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J Am Med Inform Assoc. 1997 Jan-Feb;4(1):57-67.

Preparing librarians to meet the challenges of today's health care environment.

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Eskind Biomedical Library, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN 37232, USA.



Refine the understanding of the desirable skills for health sciences librarians as a basis for developing a training program model that reflects the fundamental changes in health care delivery and information technology.


A four-step needs assessment process: focus groups developed lists of desirable skills; the research team organized candidate skills into a taxonomy; a survey of a random sample of librarians and library users assessed perception of importance of individual skills; and the research team framed, as a unifying hypothesis, a training model.


The survey was distributed to random samples of 150 librarians, stratified by type of library, and 150 library users, stratified by type of use. A non-randomized sample was obtained by mounting the survey on a World Wide Web server. The survey instrument included 96 distinct skills organized into 13 categories. Respondents rated the importance of each skill on a Likert scale and provided a separate ranking by identifying the ten most important skills for the profession.


Among the participants, 51% of librarians and 36% of library users responded to the survey. All categories of skills were rated above the midpoint of priority on the Likert scale. All groups rated personality characteristics and skills as most important, with an understanding of the health sciences, education, and research being rated comparably to technical skills.


Health sciences librarians need a new educational model that provides them with broad-based tools to discover new roles and new resources for acquiring individual skills as the need arises. A unifying training model would involve trainees in developing their learning plan in a way that promotes proactive inquiry and self-directed learning, and it would rotate the trainees through projects to provide skills and an understanding of end-user work processes.

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