Users of health libraries
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Users of health libraries have historically presented their information needs to medical and reference librarians at the service desks. However, users are much more self-sufficient today than they were even ten years ago and consequently seek assistance and expertise for complex research issues and clinical questions. Part of the trend away from providing basic reference services is due to the ease-of-access to health information on the Internet. In fact, due to the speed and efficiency of search engines and social media, the teaching and training efforts of librarians and library staff (especially in the area of information literacy) have played a role in the reduction of library gate counts and reference statistics. Some questions and consultations continue to rise, particularly where major research programs are in place and where systematic review searching is performed. It must be said that health librarians are concerned that users are not very well-versed in doing their reviews of the medical literature and that they accept whatever they find - much to the detriment of their research and clinical activities.
Consequently, there are many different types of library users that should avail themselves of information that can be found in a well-stocked library. The information needs of users are complex, and include allied health professionals, nurses, pharmacists and physicians. Other groups that should be encouraged to use health libraries include dental hygienists, diagnostic medical sonographers, dietitians, medical technologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, radiographers, respiratory therapists, and speech language pathologists. A range of health professionals in medicine, dentistry and nursing as well as allied health professionals are involved in the delivery of health care.
In the information age, health professionals present considerable training and educational needs to the health library. With an emphasis on evidence-based health care, and the pressure to assimilate large amounts of information, and the need to renew credentials and continuing education credits, health library users have many reasons to seek out the expertise and assistance of health librarians and library staff. Members of the health professions must be proficient in using new computer technologies, and understand current perspectives in medical ethics, interpersonal communication, information literacy, human resources and social media - among other competencies. Health librarians can provide a lot of help in helping health professionals reach their learning goals, but only when they take the opportunity to express them fully in the library.
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