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Health Sciences Interest Group Resources


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The Health Science Interest Group provides an opportunity for academic librarians with health sciences responsibilities to have a place in ACRL to network, share information, ask questions, and work on special projects and programs relevant to the academic health sciences. The group also works to promote interest in the health sciences to potential and current academic librarians and to improve information literacy specifically in the area of the health sciences.

This site is a repository of information from HSIG trainings, meetings, and the listserv as well as a resource for health sciences librarians to locate information on topics of concern. We welcome any public, school, or special librarians who wish to use the resources available here.


Do you have to be a member of ACRL and ALA to participate in HSIG activities?

For the most part, no. Membership in ALA and ACRL are not requirements. The HSIG listserv is open to everyone as are the majority of our online discussions and trainings. Voting rights and officer positions are only available to official members as recognized by ACRL. We have several working groups that are happy to have non-ACRL members; however, we cannot give you "official" credit from ACRL for your time.

We don't have a medical school on campus, but I work a lot with pre-med and dental assisting students. Can I still join HSIG?

Yes! There are a lot of us that do not have medical schools at our institutions, or if we do they are not served by us. Some of our members are nursing librarians, others work with allied health fields like dental assisting, radiography, or vet tech. As long as you have in interest in health sciences or identify yourself as a health sciences librarian, you are welcome!

I work for a small for-profit college that only has a few tech programs. What can HSIG offer me?

HSIG offers you a chance to network with colleagues across the country about any number of issues that affect health sciences and academia as a whole. We do not focus on any one area nor degree level. We also have training opportunities and resource lists you may find helpful.

I just got hired as a health sciences librarian, but my background is the humanities. What do I do?

Welcome to the club! The majority of librarians that identify as "health sciences librarians" do not actually have a background in health or science for that matter. In The Accidental Health Sciences Librarian, Ennis and Mitchel report that 25% of health sciences librarians have undergraduate degrees in history or English. The important thing to know is that you are not alone and that there are plenty of us that have survived the transition.

A good first step is to make connections with colleagues in the field. If you work in a health sciences library with more then one librarian, then you have a start. For those of us in smaller libraries, or in institutions with one multipurpose library, you have to look a little further. The HSIG listserv is a good place to introduce yourself and ask questions. Another option is the Medical Librarian Association (MLA) or one of their smaller regional groups, which are more affordable to join. Many states have their own health sciences library organizations as well. You can also contact your local regional NNLM (use the "Regions" drop list at the top to select the site for your region), who would be overjoyed to hear from you.

Some basic first steps we'd recommend:

  • Get a mentor if possible - the above places are a great place to find one.
  •  Learn as much as possible about the needs of the patrons you are serving and how well the library is doing so you know what you need to work on and what is already running smoothly. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. This includes an inventory of the resources you have and the resources your people use/want/dream-about.
  • If you have programs that are independently accredited, find out when the next accrediting visit is and what role they expect you to play before they show up. Many branches of the health sciences have independent accrediting bodies for their programs and often there is a section about the library. Be prepared in advance. 
  •  Contact your regional NNLM and find out who your contact person is. And take some free training from them!
  •  Join at least one health sciences librarian organization, be it HSIG, MLA, or a state organization. Networking is very important.
  •  Refer to the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Nursing (authored by HSIG members!).

What do you mean by "health sciences"? Does that include all branches of allied health?

Yes it does. This group does not make a distinction between the branches of health sciences. Everybody is welcome. In fact, you don't even have to be a health sciences librarian to benefit from this group - just have a interest in health information and/or health literacy.

I'm not a librarian, but the hospital I work for just gave me the job. How do I find help figuring out...everything?

As part of ACRL we tend to focus a lot on the issues that have to do with academia more so then hospital library needs. We'd suggest you talk to your regional NNLM first thing. The Medical Library Association has sub-groups that focus specifically on hospital libraries, and your local MLA chapter may be a good place to find guidance. The good news is that while hospitals might be in competition for patients, librarians are almost all friendly folk, so don't be afraid to call and talk to your counterpart at the next hospital over. They can fill you in on resources that are local to your area. We also recommend the book "The Medical Library Association Essential Guide to Becoming an Expert Searcher" by MLA. It's a little dated, but it's got all the ground work covered. Most of all, don't be afraid to ask questions! You are welcome to join the HSIG listserv as well. If we don't know the answer, we'll give you suggestions where to find it.