Editorial Comment – Hospital Librarians in Non-Traditional Roles

Este editorial ha aparecido en el Newsletter de la American Academy of Pediatrics. Quiero compartirlo con vosotros porque da una idea de los nuevos roles de los bibliotecarios de hospital. Muy interesante la lectura. Al final tenéis los datos de la autora, Linda deMuro:

The professional, technical and management skills that librarians acquire in library science programs and develop on the job can translate well into other hospital programs and services. As the economy threatens the existence of hospital library departments, and as the misperception that ‘everything is on the internet’ challenges today’s librarians to reaffirm their relevance in health care institutions, it is imperative that hospital librarians move outside their comfort zones and seek out opportunities to collaborate and to shine in arenas outside traditional libraries. I applaud the enterprising librarians who are striving to do so, and, in the process, moving the profession forward in exciting new directions.

In my position as Library Manager at Nationwide Children’s Hospital (NCH) in Columbus, Ohio, I am participating in programs that are not considered the traditional purview of librarianship, but have dovetailed well with my experiences, skills and education.

One of these initiatives is coordinating the hospital’s ASK A SPECIALIST program. This program invites community physicians to submit questions about general patient care and to receive tailored responses from hospital specialists. I field the questions, route them to the appropriate specialists, edit the answers for clarity, attach appropriate supporting information, and enter the data in an online collection tool before returning the answer to the requester. Last year, I was assigned management of the hospital’s International Scholars Program. This program provides opportunities for physicians and nurses from developing countries to come to NCH for observational and research experiences lasting from several weeks to more than a year.

After many years of functioning as a traditional librarian, I have found the expansion of my role to be invigorating and professionally fulfilling. In expanding my work universe beyond the library, I have increased my visibility in, and usefulness to, the organization, enlarged my knowledge base, and refined my management skills. I would encourage hospital librarians to seize and embrace similar opportunities when they arise.

A recent informal survey has uncovered a variety of non-traditional roles assumed by hospital librarians throughout the country. These roles fall into four main categories: education and training, computer/technical services, multimedia services, and research and special services.

Many hospital librarians run the continuing medical education departments in their institutions, which involves designing, organizing and coordinating talks, events and grand rounds throughout the year, as well as assuring that their hospitals maintain accreditation. Librarians often teach evidence-based medicine, literature searching and computer skills, as well as customer service and diversity training. Some librarians even write and edit the training manuals that they use, proctor tests for nursing students and employees enrolled in college courses, and develop online web-based continuing education courses.

Librarians engage in a variety of roles that require expert computer knowledge that would not be out of place in an information services department. Librarians administer specialized databases and serve as website designers and administrators not only for the library, but for other departments as well. Some facilitate the use of mobile technology and interface with electronic medical records to enhance their access to online information. Some manage computer labs, with all the attendant hardware and software issues involved in providing this service.

Librarians are involved in the development of institution-wide knowledge-based information systems as well. Some maintain blogs and participate in simulated virtual worlds where they share their knowledge and answer reference questions in an online 3D universe – a traditional function in a very untraditional, futuristic environment.

Numerous hospital library directors are also in charge of audiovisual services and room scheduling within their institutions. This can also extend to production as well. One librarian I contacted even writes, produces and edits continuing medical education videos for her hospital. Another administers the closed circuit television system used for patients and staff education.

Some additional roles that librarians currently fill are: serving as IRB coordinators, providing writing, editing and bibliographic assistance, serving on institutional committees, tracking institutional publications, and providing clinical librarian service in partnership with direct care providers at the bedside.

Librarians long ago moved far beyond the tired old stereotype of the shushing, bun-coifed, spectacled, sensibly-shod lady of yore. And it is not only in appearances that the profession has progressed. For many years, librarians have done far more than answer reference questions, and catalog, shelve and circulate books. Evolving and emerging priorities and technologies are expanding horizons, altering work patterns, and compelling librarians to forge new partnerships in the hospital environment. It is eye-opening to contemplate the many innovative ways that librarians in hospitals are branching out and increasing their influence and collaboration with health care teams.

Linda DeMuro, MLS
Manager, Library Services and International Scholars Program
Nationwide Children’s Hospital
700 Children’s Drive
Columbus OH 43205


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