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.