Platform for Change
In May 1989, the MLA Task Force on Knowledge and Skills was appointed in response to a number of different initiatives. First was MLA's own strategic plan and the strategy that aims to influence curricula of academic institutions in the areas of design, development, and management of information systems. To achieve this, it was necessary to validate what it is that health information professionals do and then to determine what will be needed in the future. A second impetus, closely related to the first, was the current revision underway of the American Library Association (ALA) standards for accreditation of master's programs in library and information science. As a part of that revision process, each of the major library and information science associations was asked to provide the ALA Committee on Accreditation with educational and other policy statements pertinent to the needs of that organization so that they could be shared with the education programs.
The task force (see appendix 2 for list of members) determined that the best way to produce the desired results would be to survey a sample of the membership with two goals in mind: to define the knowledge and skills required for competent professional performance now and in the future, and to enable MLA to establish educational policies that would ensure the acquisition and maintenance of those activities throughout a professional career. When tabulated and analyzed, these data provided an inventory of knowledge and skills described in two major ways: scope-what are these skills, and setting-where is the learning most likely to be applied and most likely to occur.
Though there is little doubt that changes in the health information environment will call for significant changes in the knowledge and skills expected of health information professionals in the future, there had been little research on which to base judgments about what general areas of expertise are likely to be required. Nor had research been conducted to assess the present level of specific knowledge and skill among health sciences librarians.
In January 1990, an application was submitted to the Council on Library Resources for assistance in funding the survey and other related activities. The task force received a grant of slightly more than $9,300 from the council. Additional support was received from MLA and from the University of South Carolina.
The task force identified an inventory of knowledge and skills with sixty-three topics grouped into seven knowledge bases;
A questionnaire was distributed to a structured sample of 704 individual members of MLA in July 1990, with follow-up conducted in August. Usable responses were received from 375 of the 704 personal members to whom questionnaires were sent (53%).
The basic objective of the study was to gather data that would provide answers to the following questions:
In addition to these questions, the study was designed to explore possible relationships between the answers to the foregoing questions and the health sciences librarian's institutional setting, level of responsibility, and years of experience in the field.
These responses and the conclusions drawn from them were subsequently discussed with outside experts, including library educators, hospital administrators, medical educators, health sciences library directors, medical informatics researchers, and academic library directors.
Medical Library Association
Last Updated: 2007 July 05