at early age.

"My mother is an actual librarian," she said. "Once I started working in different libraries, it helped me figured out what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go."

However, libraries and librarians today are a little different from just a couple of decades ago.

"We're in this age of Big Data," Ms. Strayhorn said. "Libraries are becoming more interested in data visualization. The advancement in technology has made things more sophisticated."

In addition, she added, librarians today feel that they have something to prove and that they are still needed.

"We are transforming," she said. "We're here to help everyone, especially researchers, find and analyze data and train them on using different visualization tools. We're not just helping someone find books."