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MLA Continuing Education Program Definitions and Criteria


Continuing education (CE) opportunities in the Medical Library Association are planned, organized learning experiences designed to augment the knowledge, skills and attitudes of those who work in health sciences libraries, to enhance library practice, education, administration or research and to improve health care by improving health care information, access to it or utilization of it.

CE opportunities may continue to take the form of traditional classroom instruction, but may also include the delivery of instruction or learning opportunities via distance education or self-study methods. They may employ technologies, including (but not limited to) the following: television and radio broadcast, satellite teleconferencing, and computer-mediated communication (computer conferencing, web, e-mail or electronic mail list technology) of various sorts. This list is not intended to limit the means by which the association seeks to deliver educational or professional development opportunities to its members; it merely names some of the popular modes, which seem to have potential for health sciences librarians.


CE course is defined as a planned learning experience with detailed learning objectives defined by the instructor(s). It can take the form of formal classroom instruction or distance education. Courses contain exercises and activities where the participants practice or are tested on what they have been learning.


A symposium is defined as a learning opportunity organized for the purpose of providing a forum for discussion of a single well-defined topic. For example, research might be a theme of a conference but qualitative research for medical librarians could be the well-defined topic for a symposium. A symposium ideally provides an environment for the free exchange of ideas that goes beyond the normal Question and Answer session after a presentation. Typically, a symposium consists of a series of presentations contributed by experts in the defined subject area of the symposium topic, followed by an interchange of opinions among symposium participants. Active participation of the attendees is built into the symposium schedule. In order to receive MLA CE credit, a symposium must be sponsored by an MLA unit or chapter. MLA CE credit is awarded for time spent on program content and does not include the time for exhibit hours and poster sessions.

Conference/Annual Meeting

Conferences/annual meetings of organizations are usually organized with a central theme and may include invited speakers, contributed papers, posters, roundtables, and other sessions. While CE credit is not awarded for attending meetings, individuals can claim AHIP credit for meeting attendance under the Conference Participation section of AHIP.

Statement of Responsibilities

The MLA Continuing Education Committee (CEC), in conjunction with MLA Headquarters staff, develops guidelines and specific criteria regarding continuing education programs in order to maintain the quality of educational or professional development programs. These criteria help to define the objectives, content, organization, staffing, methods, evaluation, delivery and support of MLA CE activities and are outlined below.

The Professional Development (PD) office of the Medical Library Association in Chicago is charged with the responsibility for obtaining and reviewing documentation to support the approval of educational activities and instructors for MLA CE contact hours. It is this office, which actually notifies instructors when their courses have been approved. Regulations, forms, and procedural documents used in the process of administering the award of contact hours must be approved in advance of their use by the CEC. The CEC should annually review the educational activities accredited by the PD staff and should provide explicit feedback on the success or failure of the process.

As the means by which educational opportunities can be delivered and the challenges involved in crediting the resultant diversity are more likely to grow than become more limited, the guidelines laid out in this document must be applied with discretion and cannot simply serve as a checklist of rules for compliance. The CEC encourages novel modes of delivery of educational experiences. Contact hours will be authorized regardless of the medium by which the opportunity is delivered, provided that this medium has been judged acceptable by the CEC.

Approval for educational activities and instructors will be synonymous. Such approval will be granted for one year from the time of approval for each educational opportunity. MLA PD staff is charged with maintaining a database of approved educational activities with their instructors. The database will include the length of time the approval is in force, descriptions of the educational activity, and contact information for the instructor. In this way, Chapters or other groups may contact MLA to find instructors for local educational opportunities.

Criteria for Awarding MLA CE Contact Hours

1. Objectives

An MLA-approved educational activity must have appropriate objectives that are clearly stated and advertised in advance of the offering. These objectives may include, but are not limited to the following:

a) to improve the quality of health sciences library service
b) to promote and support innovation and creativity in health sciences librarianship
c) to acquire or update knowledge and skills in health sciences librarianship
d) to prepare health sciences librarians for re-entry into practice
e) to help in transitions from one area of library practice to another
f) to acquire a greater depth of knowledge in an area of health sciences librarianship g) to enhance professional attitudes and values
h) to increase knowledge of and sensitivity to health care information
i) to improve ability to manage health science information resources
j) to promote responsibility for personal professional development

2. Content

The content of an MLA-approved educational activity must be relevant to librarianship for information management in the health sciences, and the relevant content must be explicitly stated. Platform for Change, MLA's educational policy statement, can be used as a touchstone for determining the relevancy of content. The course content must be logical, related to demonstrated needs, and planned in terms of measurable objectives by librarians (or with the assistance of librarians) who have experience in the area of the content. Instructors not actively involved in the field of health sciences librarianship must demonstrate that this educational activity will be directed to the needs of health sciences librarians. The anticipated outcomes for participants should include a statement of measurable educational goals and objectives.

3. Staff

The teaching staff (or leaders of the educational opportunity) of an MLA-approved educational activity must be demonstrably competent in the field they propose to teach. Such competence shall be evidenced by provision of a CV demonstrating subject knowledge to teach the proposed educational activity gained either through formal course work (e.g., a course in research taught by someone with a master's degree in statistics) or on the job experience (e.g., a course in cataloging AV materials by someone who has been a cataloger of such materials for over three years.)

The teaching staff (or educational opportunity leaders) should demonstrate the ability to effectively teach the proposed educational activity or provide evidence that they have competently instructed adult learners in the past in the proposed medium.

4. Instructional Methods

Instructional methods used in an MLA-approved educational activity should be conducive to the kind of learning required by the material (or the content) as well as the anticipated outcome. Methods should both allow and encourage participation of the learners. It is highly desirable that instructors be available to students in real time during the course. Instructional materials must be of suitable quality and of a very high standard, especially if the educational opportunity depends disproportionately on printed, taped, filmed, or online materials (i.e., if there is no "teacher" in the traditional sense).

5. Evaluation

Evaluation of the content, the "teacher," and the experience is crucial in an MLA-approved educational activity and is required from every learner. It should be used to improve and revise the offering. Feedback should be provided to the "teacher," the organizers and MLA, so that the possibility of follow-up, when necessary, is real, and to provide quality control by the committee on behalf of MLA members.

6. Facilities/Educational Support

The facilities/educational support must be appropriate and conducive to learning. If the opportunity is technology-dependent and offered at different sites, the organizers must ensure that all sites have equal access to adequate technology, or must structure the event so those who participate are not disadvantaged by disparities in their mode of access.

7. Administrative/Budgetary

Administrative and budgetary arrangements necessary to support the educational experience must be present and must be demonstrated in advance. There must be adequate promotion for the event; its duration must be commensurate with its goals; record keeping and reporting of financial details and attendance must be assured; and the approval of MLA must be requested in a timely fashion with appropriate documentation. Those planning and offering an MLA-approved educational activity must show evidence of intention to adhere to MLA CE guidelines and criteria in all respects as described in this document.


Continue to the MLA Continuing Education Activities Approval Application.