Medical Librarian

Medical librarians provide health information, such as new medical treatments, clinical and standard trials, procedures, tests and equipment, to physicians, nurses, and other allied health professionals.

They teach physicians, medical students, and other allied health professionals how to use medical-related software programs, online resources, search engines , and how to search the Internet for up-to-date evidence-based medicine and other medical information. They help patients find information, answer consumer health questions, and provide general information to the health care industry.

Medical librarians are an integral part of the health care team. They have a direct impact on health care and the quality of patient care by helping physicians, allied health professionals, and other members in health care stay current in the latest developments in specialty care. They also work closely with patients and consumers who are seeking information on medical care.

Do you have any of these traits?
Are you innovative, computer-oriented, creative, service-oriented, have excellent communication skills, like to teach, or have an interest in working in the medical milieu? If you answered yes to any of these traits, medical librarianship may be a career for you to consider.

Where do medical librarians work?
Work settings for medical librarians include hospitals, academic medical centers, clinics, ambulatory centers, colleges, universities and professional schools, consumer health libraries, and research centers. Related industries include biotechnology, insurance, pharmaceutical, publishing, federal, state, and local government agencies, and other places where heath information is needed.

Where and how do medical librarians enter the profession?
In order to become a medical librarian you must first obtain an undergraduate degree and then obtain a master’s degree in library sciences. The American Library Association (ALA) accredits master’s programs in library and information studies in the United States. Typical MLS programs run from one to two years in length and are offered in the traditional classroom setting or via online degree programs. A complete listing of ALA-accredited graduate schools can be accessed at https://ala.org/ala/accreditation/lisdirb/lisdirectory.htm.

It is not necessary to have a science background; however, medical terminology, biology or other science, and health sciences library courses are helpful to enter the profession. In some settings, medical librarians have PhD degrees or another advanced degree, such as medical informatics or business and management.

Medical librarianship falls within the special library curriculum of many schools of library and information sciences. Specialty courses may include research, information resources, consumer health, medical informatics, or health sciences information resource and services.

Medical librarians may apply for membership in the Medical Library Association’s credentialing program, the Academy of Health Information Professionals. It is based on earning points for professional development in five areas of knowledge in the health information field.

What are the job prospects for medical librarians?
It is estimated that over 50% of medical librarians will be retiring within the next ten years, making job prospects above average. Job seekers that are flexible geographically have an even better chance of obtaining a position in the field.

Types of positions available
Medical librarians hold a wide variety of jobs in health information sciences. They can be library directors, medical librarians, or Web managers at an academic medical center, a collection development librarian at a university library, a reference librarian at a hospital, director of a nursing school library, an information architect for a pharmaceutical company, or a consumer health librarian at a large medical center.

What do medical librarians earn?
Salaries vary according to the type and location of the institution, the level of responsibility, and the length of employment. The Medical Library Association reports that in 2005, the average starting salary was $40,832. The overall average salary for medical librarians in 2005 was $57,982. Library directors earned up to $158,000.

How can I learn more about becoming a medical librarian?
A host of career information including tip sheets, slide presentations, and career brochures are available at www.mlanet.org/career.

Watch or Down load a Career Video: MLA’s new 11-minute video, “Join the Health Care Team: Become a Medical Librarian,” explores the roles and environment of today’s health information professionals.

For use with faster Internet connections (large files):
Windows Media Player (.wmv) file (26MB)
Quicktime (.mov) file (28MB)

Visit www.mlanet.org, the Website of the Medical Library Association

Last updated: January 2007