Career Development

What Does a Medical Librarian Do?

Find out what a Medical Librarian does, how to get this job, salary information, and what it takes to succeed as a Medical Librarian.

The Medical Librarian plays an integral role in the healthcare and research sectors by managing and disseminating medical information to support professionals in making informed decisions. This position involves curating a comprehensive repository of medical literature, including journals, books, and digital resources, tailored to the needs of healthcare providers, researchers, and students. By ensuring access to current and relevant medical data, the Medical Librarian facilitates ongoing education, clinical decision-making, and research activities. Their expertise in information management and ability to navigate complex databases make them an essential resource in the advancement of medical knowledge and patient care.

Medical Librarian Job Duties

  • Manage and organize medical literature and resources, ensuring easy access and retrieval for healthcare professionals and researchers.
  • Provide specialized information services by assisting users in literature searches and database navigation to support clinical decision-making, research, and education.
  • Develop and maintain the library’s digital resources, including electronic journals, books, and databases relevant to the medical field.
  • Teach healthcare professionals, students, and researchers effective search strategies for medical information retrieval across various platforms and databases.
  • Evaluate and select new resources to add to the collection, ensuring they meet the current and future needs of the library’s users.
  • Collaborate with medical staff to develop and support evidence-based practice by providing the most current research and information available.
  • Participate in clinical rounds or meetings to provide on-the-spot information and research support to medical teams.
  • Curate and maintain historical medical documents and rare medical books, preserving the heritage and supporting historical research in medicine.

Medical Librarian Salary & Outlook

Salary variations for Medical Librarians depend on factors such as years of experience, specialization within medical librarianship, the type of employing institution (academic, hospital, research facility), and the complexity of their responsibilities, including managing digital resources and providing specialized research assistance in the medical field.

  • Median Annual Salary: $69,825 ($33.57/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $122,000 ($58.65/hour)

The employment of medical librarians is expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade.

This growth is driven by the expanding healthcare industry’s need for information management, the increasing complexity of medical research, and the demand for assistance in navigating vast amounts of digital health information and resources, making Medical Librarians critical in supporting evidence-based clinical decisions and research initiatives.

Medical Librarian Job Requirements

Education: A Medical Librarian typically requires a Master’s Degree in Library Science (MLS) or Information Science, with a focus or coursework in medical or health sciences librarianship. A Bachelor’s Degree in a related field such as biology, nursing, or public health can serve as a foundational step. Post-Master’s Certificates in Health Informatics or a specialized area of medical librarianship further enhance qualifications, emphasizing the importance of a strong educational background in both library science and the medical/health sciences.

Experience: Medical Librarians typically possess a blend of on-the-job training and formal training programs, honing their expertise in managing medical information resources. Their experience often spans managing digital databases, curating medical literature, and providing research assistance within healthcare settings. Successful candidates usually have a background in information technology applications relevant to library services, alongside practical experience in customer service within a library or clinical research environment. Continuous professional development through workshops and seminars is common, ensuring they stay abreast of the latest trends in medical librarianship.

Certifications & Licenses: Certifications and licenses are not typically required for the job of a Medical Librarian.

Medical Librarian Skills

Evidence-Based Practice: Medical Librarians sift through clinical research and healthcare literature to pinpoint relevant, high-quality information that bolsters patient care decisions and healthcare policy development. They apply strict criteria to assess the validity and applicability of studies, ensuring access to the best evidence for healthcare professionals.

Medical Database Management: Organizing and retrieving medical information efficiently, medical librarians possess in-depth knowledge of healthcare databases like PubMed, Embase, and Cochrane Library. They keep up-to-date with the latest database features and search algorithms to enhance resource accessibility and user education.

Health Informatics: In this domain, Medical Librarians use technology to manage and disseminate medical information, facilitating access to the latest research and clinical data for healthcare professionals. Their role is crucial in organizing digital resources, optimizing search strategies, and educating staff on effective information retrieval methods.

Systematic Review Conduct: Compiling, assessing, and synthesizing high-quality research evidence is a meticulous process undertaken by Medical Librarians to support clinical decision-making and healthcare policy. They rely on a thorough understanding of various databases, critical appraisal techniques, and the ability to simplify complex information into actionable insights.

Research Assistance: Guiding healthcare professionals, students, and researchers through complex medical databases and journals is another area where Medical Librarians excel. They use specialized knowledge to customize search strategies, streamlining the research process in a dynamic medical environment.

Scholarly Communication: Medical Librarians manage the exchange of medical research and knowledge across platforms, ensuring the latest studies, journals, and evidence-based practices are accessible. They handle digital repositories, assist researchers in publishing their work, and keep informed about copyright laws and open access policies to uphold the integrity and dissemination of scholarly information.

Medical Librarian Work Environment

Medical Librarians typically work in a serene environment, often within hospital libraries or academic institutions focused on healthcare studies. Their workspace is usually well-organized, surrounded by medical texts, journals, and digital resources, equipped with computers and specialized software for cataloging and accessing medical information.

Their work hours might align with the institution’s operating hours, offering some flexibility, particularly in academic settings. The dress code tends to be professional yet practical, considering the need to move around the library or interact with medical professionals and students.

The culture within these environments emphasizes continuous learning and collaboration, as medical librarians often assist with research or provide information that supports patient care and education. The pace can vary, with periods of intense research requests followed by quieter times for cataloging and administrative tasks.

Interaction with others is a significant aspect, requiring excellent communication skills, as they guide users in navigating complex medical databases or in conducting literature searches. The role also involves staying abreast of advancements in medical knowledge and library science, highlighting the importance of professional development opportunities.

Advancement Prospects

Medical Librarians, pivotal in managing health information resources, can advance to senior roles such as Chief Medical Information Officer or Director of Library Services. Progression often involves specializing in areas like digital resource management or health informatics. Gaining expertise in emerging technologies and electronic health records is crucial.

To ascend, involvement in significant projects, such as implementing advanced library systems or leading digital transformation initiatives, showcases leadership and technical skills. Additionally, contributing to medical research and publications elevates one’s profile within the academic and medical communities, further opening doors to higher positions.

Understanding the evolving landscape of medical education and healthcare policies also positions Medical Librarians for roles that influence organizational strategy and patient care standards, marking a direct path to leadership within healthcare institutions.


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