Competencies for Lifelong Learning and Professional Success:
The Educational Policy Statement of the Medical Library Association
Health Sciences Information Knowledge and Skills
Health sciences librarianship is multifaceted. The profession acknowledges the need for knowledge and skills that intersect equally important areas: the knowledgebases of the health sciences and the application of general information principles to the biomedical setting, specific health information systems, and management and personal skills. Health information professionals will possess varying levels of knowledge and skills in seven broad areas.
Different positions in a library demand a different mix of skills. No one individual can master all knowledge and every desirable skill, but every organization will require collective expertise in all areas. Individuals will emphasize different areas at different points in their career, with specific needs varying over time from assignment to assignment and by institutional setting.
The knowledge and skills are not listed in priority order and may be applicable to more than one area of practice.
Health Sciences Environment and Information Policies
Health sciences librarians and information professionals must understand the contexts in which the need for bioscience and health sciences–related information emerges and the unique ways of perceiving and interpreting those environments. Therefore, they should be alert to changing information and health care environments including:
In addition, health information professionals should be aware of issues and trends that impact the purpose, programs, policies, and activities of the government entities and other institutions that shape health care in the particular country in which they reside. For most MLA members, this would include:
Medical Colleges, American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, American Dental Association, American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, and associations serving particular specialties or ethnic groups
Leadership and Management
Health information professionals effectively weave library and information science principles into the fabric of complex institutional environments. They also establish and sustain viable operations and relevant services for information resource centers. This requires specialized knowledge, skill, and understanding of leadership, finance, communication, and management, including:
Health Sciences Information Services
Health sciences librarians require knowledge of the content of information resources and skills in using them. They must understand the principles and practices related to providing information to meet specific user needs and to ensure convenient access to information in all forms, including:
Health Sciences Resource Management
Health sciences librarians manage resources in a broad range of formats. As technologies continue to evolve, this necessitates management of the latest digital products as well as primary and clinical research data sets. Expertise must include:
Information Systems and Technology
Ongoing developments in technology reshape the goals and systems of health sciences librarianship and change the way information professionals function. Although required proficiency levels vary across specializations in the field, health sciences librarians must be able to understand and use technology and systems to manage all forms of information and must maintain awareness of information technology trends. They must master basic technology skills as well as their practical application. Important areas of knowledge include:
Curriculum Design and Instruction
An essential responsibility of the health sciences librarian is to teach ways to access, organize, and use information to solve problems. Health information professionals collaborate with other educators in health sciences curriculum design and delivery as well as offer stand-alone experiences. Effective instruction entails not only knowledge of the structure and content of the specific courses being taught and the technologies used to teach them, but also an understanding of and expertise in:
Research, Analysis, and Interpretation
All health information professionals use published research either to provide information services to end users or to improve their practice as librarians. In either case, they need to retrieve, analyze, and appraise research literature. Some will also contribute to the knowledgebase of the profession by conducting original research and writing review articles. Whether using the published research of others or reporting their own findings, health information professionals require a core set of knowledge and abilities. The basic research knowledge and skills are:
In addition, all health information professionals need to use principles of evidence-based practice to support decision making. Some health sciences librarians will also need to participate in differing roles as members of interdisciplinary research teams. See MLA's research policy statement for a fuller discussion of the research roles and skills health information professionals employ.
Medical Library Association
Last Updated: 2008 September 02