New Roles for Health Sciences Librarians

Are you a health sciences librarian working in position that wouldn’t be considered a “traditional” health sciences librarian position?  If so then pay attention…. The Journal of the Medical Library Association has a special issue on New Century, New Roles for Health Sciences Librarians and they are seeking papers!  Papers must be sumitted by February 2013!

(from JMLA)

The advent of both digital content and new forms of communication has made radical changes in health sciences library users’ expectations for access to information. Researchers and clinicians expect information at their desktops, 24/7, in a format that can be easily digested and used. At the same time, in response to concerns over the increasing cost of health care, government funding agencies have changed their expectations for how health-related research is conducted. Funding agencies look for translational medicine and dispersion of information across disciplines and institutions.   

Responding to the opportunities provided by these changes, some librarians and libraries have changed their focus, no longer emphasizing libraries as keepers of the information universe but instead stressing their ability to provide expertise supporting those who work in the health information universe. A number of new paradigms have been reported at conferences and in the media: embedded librarians, e-science experts, support for translational medicine, and data curation and management. To help us gain a better understanding of these new paradigms, the Journal of the Medical Library Association (JMLA) is planning to devote the October 2013 issue to papers that focus on the outcomes experienced by those who have taken on these new roles.

Not sure you have enough “stuff” for a full length research article?  Don’t worry in addition to full length research papers they are looking for brief communications and case studies.

(Descriptions from JMLA)

Brief communications – 1,800 words or less, describe evaluations of either the need for or success of new roles. They should provide a brief literature review and describe the new role; the method used to assess the need for the role or to evaluate its success, such as a small scale survey, focus groups, or measures of user participation in services provided; and the results of that evaluation or assessment. Papers describing evaluations of education and training programs relevant to new roles are also welcome.

Case studies -3,500 words or less. Describe, in depth, new or innovative roles for librarians such as embedded librarians, e-science experts, support for translational medicine, or data curation should provide a brief literature review; describe the components of the new role and relate, if relevant, the institutional factors that supported the creation of this new paradigm; followed by an evaluation of the success or failure of the initiative and any lessons learned. Papers submitted as case studies must include evidence that allows the reader to judge the value of the librarian’s contribution in this new role, independent of the author’s opinion. Examples of evidence include results of a user survey, inclusion of the librarian in papers authored by a research team, improvements or changes attributed to a librarian in an open access journal, or continued financial support from or additional responsibilities assigned by the institution.

Full length research papers – 5,000 word limit. Investigating a research question related to new roles for health sciences libraries or librarians should use a standard quantitative or qualitative research design. Quantitative studies should employ a sampling methodology that allows extrapolation to the larger population. Examples in this category would be qualitative or quantitative studies evaluating faculty or clinician reactions to embedded librarians or illuminating the features of digital libraries that contribute to their success or a benchmarking study of librarian roles in Clinical and Translational Science Award grant–funded projects.

So if any of this is of interest to you OR you know somebody else who is a non-traditional health science librarian then you should totally pass this on to them and suggest they write something up.

Please contact Susan Starr, editor, JMLA, at jmlaeditorbox[atsign]gmail[dotcom].  Further details on procedures for JMLA submissions and requirements for brief communications, case studies, and full-length papers can be found on the JMLA Information for Authors page. All papers should be submitted online at

2 thoughts on “New Roles for Health Sciences Librarians”

  1. This is a great initiative by the MLA. Let’s start by thinking of the language we use when describing our role. Why not say “…stressing their ability to provide expertise working with (rather than supporting) those who work in the health…” ? We have expertise; let’s own it and strengthen it, and be partners on an equal footing with the other professions around us.

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