University Libraries’ staff members gathered for a traditional Lebanese breakfast on the morning of September 19 to bid farewell to a long-standing, proud member of the University Libraries, Ms. Aida Farha, Head of the Saab Medical Library, who retired after serving at AUB for more than 38 years.
With a Bachelor’s Degree in Pharmacy from AUB (1975), Aida applied to her first job at the AUB University Libraries in 1980, as a Reference Medical Librarian. She remembers considering the job only due to the security issues stemming from the Lebanese Civil War, not knowing anything about Library work and wondering what a pharmacist can do in a medical library other than “dusting books”.
Once exposed to the job, Aida was amazed at the tremendous amount of information and resources available at the library. She quickly valued the role of libraries and wondered why, throughout her 4 years of studying at AUB, no one had taught her about this “treasure”. That was when she set out to learn all that it takes to become a knowledgeable Medical Reference Librarian, who can effectively support all researchers in the medical field, from physicians, to nurses, scientists, and students.
She remained in that position for over 32 years, enjoying the daily work and constantly learning all the new updates in the field of medical information science, while offering services to the library users. When Ms. Hilda Nassar, the former Head of the Saab Medical Library, retired, Aida was chosen to head the Saab Medical Library.
Talking about her role at the AUB Libraries, Aida says that she believes that Medical Librarians save patients’ lives, physicians’ time, and healthcare costs. She always envisioned that at the other end of her work is a patient and that a patient could one day be her, a friend or a family member. This thought was her motivation and inspiration while doing her job.
She adds that she was always in the process of learning so she could do her job better. Be it new technologies, new research methodologies, or new concepts, she was in a constant learning cycle. Some of the examples she remembers very well are the beginning of the “evidence-based medicine” and the “Systematic Reviews” concepts, both of which she became an expert in.
Aida treasures so many moments that happened throughout her long career at the AUB Libraries, but she reminisces about one particular incident, which took place a few years ago after she was asked to give a workshop to physicians in Syria. At midnight, eight months after the workshop, Aida received a call from one of the physicians who had attended the workshop, thanking her for saving his life. He had contracted a disease himself, which a specialist could not treat properly. So he did the literature search the way Aida presented during the workshop and retrieved all the needed information for his disease management. Aida says she will never forget that moment.
Aida is proud that after these years, library users now witness the added value that a knowledgeable medical librarian brings to their daily work, whether for education, research or patient care. She is also proud that she held many seminars/workshops on medical information in an evidence-based age, here at AUB and also in most MENA countries.
Aida is confident that AUB’s Saab Medical Library will always represent a pillar and a full-fledged support for medical research at AUB, Lebanon and the entire region, and hopes that the next Medical Librarian will continue the library’s mission.
Best of luck, Aida, and may you have a long, peaceful and healthy retirement. . .