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Strengthen the Evidence for Maternal and Child Health Programs

Retirement Tribute

Olivia Pickett

Olivia Pickett

with Admiration on Over Three Decades of Service to the MCH Community

Olivia Pickett has been the guiding force of the MCH Library for over three decades, transforming the collection from a barely-catalogued stack of books on a few shelves to a fully searchable digital resource that spans the creation of the Children’s Bureau in 1912 to the latest evidence-based literature focused on MCH’s response to COVID-19.

Search by Olivia
As we celebrate her retirement at the end of 2020, we want to share our reflections on the critical work she has shepherded both with the National Center for Education in Maternal and Child Health (NCEMCH) and the National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center (OHRC) – and the amazing person she is.

It’s impossible to properly thank Olivia for being a consummate information professional, mentor, and friend. She has been the backbone and innovator of the MCH Library, so as a fitting tribute to her professional and personal legacy, we are naming our library database "OLIVIA."  So every time someone searches our collection, they’ll see the following database announcement (image to the right) in tribute to her decades of service, energy, and enthusiasm.

Olivia, we are sure going to miss you, but your work continues!

We want to send you off with some personal reflections on this momentus occassion...

From NCEMCH’s Director

Olivia joined NCEMCH on October 23, 1989. For three-plus decades she has been the heart and soul of the MCH Library, guiding our Center through the information revolution, transforming our resources from a paper and hard-copy collection to an electronic Web-based information system.

Year after year, in annual evaluations, Olivia has been lauded for her work ethic, technical skills, and organization and management skills. We had fun nicknaming her “Protocol Pickett” since there was no task, too large or small, that didn’t deserve written standards. How else to navigate our collection, create Resource Guides and Knowledge Paths, and update an ever-expanding MCH Thesaurus with quality as the golden rule?

Olivia is constitutionally a librarian, understanding that new knowledge is wonderful but getting information into the hands of people when they need it is the greatest gap and task. Olivia always made the Center a trusted and reliable source for helping MCHB and the Title V community serve the nation’s children and families. She also brought an archivist’s respect for history, appreciating that there are lessons to be learned from those who came before.

She also has been a generous and respected mentor, creating a work environment where learning and creative problem solving are the tools of the trade. In what has sometimes felt like a rollercoaster ride, Olivia has been a steady partner. Her stewardship of our library and our mission has been a boon to us all.

Thank you, Olivia, for years—actually decades—of dedicated service and friendship. – Rochelle Mayer

Olivia Pickett (left), John Richards (right)
Photo of Olivia (right) and John (left), from way back when!

From NCEMCH’s Executive Director

Olivia hired me in September 1998, was my very first supervisor at the Center, and has continued to serve as mentor and colleague for over twenty years. She set me on the course of learning the power of our library databases, understanding the critical importance of preserving our MCH history, and thinking outside the box in using knowledge management tools in the service of public health. My fierce devotion to our MCH Library has been nurtured by her example.

She has overseen a whole generation of librarians, public health, communications, and IT professionals learn and grow at the Center. Every project we have established here has its roots in an understanding that the foundations of all work in MCH must be based in knowledge. Indeed, Olivia kept us “evidence-based” before that was even a term in the field.

MCH is an extended family of professionals, partners, and stakeholders; our team here at Georgetown is immediate family. I’ve learned so much professionally from Olivia: the value of disciplined thinking, connections between data and results, and the ability to roll up your sleeves to deal with the mountains of work needed to make projects soar. I’ve learned even more from her personally: the strength to be an Out-and-Proud professional, the wisdom to support organizations that make a difference in the world, the rewards of engaging in spiritual growth, and the drive to volunteer at a community level to work for change.

Olivia, you have been instrumental in my growth on so many levels. And you are a good friend. Here’s to many more years of learning together – and many new adventures for you!

John Richards

Olivia Pickett (left), John Richards (right)
The photos of Olivia and were taken by each other: I took Olivia’s picture and she took mine, way back in 1998. Happy days, always!

From NCEMCH’s Director of Research and Evaluation

Olivia, I can't believe we have spent seven years of working together.  I know you have worked with others on our team much longer, but I always enjoyed when we had opportunities to collaborate.  Most recently, I don't know what we would have done without you on our evidence review teams!  You taught me the true value and amazing skill set of what it means to be a librarian. Congratulations on your retirement! – Keisha Watson

Olivia, Mindy, John, Keisha, and Susan
(left to right) Olivia, Mindy, John, Keisha, and Susan

From NCEMCH’s Researcher and Fellow Librarian

Ode to Olivia

Many employers like to say they’re “family friendly,” but the MCH Library has always embraced mothers and children (literally and figuratively) with an open heart and open mind. When I first started working at the MCH Library back in the late 1990s, my children were too young to be home alone, and Olivia (my boss) was always wonderful about granting me flex time, work-at-home time, and leave time when my little ones were sick. She also let me bring them to work with me when they didn’t have school or summer camp. Six years later, when I had my midlife baby, I remember Olivia asking if she could hold little Christopher, and despite the fact that he was overdue for a diaper change (I could smell him from across the room), Olivia wanted to keep him in her arms. I will be forever grateful to Olivia for fostering a work environment that genuinely understands the needs of parents and children.

I’ve always admired Olivia’s library skills and work ethic. In fact, so much so that I decided to go back to school to get my own degree in library science. And this was during a time when most classes were in person, not virtual, and I had to leave work early at least once a week so that I could navigate my way over to the University of Maryland during rush hour. Again, Olivia was always accommodating and flexible, and because of that, I now have my MLS.

Thank you for Olivia for not only accommodating me and my family, but also supporting my educational goals.  I wish you all the best in your retirement and hope the rest of your life is wonderful. – Beth DeFrancis

From OHRC’s Director

I’d like to thank Olivia for her tremendous service to the MCH community, contributions to promoting library services at Georgetown University and beyond, and most of all for her friendship. I followed Olivia’s arrival at the National Center for Education in Maternal and Child Health a year after Olivia and greatly benefited from the well-organized collection of resources on an array of MCH topics at your fingertips and clearly-defined system for cataloging materials. Olivia does everything well and thoroughly. One of Olivia’s many amazing qualities is her strong commitment to serving the user’s need, be it office staff, MCHB staff, and professionals from the MCH community. She’s the go-to-person for questions about how to find a resource, conduct a literature search, and identify the correct title for a document, especially when the publisher makes the information hard to find or decipher.

Olivia lives a full life and works and plays hard. She introduced me to the joy of square dancing and learning fancy steps (Allemande Left, Bend the Line) in the company of supportive friends. Olivia’s involvement in square dancing has taken her and Cindy on many fun trips that hopefully will happen again soon. Olivia has also been highly involved in the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club and helped with building and restoring shelters and clearing trails for others to enjoy.

In closing, Olivia is a pioneer creating new systems for the library and new paths in the community and making friends along the way.

Thank you for the opportunity to learn from you! – Katrina Holt

Olivia (center) with Katrina (left) and Susan (right)
Olivia (front left) next to Katrina, and many, many MCH friends

From OHRC’s Senior Editor

When I first met Olivia after I started working for NCEMCH over 21 years ago (!), I remember feeling slightly alarmed by her. Without being the slightest bit imperious, she gave the impression of knowing the answers to all things. Over the years, my fear of Olivia disappeared, as I came to realize that she's kind, caring, and considerate . But my initial sense of her as keenly intelligent and knowledgeable hasn't changed a bit. Olivia has a knack for solving problems related to anything library-ish quickly and authoritatively, and if she doesn't know the answer, she knows where to look for it. She's been such an important part of my work for OHRC, especially as I've taken on a larger role in cataloging materials in the library. Olivia, I'm not sure how we're going to manage without you! But, while we will miss you tremendously, images of you and Cindy square dancing around the globe will lift our spirits, and all will be well.  – Ruth Barzel

From OHRC’s Project Manager and Librarian

Olivia is our role model for a well-balanced life.

As Director of the MCH Library from its earliest days, we learned from Olivia’s dedicated commitment to excellence in librarianship. Through her careful attention to detail, the history of federal investment in MCH has been preserved to inform and support the work of those who support pregnant women, children, and their families. Though her rich knowledge of the library collection and patient ear for honing in on the essence of patrons’ questions, Olivia shared many library gems – the right resource at the right time – to help the MCH community. Olivia also served as a patient mentor to many librarians, and she was an early, consistent supporter for a flexible work environment for families.

As a dedicated volunteer in the community, we learn from Olivia’s commitment to others and passion for making the world a better place. From clearing brush on the Appalachian Trails to advocating for same-sex marriage to building a membership database for church activities, Olivia quietly, carefully, and willingly jumps in to serve her community.

As a curious, energetic, interested and interesting person, we learn from Olivia’s many travels to places near and far, square dancing escapades, book group conversations, and time well spent with family and friends. And, we enjoy Olivia’s interesting observations from her experiences.

Olivia, thank you for being our role model for a well-balanced life! We share our very best wishes to you and Cindy for a happy and healthy retirement. Thank you for your mentorship and friendship.

With love and best wishes,
Susan Lorenzo

Olivia (center) with Katrina (left) and Susan (right)
Olivia (center), Katrina (left), and Susan (right)

From OHRC’s Communication Specialist

Our project has benefited from Olivia Pickett's wisdom for decades. Olivia has a unique ability to allow precise taxonomy to co-exist with vision and compromise. For years, Olivia has steered the MCH oral health library collection with expert guidance, careful review, and meticulous curating. I will miss her ability to implement big ideas as well as her everyday contributions to our team; her calm, easy-going humor and her outgoing spirit. I look forward to hearing about your next adventure, Olivia! – Sarah Kolo

Holiday party fun
Staff Holiday Luncheon, December 2019

From NCEMCH’s IT Specialist

Getting to know you — When I came to work at the Center, one of my new tasks as an administrative assistant was to re-shelve books in the library. It was Olivia who took me through the stacks, explaining how it was organized and what all those numbers meant. She made it clear that understanding and adhering to the system protocol to re-shelve was first and foremost — A book or file improperly shelved might not be found ever again! Over time, I realized the library collection was the heart of the Center, and Olivia was the one who kept it beating.

A place for everything and everything in its place — Because I didn’t work directly under Olivia, I hadn’t interacted with her much, that is until we lost funding and had to downsize — the library, the staff, everything. Those who remained, worked tirelessly to pack up the office and move to our new location. Olivia had the Herculean task of dealing with the library collection. Through it all, she remained calm and kept it organized. When we arrived at our new location, Olivia made sure the shelves were re-labeled properly and the books re-shelved accordingly.

Retirement has it's advantages — A few years ago, when Olivia retired, that is – the first time, from her full-time position, I was surprised to learn that she planned to continue working with us part-time. Boy, were we lucky! She worked just as hard — in retirement, shepherding the library forward towards the future of online electronic technologies.

Over these last few years, I’ve enjoyed getting to know Olivia even more. I’ve had thoughtful conversations and found her to have a keen sense of humor. These days, I think she's even more relaxed and easy-going as retirement approaches. But that’s not to say she’s resting on her laurels – oh. no. She still has, and likely will always have, that quintessential ‘get-er-done’ attitude.

Olivia, you are a true inspiration. If you put in as much effort enjoying your retirement as you have to the work and dedication of the Center, it is sure to be a success!

Wishing you all the best! – Mindy

Olivia (center) with Katrina (left) and Susan (right)
Halloween fun with the MCH Group!


This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number U02MC31613, MCH Advanced Education Policy, $3.5 M. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.