I doubt that many people outside the medical library community read the literature of medical librarianship. If that’s true, it’s a shame, for the medical librarians have much to teach the rest of the profession.
I’m moved to make that generalization by a recent article, “Is the Informationist a New Role? A Logic Model Analysis”, by Diane Cooper of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. (Journal of the Medical Library Association, July 2011, 99:3; Health Module p. 189.)
In the article, Cooper (herself an Informationist at NIH) uses the logic model analysis technique to explore differences between the “general medical librarian” or GML, and the Informationist. (I would characterize the Informationist as an embedded librarian.) Suffice it to say, Cooper finds several important differences between the two, in terms of the way they conduct their work and the results they produce. She closes with some observations about the importance of these differences: “Our users are changing, and our work environment is changing. We may need to redefine the role of librarians to address the changing library environment” and, most directly relevant for me as as a library science teacher, some comments about the educational changes needed to prepare librarians for these new roles, including technical writing and writing for publication; knowledge of health care; evidence-based practice; and biostatistics.
I think this is a very useful article in clarifying the differences between embedded librarians and traditional public services librarians. While some of the details will vary from specialty to specialty within the profession, I think the general principles she outlines are broadly applicable, and she raises some fundamental questions about the education of the next generation of embedded librarians. It’s worth a read!