Platform for Change
As society moves firmly into the information age, there is an increasing need for people who have a clear understanding of the many facets of the information process and the technical skills to support that process. While information handling was once almost entirely the province of librarians, that is no longer the case. Exponential growth in biomedical knowledge and new information technologies are redefining the infrastructure of health care, education, and research, spawning an array of professional specialties and reworking what was a well-defined arena of information service.
Though there is little doubt that changes in the health information environment presage significant change in the roles of health information professionals and in the knowledge and skills expected of them, librarians may be blindsided unless they understand the new environment's strategic impact on the profession. Already, according to the Council on Library Resources, "at the heart of many of the present problems facing librarians and library education is the failure to describe the profession and its present role in terms that are compelling, expansive, and accurate. The principles, the responsibilities, and the body of knowledge that shape the profession are real and of great importance...but they are either implicit or incompletely formed and are certainly not widely understood ." (1)
Over the past fifteen years, the Medical Library Association (MLA) has cited the need for a coalition of expertise and resources within the profession to define the competencies needed for professional practice and to support their acquisition in graduate school and beyond. Still, the profession has yet to act decisively enough in preparing its members for a world that continues to change radically in response to the rapid growth of biomedical knowledge and technical power.
The current document seeks both to respond to the need for a clear and forward-looking statement of expectations for medical librarians and to provide an agenda for future action. Rather than a patchwork of novel notions and suggestions for improvement in graduate and continuing education, what follows builds on the noteworthy achievements of MLA and recent research to construct a platform for change in the health information professions. (2)
At one level, Platform for Change breaks new ground in its approach to and structure for education and professional development for health sciences librarianship, describing a collaborative, integrated, individual-centered response whereby information professionals in health-related environments may keep pace with change. On another and more specific level, the document provides concrete guidelines for graduate programs in health sciences librarianship, constructs a framework for all education programs and opportunities coordinated by MLA, and sets direction for those who are best positioned to address professional development needs as they occur throughout the career of a health information professional.
Written for immediate use by leaders and members of MLA, by providers of educational programs in health sciences librarianship and information management, and by health care professionals, Platform for Change looks beyond the short term and anticipates areas of emerging importance beyond the year 2000. As Estelle Brodman said over a decade ago, "We must educate for the problems of a generation hence, not for the problems of today...librarians must be imbued with the psychological ability to handle change and to live with ambiguity. Without this they will be performing tomorrow's tasks with yesterday's concepts." (3)
Platform for Change provides a foundation on which to develop a new consensus within the health information community on the knowledge and skills required to meet the needs-present and future-of health care, research, and education in technologically intensive, user-driven, and rapidly changing organizations.
1. Information studies: A new CLR professional education program. Annual report of Council on Library Resources. Washington, DC: Council on Library Resources, 1989:26.
2. See Appendix I for a description of a project to describe knowledge and skills, funded by MLA, the Council on Library Resources, and the University of South Carolina.
3. Brodman E. Keynote address: pragmatism and intellection in medical library education. In: Allerton Invitational Conference on Education for Health Sciences Librarianship. Proceedings of conference held at Monticello, ILlinois, April 2-4, 1979. Chicago: Medical Library Association 1979:viii.
Medical Library Association
Last Updated: 2007 July 05