Ask-A-Librarian Column: What Exactly Do You Do? A Clinician’s Guide to the Medical Librarian

September 25, 2009

Jamie Graham

You may have seen us at clinical rounds, faculty council, or IRB sessions. You may have wondered why a medical librarian would be present outside the library. Our exact function is often a mystery to clinicians, and so, we have decided to take this opportunity in our inaugural issue to introduce ourselves and tell you everything we have to offer.Our professional librarians at the NYU Health Sciences Libraries receive a Masters in Library Science (M.L.S.) and often hold additional degrees in specific subject matters. Many attain further credentialing by the Academy of Health Professionals and a few possess doctorates (Ph.D.) as well. In addition, the Medical Library Association offers continuing education seminars that keep our medical librarians attuned to developments in the various health professions. In this way, we stay current on topics such as accreditation, changes in evidence-based practice, and consumer health information.

In our role as librarians, we can certainly help any clinician to acquire specific research materials and documents. However, our job is not limited to providing assistance solely within the library. One major function of the NYU Health Sciences librarians is to participate in clinical rounds by answering questions that arise regarding the current practice of evidence-based medicine in patient care. We can address issues during the meetings themselves or afterwards through individual sessions or small group workshops. We can also direct clinicians to the appropriate consumer health libraries for more patient-oriented information and patient referrals.

Should an evidence-based clinical question arise and you cannot attend either an individual or group session, you may also submit an online literature request form through the NYU Health Sciences Library website. The form allows you to set search parameters such as patient age, publication date, and article type (e.g. randomized-controlled trial, case series, or editorial). We can answer most requests within 72 hours.
Furthermore, framing your query in a PICO format can help clarify your request and streamline the search process and ensure a quicker response. PICO represents a widely used method of asking clinical questions by directly specifying the patient population, intervention, control, and outcome of interest.

Our NYU Health Sciences librarians also provide scheduled training classes throughout the year on topics such as evidence-based medicine practice, research management, clinical resources, and grant funding. Additionally, we can teach individual sessions and small group presentations by request. Popular topics include using resources such as Refworks, creating TOC alerts in OVID, finding bibliometrics, and preparing manuscrips according to current NIH mandates. Sessions can be arranged to take place either in the library or at a particular outside office.

One of our newest initiatives involves assisting the NYU School of Medicine faculty in finding multimedia resources to incorporate into their lectures and Learning Activity Management System or LAMS. In this way, our goal is to enhance the online Advanced Learning Exchange (ALEX) system and we hope to expand the role of our librarians with ALEX in the near future.

As you can see, our medical librarians wear a variety of different hats in the health care arena and our services can be tailored to fit your needs. Hopefully in this first introductory column, we have given you a better sense of who we are and what we can do. Don’t forget, if you ever find yourself in need of reliable information support, you can always Ask-A-Librarian!

(To request assistance for ALEX resources or for any of the other services described above, use the Ask-A-Librarian form found on the NYU Health Sciences website, or contact Sabrina Lee

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