CILIPS Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland
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Health #LibrariesAreEssential

Category: #LibrariesAreEssential, Blog, News

by Elizabeth Carney, Health Librarian

#LibrariesAreEssential and health library staff contribute to their organisations in a variety of important ways. Staff working in health and social care need easy and regular access to quality information and evidence. One of the roles of a health library service is to facilitate this access and support colleagues in their use of this evidence. Read on to find out about just some of the ways in which health librarians use their skills and expertise to do this.

Health and social care staff and students in Scotland benefit from one national e-library, providing a vast amount of online resources such as e-books, e-journals, evidence summaries and guidelines which can be used to inform patient care, research, projects and professional development. Health library staff ensure colleagues know that they have these resources at their fingertips and also that they know how to navigate and get the most out of them. This may be done through induction sessions, providing support, promotional material and guides within the library, and/or training and outreach sessions. This helps health library users to have the seamless and easy access to information they need.

A person's hands holding a tablet showing a medical illustration of a skeleton beside a model hand

Scotland’s health librarians play an essential role in ensuring that health and social care professionals know how to access the accurate, evidence-based information they need. Photo by from Pexels

Through the Literature Search service, which involves conducting a search of databases and other resources (such as those mentioned above) to compile a list of references for a user on a requested topic, health library staff use their information literacy and retrieval skills to save busy health and social care workers time, connecting them to relevant, quality materials and sources. The large amount of information, and also misinformation, available online can be time-consuming and sometimes confusing to sift through, but a literature search conducted by trained library staff can help combat these issues. In addition, many NHS Scotland librarians regularly produce Current Awareness Bulletins on different topics, helping staff to stay on top of the latest research and developments in their field.

As well as searching on behalf of users, health librarians can support colleagues and students to develop the skills needed to conduct effective literature searches on their own. This can be done through group or one-to-one training sessions and, depending on user needs, may cover anything from, for example, putting together a search strategy and deciding on search terms to demonstrating how to use databases or assessing the quality of a source. Literature searching can sometimes feel quite daunting to those new to it and it is rewarding to see users feeling more prepared and confident about locating and using the information they need following a library training session.

a woman with earphones in a video call with a doctor wearing a mask

health librarians teach NHS staff how to conduct effective literature searches, negotiate dangerous misinformation and much more.

Linking health and social care staff to the evidence they require to inform their practice is just one important aspect of the health librarian role. Health librarians also get involved in lots of other exciting work and projects. Some excellent examples of this type of work undertaken by health librarians in Scotland have been documented in the Health Librarians Add Value campaign. The case studies here show how health librarians support health literacy, contribute to wellbeing initiatives, assist with the development of patient information, advise on the research process and much more. Give them a read to find out even more about the essential work health librarians do!

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