October is National Medical Librarians Month, a time to recognize and celebrate the importance of health information professionals. The recent increase in eBooks and electronic publishing may lead one to assume that the role of medical librarians has become obsolete, but their expertise and active presence in the academic community is more important now than ever.
Online resources and eBooks offer the public unprecedented access to health care information and literature. But this new technology brings its fair share of consequences and risks. Widespread online access can threaten the appropriate application of the principles of fair use, a right granting a copyright owner the ability to reproduce or authorize the reproduction of his or her work. In this balancing act between increased access to health information and potential challenges to copyright issues, what is the medical librarian’s role?
Medical librarians serve as a unique kind of mediator between the competing interests from eBook producers and consumers in order to ensure the proper dissemination of information. For example, nurse practitioners or health professionals seeking reliable, evidence-based facts and research can become frustrated when faced with the overwhelming amount of online resources, few of which come from trustworthy sources. Medical librarians help guide these researchers by weeding out the inaccuracies and leading them straight to sites they know and trust.
The Medical Library Association (MLA) and its members dedicate this month to reminding us that medical librarians are the best and most cost-effective way to obtain quality health information. This year’s theme, Medical Librarians: Your Best Return on Investment, stresses the value of medical librarians and their pioneering presence at the forefront of health care delivery.
Founded in 1898, the MLA is a global community of over 4,000 health sciences professionals with members spread across 43 countries. The MLA works to provide health professionals and consumers with high-quality health information that will enhance their research, practice and education. The organization offers a wide variety of resources that are available to anyone, ranging from the established health professional to the everyday health consumer. A few examples of their resources include:
- “MedSpeak,” a collection of pamphlets and brochures that present key terminology and definitions of medical language often used by doctors and medical professionals. These are broken down and categorized into topics such as breast cancer, diabetes, and HIV-AIDS.
- A list of the Top 10 Most Useful Websites for the health consumer.
- A compilation of the most commonly used “Rx Riddles” and a quick guide to deciphering medical shorthand.
Braced with these resources, health consumers can better negotiate through various resources and online information. So whether you are working on a research project or simply perusing the latest health news, a medical librarian can be your best, go-to resource on where to look and what to believe.
What are your favorite health information sites? Share your tips and experiences below!
If you are a librarian looking for additional books or resources, check out our Librarian Resources page.