The most recent update of Medical Library Association’s (MLA) Standards for Hospital Libraries was published in 2007. These guidelines were developed by the Hospital Libraries Standards Committee to assist hospital administrators, librarians and accrediting bodies in the design and maintenance of an effective hospital library. Recently, I decided to apply these standards to my own developing career as the Outreach Librarian at Baystate Health.
The MLA is fond of using the term “knowledge-based information (KBI)”. KBI is expert information found external to the organization and is utilized in support of patient care, strategic decision-making, patient safety, research initiatives, patient education, and other organizational efforts. KBI is found in journals, texts, best practices, research studies, etc. Basically, KBI is a fancy term for library resources.
The focus of these standards is to encourage librarians to gather evidence of the need for library resources and services. For me, the whole point is this: it isn’t enough to do a good job. We need to document what we are doing, why we are doing it, and find some way to connect our work with improvements in the health and well-being of our communities.
Of the 11 standards, I chose three—basically because I am not the director of the library and most of the standards are geared toward that role. So, I chose the standards that more easily address how I might approach my own work.
Standard 5 speaks to gathering evidence to demonstrate how library collections and services connect with effective patient education (among other hospital responsibilities). The meaningful use mandate is the perfect opportunity for us to introduce ourselves to any and all patient education teams. Standard 5 wants to see my name on the minutes of any meeting I attend. I guess that is documentation.
Standard 5 also wants me to offer my skills in helping select, create and/or filter sources of patient education materials. And, to document the direct provision of library-purchased patient education materials to clinicians and consumers. Teaching consumer health information, marketing library services to patients and their families, and gathering evidence of these activities fulfill the demands of Standard 5.
Standard 6 calls for gathering evidence of ongoing needs assessments. The expectation is that I am using formal and informal techniques to assess the information needs (in this case, of consumers) for KBI. The needs assessments should include turnaround time as well as appropriate materials.
Expected resources are:
- Convenient access to a librarian
- Current and authoritative collections
- 24/7 access to KBI
- Technology required for access
- Methods of locating materials (catalog or database)
- Resource-sharing agreements to expand access
So, how am I doing? Possible ways to discover are consumer focus groups, user surveys, analysis of usage patterns, inventory of collections, etc. The Consumer and Patient Health Information Section (CAPHIS) of MLA provides lists of recommended resources and other vital guidelines for managing a consumer health library.
Standard 7 presses the librarian to provide documentation of action taken to promote library resources and services. Several methods of promotion are suggested:
- Announcements of new services and resources
- Orientations to the library
- Observances of National Library Week and National Medical Librarians Month
- Participation in information fairs
- Promotions of established services and resources
- Presentations to user and non-user groups
One particularly nifty way of documenting your efforts is news coverage. I was interviewed for not one but two local newspaper articles on consumer health information programs that I am presenting at public libraries. I got a lot of mileage out of these stories, sending links to everyone I could think of.
To be honest, garnering news coverage looks easier than collecting data on the above measures. I have some work to do!