New activities and changing roles of health sciences librarians: a systematic review, 1990–2012

  • Cooper I
  • Crum J
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Abstract

OBJECTIVE The paper identifies and documents new health sciences librarian activities and roles during the period from 1990-2012. METHODS A systematic review of the literature was conducted using MEDLINE, Library and Information Abstracts, Library Literature, Scopus, and Web of Science. To find new roles that might not yet have been described in the literature, job announcements published in the Medical Library Association email discussion list archives from 2008-2012 were searched. For inclusion, an article needed to contain a substantive description of a new role and/or activity performed by librarians and be in the field of medical or health sciences librarianship. Papers that did not describe an actual (rather than proposed) librarian role were excluded. RESULTS NEW ROLES IDENTIFIED THROUGH THE LITERATURE SEARCH WERE: embedded librarians (such as clinical informationist, bioinformationist, public health informationist, disaster information specialist); systematic review librarian; emerging technologies librarian; continuing medical education librarian; grants development librarian; and data management librarian. New roles identified through job announcements were digital librarian, metadata librarian, scholarly communication librarian, and translational research librarian. New twists to old roles were also identified: clinical medical librarian, instruction librarian, outreach librarian, and consumer health librarian. CONCLUSIONS While the main purposes of health sciences librarianship remain the same, the new roles represent major new activities so that, for many librarians, daily on-the-job work is completely different. IMPLICATIONS This list of new activities should inform students contemplating medical librarianship careers, guide formal and continuing education programs, and encourage other librarians to consider these new services.

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Authors

  • I. Diane Cooper

  • Janet A Crum

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