Library committees

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  • Updated.jpg This entry is out of date, and will not be updated, July 2017


See also Advocacy | Digital liaison | Health libraries | Managing health libraries | Teaching library users | Users of health libraries

"...The best guarantor of intelligent direction and growth of a library devoted to the health sciences is the medical library committee with its highly specialized knowledge,
working in cooperation with a trained, competent and energetic librarian and with an enlightened hospital administration..."
— Schiller, 1967

Library committees (also library advisory councils) are a commonly-used outreach, promotions and management tool in hospital and health libraries. Typically, library committees are comprised of clinicians, medical faculty, staff physicians and representatives from all health disciplines such as nursing, pharmacy and allied health. A health library committee is a key tool in managing health libraries, and health librarians should work to gain the support of individual committee members in order to achieve the library's short and long-term goals.

Broad representation of various health professionals on hospital library committees is essential for its long-term viability within health organizations. Some library committees are involved in guiding activities within patient education at hospitals, and in providing consumer health information to various constituents. Still others are set up to advise librarians regarding their support of systematic reviews and clinical librarian programs. In many hospital and health organizations, there is a tradition of bringing representatives from different medical disciplines together onto a library committee that advises the librarian. The aim of a hospital or health library committee is to involve departments in the important business and decision-making affecting the biomedical library. Department representatives are asked to promote the library, and its mission. It helps if these reps can share information about the library with their peers, and provide regular updates at their respective staff meetings. Medical library committees aim to meet periodically, and to provide input into the acquisition of books, journals and library materials. However, the library committee will meet when it seems necessary to do so. The health librarian or library director is responsible for providing updates regularly for the library committee, and in reporting back to the chair formally on an annual basis. Sometimes, monthly newsletters or social media tools are used to send updates about library acquisitions, services or hours.

Marketing through members

Health librarians have distinct roles within their organizations. One of the primary roles is to manage the marketing and promotion of their information services. Health librarians rely on their library committee members to do some of this promotion from within their own departments, but they too must work to provide liaison and instructional support for various departments within the academic health centre or hospital. While library committee members work with librarians to ensure the effectiveness of the library's services, it is important to remember that the "committee is understood to be advisory only, not administrative." Many other tasks need to be completed in order for the library to be successful. Librarians may hold one of several roles on their committees, such as chairperson, secretary, or a regular voting member. Holst and Phillips remind us that "for each member of the library committee, the library is a secondary [or tertiary] responsibility." Some committee members may express a strong interest in helping to develop specific services, projects or areas of the collection, but their role on the committee is ultimately not to unduly influence the librarian. The contribution and support of the committee are important but should be seen as one part of an otherwise well-organized and managed service. Librarians can aim to get the support of their committee members and to seek their input into the overall direction of the health library's services. Holst and Phillips state that health librarians " a strong role in setting the agenda and making recommendations to the committee". They suggest that health librarians have the responsibility to recommend changes in library services and to advocate for change. Health librarians are also the main source of information about changes in libraries, and should ensure that committee members are well-informed and understand what issues and problems are impeding progress, especially where politically they need help from members in accessing influencers in the organization.

Running effective committee meetings

This short (12 min.) video presented by Bob Pozen and produced by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement Open School highlights appropriate reasons for calling a meeting, how to effectively prepare for a meeting once called, common mistakes meeting leaders make, and key features of successful meetings. The video also includes mock-meeting vignettes that illustrate the differences between ineffective and effective meetings.


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