Student Snippets A Window Into The Daily Life & Thoughts of SLIS Students

Guest Blog Post About Medical Librarianship

We have a special guest blog post this week by current SLIS student Jessie Cass. 

Jesse is currently (Spring 2016) in her last semester at Simmons SLIS. She is finishing up an internship at the Lamar Soutter Library at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester doing collection development and creating a libguide. She hopes to continue to do similar work in the future, though she would also love to combine her interest in cognitive science with the skills in library and information science gained throughout her time at Simmons. She has always lived in Massachusetts and will be remaining in the Boston area since it has so much to offer! When she is not doing homework she loves walking her dog and reading science fiction novels. You can learn more about her academic career at

Medical Librarianship 

Guest Blogger, Jessie Cass

In the spring of 2016 I completed an independent study which I called “Comparing Medical Librarian Roles: Circuit Riders, Clinical Librarians, and Informationists”. I worked with a medical librarian (Catherine Carr) from the Lamar Soutter Library (Umass Medical School, Worcester, MA). She provided me with readings on circuit riders, clinical librarians, and informationists (listed below as “sources consulted throughout the semester”).

After doing these readings I identified patterns that I had found in terms of defining the different roles and their similarities and differences. Additionally, when creating this blog post to share those conclusions, I found similar blog posts for readers to look at which also describe being a medical librarian.

 Comparing Medical Librarian Roles

 Circuit Rider: A librarian travels weekly to a set of health science-related institutions to provide library services (especially reference and document retrieval).

Clinical Librarian: A librarian works in a healthcare setting and provides services (especially literature searches, information literacy education, point-of-care support, and critical appraisals supporting clinical decision-making).

Informationist: A librarian embedded in any team (especially clinical, biomedical research, and public health settings).

 Common elements:

  • Domain (health sciences) knowledge
  • Library and Information Science education
  • Provide reference (literature searches / selecting appropriate documents / prepare & deliver materials)
  • Provide instruction (including continuing education and database demonstrations)
  • Support clinical staff and patient care
  • Attend case conferences and/or staff meetings

Additional perspectives on medical librarianship (first-person accounts):

 Sources consulted throughout the semester: 

– Aldrich, A. M., & Schulte, S. J. (2014). Establishing a new clinical informationist role in an academic health sciences center. Medical Reference Services Quarterly, 33(2), 136-146.
– Brettle, A., Maden-Jenkins, M., Anderson, L., McNally, R., Pratchett, T., Tancock, J., … Webb, A.(2011). Evaluating clinical librarian services: A systematic review. Health Information and
  Libraries Journal, 28(1), 3-22. doi:10.1111/j.1471-1842.2010.00925.x
– Davidoff, F., & Florance, V. (2000). The informationist: A new health profession? Annals of Internal Medicine, 132(12), 996-998. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-132-12-200006200-00012
– Feuer, S. (1977). The circuit rider librarian. Bulletin of the Medical Library Association, 65(3), 349-353.
– Oliver, K. B., & Roderer, N. K. (2006). Working towards the informationist. Health Informatics Journal, 12(1), 41-48. doi:10.1177/1460458206061207
– Pifalo, V. (1994). Circuit librarianship: A twentieth anniversary appraisal. Medical Reference Services Quarterly, 13(1), 19-33.
– Rankin, J. A., Grefsheim, S. F., & Canto, C. C. (2008). The emerging informationist specialty: A systematic review of the literature. Journal of the Medical Library Association, 96(3), 194-206.          doi:10.3163/1536-5050.96.3.005
– Schacher, L. F. (2001). Clinical librarianship: Its value in medical care. Annals of Internal Medicine, 134(8), 717-720. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-134-8-200104170-00023
– Stumpff, J. C. (2003). Providing medical information to college health center personnel: A circuit librarian service at the University of Illinois. Journal of American College Health, 52(2), 88-91.
– Tan, M. C., & Maggio, L. A. (2013). Expert searcher, teacher, content manager, and patient advocate: An exploratory study of clinical librarian roles. Journal of the Medical Library Association,    101(1), 63-72.
– Wagner, K. C., & Byrd, G. D. (2004). Evaluating the effectiveness of clinical medical librarian programs: A systematic review of the literature. Journal of the Medical Library Association, 92(1), 14-33.
– Whitmore, S. C., Grefsheim, S. F., & Rankin, J. A. (2008). Informationist programme in support of biomedical research: A programme description and preliminary findings of an evaluation. Health I I     Information and Libraries Journal, 25, 135-141. doi:10.1111/j.1471-1842.2007.00756.x