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AHIP Essential Areas of Knowledge

Candidates who hold a master's degree from a non-American Library Association accredited program must document sponsored instruction in all Essential Areas of Knowledge, regardless of the number of years of professional work experience.

An applicant is required to document a minimum of eight contact hours of instruction in a core area to fulfill the requirement for that Essential Area of Knowledge. The following types of course work are acceptable forms of sponsored instruction:

Sponsored Instruction
Required Documentation
Continuing Education course preapproved for MLA credit A copy of MLA CE certificate(s)
Continuing Education course not preapproved for MLA credit A copy of certificate or letter of completion plus a copy of the course syllabus
Academic course work A copy of transcript plus a copy of the course syllabus

Candidates without an ALA-accredited M.L.S. are required to submit Form KNO, Evidence of Essential Knowledge with their initial application to indicate how they have satisfied these areas.


The following descriptions of the Essential Areas of Knowledge are based on MLA's "Competencies for Professional Success".

1. Health Sciences Environment and Information Policies

Health sciences librarians must understand the contexts in which the need for biomedical and related information emerges and the unique ways of perceiving and interpreting these environments. Therefore, they should be alert to changing information and health care environments and major program and policy sources, including:

  • legal, ethical, economic, and legislative issues
  • health sciences professions: system, structure, terminology, education and training patterns, and associations and organizations
  • purpose, program and activities of MLA, the National Library of Medicine (NLM), and related information associations and organizations

2. Management of Information Services

Leadership in the application of library and information science to the handling of health information resources in complex institutional environments requires specialized knowledge, skill, and understanding of management, including:

  • the institution's mission and the specific mission of the information resource center
  • institutional functional planning processes
  • decision-making strategies
  • human resources management and labor relations
  • staff development, project and program management and evaluation
  • organizational structure and behavior
  • interinstitutional relations
  • numerical literacy and computational proficiency
  • finance and budgeting, cost analysis and price setting
  • skills in fundraising and proposal writing
  • public relations and marketing
  • facilities planning and space allocation
  • oral and written communication
  • interpersonal relations

3. Health Sciences Information Services

Health science librarians require knowledge of the content of information resources and should be skilled in their use. They must understand the principles and practices related to providing information to meet specific user needs and how to assure convenient access to all forms of information including: 

  • information needs of health practitioners, researchers, educators, students, and consumers
  • information seeking and transfer characteristics of user groups and individuals
  • assessment of identified information needs
  • health sciences and other information resources and their relevance to specific information needs
  • retrieval strategies and techniques
  • analysis, evaluation, and synthesis of information for identified information needs
  • development of services tailored to meet needs of individuals and (resource sharing) groups.

4. Health Sciences Resource Management

Health sciences librarians must know the theory of, as well as have skills needed for, identifying, collecting, evaluating, and organizing resources and developing and providing access to databases including: 

  • identification and selection of materials and their sources
  • acquisition of materials
  • bibliometric techniques
  • thesauri construction
  • bibliographic tools
  • cataloging and classification theory
  • national and international standards and conventions including cataloging and filing rules
  • indexing, abstracting, and classification systems
  • inventory control systems
  • serial publications
  • resource conservation and preservation
  • publishing industry
  • trends in information formatting, production, packaging, and dissemination
  • copyright issues

5. Information Systems and Technology

Developments in technology have reshaped the goals and systems of health sciences librarianship and changed the way information professionals function. Health sciences librarians must be able to understand and use technology and systems to manage all forms of information, including: 

  • basic principles of automated systems (record and file construction, computer hardware and software, telecommunications and networking, database management software)
  • systems analysis, artificial intelligence, and expert systems 
  • human behavior and technology
  • design, use, and evaluation of informations systems
  • acquisition, use, and evaluation of information systems
  • integration of systems and technology into the long-term information management needs and plans of the institution

6. Instructional Support Systems 

Teaching ways to access, organize, and use information to solve problems is an essential and ever-widening responsibility of the health sciences librarian. Effective instruction entails not only knowledge of the structure and content of specific courses and technology, but also an understanding of and expertise in: 

  • learning theory and cognitive psychology
  • curriculum and instructional development
  • instructional systems design
  • educational needs assessment and analysis
  • learning style appraisal
  • instructional methodologies
  • evaluation of learning outcomes

7. Research, Analysis, and Interpretation

Few dispute the library's responsibility to explore the "fundamental nature of biomedical information storage and organization, utilization, and application in learning, patient care, and the generation of new knowledge."* In order to conduct and interpret research, the health sciences librarian is called upon to apply knowledge, skills, and understanding of: 

  • theoretical basis of health sciences information, education, and clinical practice
  • information structure, transfer, and processing
  • analysis, evaluation, and application of research results
  • methods for evaluating system effectiveness and efficiency
  • statistical theory
  • research methodologies

* Matheson NW, Cooper JAD. Academic information in the academic health sciences center: roles for the library in information management. J Med Educ 1982 Oct;57(10, pt.2):49.