Medical Librarianship

Health Sciences Librarianship

Medical librarians, also known as health information professionals, provide access to and deliver important information that improves patient care and supports education, research, and publication.

They work in many different settings, including academic medical libraries, hospitals, corporate libraries (such as those in pharmaceutical and device manufacturing companies), and insurance companies. Their patrons range from the general public, to medical students, to doctors, and nurses and others in health related fields. Some health sciences librarians have a medical or related degree, and some positions, especially reference positions, may list it as a desired, but not required, qualification, but it is certainly not necessary to have such degrees to work in the health information field.

Libraries of the health and biosciences are found in a variety of settings and support the information needs of many disciplines, including:

  • Academic health science centers including schools of medicine, nursing, pharmacy, dentistry, chiropractic, veterinary medicine, public health
  • Special libraries such as cancer treatment centers
  • Hospital libraries
  • Libraries serving large physician group practices
  • Corporate libraries including pharmaceutical and device manufacturing companies, insurance companies
  • Community college libraries serving the associated health professions

Health Sciences librarianship is similar to other library career paths in a number of ways, but there are some significant differences. Similar to other reference librarian positions, medical librarians search for and organize information. Health information professionals teach health professionals how to access and evaluate information. They assist the public in finding authoritative health information. They conduct community outreach programs on topics such as health information literacy and they can be found designing and managing health information websites, Internet blogs, and digital libraries.

To learn about the field and begin to identify if a career in medical librarianship is right for you, start the process by talking to people in the field.

Join professional associations like MLA (link is external) and one of its 13 local chapters (such as NCNMLG (link is external)-Northern California Nevada Medical Library Group and MLGSCA (link is external)- Medical Library Group of Southern California and Arizona, and the Special Libraries Association SLA (link is external), and its 56 subject interest divisions (such as the SLA Medical Devices & Diagnostics Division and the Solo Librarians Group). As a student, rates are lower (or even free), and these associations provide great opportunities for you to network, conduct informational interviews, intern and/or volunteer.

Listen to the recording of the iSchool career webcast from 2013 What Do Science, Health and Medicine have to do with an MLIS? [Career Colloquium].

Core Theory and Knowledge

  1. Understand the principles and practices related to providing information services to meet users' need.
  2. Understand the health sciences and health care environment and the policies, issues, and trends that impact that environment.
  3. Have the ability to manage health information resources in a broad range of formats.
  4. Understand and use technology and systems to manage all forms of information.
  5. Understand curricular design and instruction and have the ability to teach ways to access, organize, and use information.
  6. Understand scientific research methods and have the ability to critically examine and filter research literature from many related disciplines.

Although the SJSU iSchool program does not have an official "medical library track" or specialized degree focusing on medical librarianship, there are specific classes that are especially helpful to prepare you to become a medical librarian.

Note: These are courses you should consider. If you do not take all of these courses, it does not mean that you cannot become a medical librarian.

Coursework

Although the SJSU iSchool program does not have an official "medical library track" or specialized degree focusing on medical librarianship, there are specific classes that are especially helpful to prepare you to become a medical librarian.

Note: These are courses you should consider. If you do not take all of these courses, it does not mean that you will not become a medical librarian.

Required Courses:

Foundation Courses:

The elective courses listed below have been helpful to other health librarians who have completed the iSchool program in the past. They are included because they help prepare students for job duties in a medical library environment. The Medical Library Association (MLA) has prepared a list of competencies for success as a health sciences librarian. You might want to look at those competencies to help you select appropriate coursework. The competencies can be found at: Professional Competencies for Health Sciences Librarians.

Additional Resources

Professional Associations:

MLA - Medical Library Association

National Network of Libraries Medicine

NCNMLG – Northern California and Nevada Medical Library Group

SLA – Special Libraries Association

Further Readings:

We highly recommend listening to the recording of the career webcast “What Do Science, Health and Medicine have to do with an MLIS?“ by Xan Goodman, Health and Life Sciences Liaison Librarian at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and Suzanne Beattie, Health Sciences Library Manager at Kaiser Permanente
https://ischoolapps.sjsu.edu/blogs/colloquia/?p=915

Explore Health Careers.org
https://explorehealthcareers.org/career/arts-and-humanities-in-health/medical-librarian/

The Residency Interest Group is an interest group of the Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association. Their website list residency and fellowship programs some in health and medical libraries such as the National Library of MedicineAssociate Fellowship Program.

[top]