Contact Us | Donate | Advertise Follow us on TwitterFollow us on facebookFollow us on LinkedIn

Research in Action: Proving the Impact of Hospital Libraries

by Susan Lessick, chair, Research Imperative Task Force, Margaret Bandy, and Michelle Kraft

Hospital libraries and librarians continue to face difficult challenges. There are too many reports of hospital librarians losing jobs and hospital library closures. Now more than ever, hospital libraries need to find, create, and use evidence. 

The Research Imperative Task Force is particularly interested in how research can help hospital librarians communicate their value in compelling ways that make people listen. When librarians are involved, quality improves, and research is a powerful tool for convincing others of that. So how can we make that tool more usable? We know that for many hospital librarians, there are at least two challenges: finding time among a plethora of other tasks, and developing the skills to do their own research.  

The task force has several projects underway to help address these two challenges:  

  • Use research right now: A new website, “Medical Libraries Matter,” will contain in-context listings of the latest studies on the value of libraries and librarians. Quick summaries will draw out the most important points so you can get to the bottom line quickly and clearly. The results of these studies can be used to motivate and inspire stakeholders to sustain and build support for hospital libraries. We all need to act as a “Bill Nye the Science Guy” for our own libraries, helping our bosses see how our work contributes to the organization’s goals and priorities.
  • Build your skills: We’ll also construct a new educational website for medical librarian researchers at all levels of experience. The site will include guides for beginning researchers, helpful examples of library research, links to grant resources, guides to submitting proposals for presentation or publication in scholarly journals, and much more. Hospital librarians will have access to invaluable resources for learning, enhancing library practice, and convincing hospital leaders of the impact and value of hospital libraries. Tools and resources to learn skills that will help promote value. Small-scale, manageable research projects. This will save you time in getting started and building specific skills.
  • Get support: The revitalized Research Mentoring Program will pair experienced researchers with mentees who need advice and guidance on applying research and assessment at their institutions. Mentors will help hospital librarians and others identify and use a multitude of evidence sources (both hard and “soft” evidence, such as usage statistics and teaching evaluations) to confirm their own decisions or convince senior administrators of their impact and value. With this program, you’ll be able to find someone in your area to reach out to with your questions and challenges. 

Hospital librarians who survive and thrive in the future will be defined by their ability to demonstrate value to their institutions. Research and assessment are strategic tools in making a compelling case for further investment in hospital libraries. 


Research Task Force projects

March 23, 2016 01:50 PM by Julie Hughbanks

These projects will prove useful to hospital librarians and I thank you for addressing the gap in learning resources. Please let me know if I can help in any way. My professional experience (pre Library Science) is in marketing and business research.

Julie Hughbanks
Library Manager
Parkview Health

Proving the impact of Hospital Libraries

June 9, 2016 05:11 PM by Carolyn G. Biglow

i was re-reading Michele Kraft's 2013 Krafty Librarian and MEDLIB-L comments on the need for hospital libraries to prove their worth.  I was specifically struck by this passage:

"With the Affordable Care Act, hospitals stand to lose 1% of their Medicare payments in penalties if patients with specific conditions are readmitted within 1 month of discharge.  By 2015 it will be 3%.  That is billions of dollars.  To put it in perspective, Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis will lose $2 million dollars according to Kaiser Health News. Dr. John Lynch the chief medical officer of Barnes-Jewish says they could absorb the loss this year but not over time if penalties continue to accumulate.

You better believe all of the other hospital departments in your hospital are working toward the hospital goals.  Aligning the library to demonstrate specifically (hard numbers) how it can help the hospital achieve their goals is essential."

How do hospital libraries quantify their impact on something such as hospital re-admissions?  Or any other ACA penalties that their hospital receive?  I serve on our hosptial's Quality and Safety committee, and our patient education committee, but I don't know how to prove that my work impacts patient safety, medication errors or re-admissions.

Any suggestions?


Carolyn Biglow

Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh


Proving the Impact of Hospital Libraries

June 13, 2016 10:35 AM by Michelle Kraft, AHIP, FMLA

I think this is where we librarians need to start talking with departments and other groups in the hospital to figure out the best way to measure our impact on them. 

In regards to readmission.... proving how the library helps prevent readmissions to the hospital as a whole is probably too broad of a question to answer right away. Personally, I would find a department you have a good relationship with and work with them to study readmission.  Or maybe they have something else that is a critical goal that you can help them meet. Clinical departments in the hospital are already are measuring how they impact the hospital's goal, libraries must do this too. The idea is that librarians need to better illustrate, document, provide information on how they are helping the departments attaining hospital goals.  We have done a great job at conducting literature searches and reporting on how many we have done, but does that tell administration how we are supporting the hospital goal? It does if the hospital's goal is number of literature searches conducted, but that usually isn't the hospital's goal and it shouldn't be ours.  Because it doesn't tell them anything other than we did X amount of searches.  X amount of searches doesn't tell the hospital how we helped them meet their goals.  We need to look at the impact and the results of our research and services on the employees, departments and the hospital.  Working with specific departments to accomplish their goals is just an example of showing the impact of our services and research. 

Here are some articles that I really like illustrating library’s impact on patient care:

  • Evaluating the Impact of Literature Searching Services on Patient Care Through the Use of a Quick-Assessment Tool
    Authors: Farrell, Ashley; Mason, Jeff
    Journal of the Canadian Health Libraries Association (JCHLA) Dec2014, Vol. 35 Issue 3, p116-123. 8p. DOI: 10.5596/c14-030.
  • What Have We Done for You Lately? Measuring Hospital Libraries’ Contribution to Care Quality.
    Authors: Bayrer, Rebecca; Beattie, Suzanne; Lucas, Elizabeth; Melberg, Dawn; Melton, Eve
    Journal of Hospital Librarianship Jul-Sep2014, Vol. 14 Issue 3, p243-249. 7p. DOI: 10.1080/15323269.2014.888514.


The Research Imperative Task Force is currently working on finding and making easily accessible library impact studies which will help hospitals. Here are some they have found:

Adverse Events

Length of Stay

  • Decreased hospital length of stay associated with presentation of cases at morning report with librarian support.
    Author: Banks, D. E., Shi, R., Timm, D. F., Christopher, K. A., Duggar, D. C., Comegys, M., & McLarty, J.
    Journal of the Medical Library Association, 2007 95(4), 381-387.
  • Effects of librarian-provided services in healthcare settings: a systematic review.
    Authors:  Perrier, L., Farrell, A., Ayala, A. P., Lightfoot, D., Kenny, T., Aaronson, E., Allee, N., Brigham, T., Connor, E., Constantinescu, T., Muellenbach, J., Epstein, H. A., & Weiss, A.
    Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 2014. 21
    (6), 1118-1124.

  • The value and impact of information provided through library services for patient care: a systematic review.
    Authors: Weightman, A. L., & Williamson, J.
    Health Information and Libraries Journal, 2005. 22(1), 4-25.

Don’t just print off or email these studies to your administration.  While these are all great aticles, administration wants to know what have you done for them not what these libraries have done for their institutions.  Use these studies to think of ways you can do the same thing (perhaps on a lesser scale) within in your institution, illustrating your value.

By the way, it is even possible to come up with something as a solo as Brynn Beals illustrated in her article "Valuing Hospital Library Services: One small step for a solo." Journal of Hospital Librarianship. 2009 Vol.9 (3) 331-334.


Michelle Kraft
Senior Medical Librarian
Cleveland Clinic
Immediate Past President MLA

Recent Stories
Doing Our Jobs in the Time of COVID-19: Facilities and Personnel Management While Your Library Is Closed, Open, Reopening, or Somewhere In-Between

Significant Changes to EFTS and DOCLINE after June 30, 2020

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Library in COVID-19 Times: Part 2: Transitioning Services, Offerings and Support