Librarians in the Field

This is the first in a series of posts giving you a sneak peek into the worlds of librarians across many fields and disciplines.  Written as guest posts by the librarians themselves, we hope that this series will not only help you to understand the daily lives of librarians in fields you might not know much about or have considered, but will also show you the path they took to get to where they are now.

Our first post is written by Kerry Dhakal, a medical librarian whose start at the National Library of Medicine is what motivated her to pursue her MLS degree at the iSchool.  Enjoy!


Medical Librarian….STAT!

Luckily I have not heard that announcement at the hospital I work at, but all in all, our group of medical librarians and paraprofessionals could very well be prepared to report to duty if called.  More often the announcement is Code Blue, 15 minutes, by ground.  This refers to a patient who will soon be in the ER who is not stable, and for the rapid response teams in the hospital to report to the ER, in preparation to take care of this patient.

In a not so far away future, a medical librarian could be called to report.  Medical Librarians these days are involved in the clinical setting of hospitals and medical facilities.  My work may take me many directions.  I can be found with an interdisciplinary team of clinicians, helping physicians and nurses find evidence-based studies on the best treatments for their patients, assisting medical students learn how to apply findings from literature to cases they are working on, or consulting with nurses who are conducting research on patient outcomes.

Some library students might ask “How does one become a Medical Librarian?” or, they may ask, “What kind of skills, experience/education does one need to be a Medical Librarian?”  I came to the field of Medical Librarianship prior to library school when I accepted a part-time job at the National Library of Medicine (NLM) to make some extra money.  I instantly fell in love with the work!  It was exciting working in reference and web services, not only because of the diversity of patrons and questions we would receive, but also because of the potential to learn more about human health and about how information pertaining to health is organized.  My work at NLM and the team of librarians I worked with inspired me to pursue a second graduate degree in library science.

I continued my work at NLM through grad school and beyond and this past spring accepted the position I have now at a local hospital.  To anyone interested in pursuing medical librarianship, I suggest the following few skills that have best served me in the field of Medical Librarianship so far, as well as some skills that I continue to develop in my work with the help of the my mentors in the field:

  • Learn about the field of medical or health sciences.
    • What do students/researchers do in the medical field study?  What is the curriculum of the medical sciences?  What types of jobs do they pursue? What types of biomedical research are being conducted?
  • Familiarize yourself with medical and health sciences databases and resources, especially how to use the subject terms and search tools to craft search strategies that will find the best evidence-based sources.
    • Do you know which databases or library resources are best for finding this information?
  • Familiarize yourself with user groups in medicine and the health sciences.
    • What do you know about the types of information biomedical researchers, physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, medical students, residents, health care organization employees, patients, and caregivers are looking for?
  • Familiarize yourself with print resources; e-resources are well used but so are the print resources.  I cannot stress this enough.
    • Are you familiar with the print collection of references and textbooks that clinical or health sciences patrons use?
  • Become tech-savvy
    • Could you help redesign a website if needed, using HTML, CSS and JavaScript coding?
  • Keep up with trends in medical librarianship by reading the literature of our field
    • Are you a member of Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Medical Library Association (MAC) or the Medical Library Association (MLA)?  Or, do you have access to the Journal of the Medical Library Association (JMLA) among others?

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me via email, or maybe (hint, hint) I will see you at the upcoming Mid-Atlantic Chapter (MAC) Quad Meeting in Baltimore, MD.

Kerry Dhakal, MAA, MLS

iSchool graduate, Dec 2011


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts

Begin typing your search term above and press enter to search. Press ESC to cancel.

Back To Top