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Professional Development

Consumer Health Information Specialization

CHIS Badge

The MLA Consumer Health Information Specialization (CHIS) offers training in providing health information services to consumers and recognition for the accomplishment of acquiring new health information skills.

Why Get a CHIS?

Librarians and other information and health professionals know the life-saving and life-enhancing value of accurate health information. By earning your CHIS, you acquire skills and knowledge needed to become a confident, expert provider of health information to your community.

Your CHIS shows employers, colleagues, and the public you serve that you are committed to offering quality consumer health information services and to staying current with developments in consumer health information resources, technologies, and services. For more information on the specialization, download the MLA Consumer Health Information Specialization brochure.

These articles show the value of training in providing health information services:

Elizabeth Kiscaden, Michele Spatz, Susan Wolfe, Molly Knapp, & Erica Lake, “Impact of a consumer health information specialization (CHIS) sponsorship program on the ability of public library staff to provide consumer health informationJournal of the Medical Library Association. Volume 109, No. 2 (April 2021): 267-274

Brandi Borman & Pamela J. McKenzie. “Trying to Help without Getting in Their Faces: Public Library Staff Descriptions of Providing Consumer Health InformationReference & User Services Quarterly. Vol. 45, No. 2 (Winter 2005), pp. 133-136, 140-146.

Kenneth Lee, Kreshnik Hoti, Jeffery D. Hughes, & Lynne M. Emmerton “Interventions to Assist Health Consumers to Find Reliable Online Health Information: A Comprehensive Review.PLOS OneApril 7, 2014.

Ellen L. Rubenstein, “I Want to Provide Patrons with Good Information”: Public Library Staff as Health Information Facilitators," The Library Quarterly 88, no. 2 (April 2018): 125-141. [Abstract only]

Nancy D. Zionts, Jan Apter, Julianna Kuchta, & Pamela K. Greenhouse, “Promoting Consumer Health Literacy Creation of a Health Information Librarian Fellowship”  Reference & User Services Quarterly, 2010, vol. 49, no. 4, pp. 350–359.

Who Is the MLA Consumer Health Information Specialization Designed For?

  • Medical librarians
  • Public librarians
  • Librarians working in consumer health libraries
  • Allied health professionals
  • Information professionals
  • Anyone who cares about providing accurate and useful health information to the public

Over 1,300 librarians, health and information professionals, and others have earned their CHIS!

See a list of current CHIS recipients.

What is the Cost of CHIS?

Most CHIS courses are offered by the Network of of the National Library of Medicine (NNLM) at no cost. It is easy to meet the requirements for both levels with NNLM courses. MLA charges a modest fee (members: $99, non-members: $129) for reviewing applications and granting certificates. NNLM generously sponsors the CHIS application fee for library staff and students who reside within any region of the NNLM. Click here to apply for NNLM to cover your application fee.

What Are the Requirements for Earning CHIS?

CHIS is organized around eight Core Competencies for Providing Consumer Health Information Services and two levels of accomplishment.

  • Know the characteristics of the community served by the library, including demographics, special populations, health status indicators, and needs of community members. Understand that beliefs, customs, and values of different cultures can influence thoughts and actions around health, illness, and health care decisions. Be respectful and responsive to all user groups. Practice cultural humility through self-reflection and awareness that one’s own beliefs and experiences can impact interactions with others; be open to learning about the experiences and cultural identity of others as a lifelong endeavor.
  • Understand the principles and practices related to providing appropriate, relevant information services to meet the needs of different types of users, including patients, caregivers, educators, students, and health practitioners. Understand and respond to the issues and barriers faced by health information seekers.
  • Solid knowledge of specific resources for general and specialized health topics is essential, as well as resources for specific population groups or for users with special needs. Know the library’s print collection, both circulating and reference materials. Be well-versed in library subscription databases, including the coverage of materials, currency, and appropriateness for specific requests. Have knowledge of quality web-based resources, and strive to stay current as resources change or are replaced with new resources.
  • Understand the principles of evaluating consumer health information for quality. Apply quality criteria when selecting items for the print or electronic collection. Have the ability to critically examine and filter materials from web-based and other resources when choosing an appropriate resource for a particular patron. Provide users with evaluation criteria and guidance for finding appropriate health materials.
  • Know and apply effective communication techniques; understand and apply the additional components of health reference interviewing. Be able to recognize and take advantage of teachable moments with patrons. Effectively teach users how to use search engines, library catalogs and subscription databases, reference materials, and online resources.
  • Understand the related issues of literacy and health literacy and the principles and practices of serving users with low literacy skills or low health literacy, including knowledge of understandable and appropriate print, online, and multimedia health materials. Be able to gauge the readability of resources, and be aware of signs of low literacy in patrons. Recognize that low health literacy can affect anyone regardless of education or socioeconomic levels.
  • Understand current technology used by patrons within and outside of the library. Have proficiency assisting users with library computers, the library catalog, subscription-based health information resources, Internet search, and web-based health resources. Be aware of emerging technology trends in health-related social networking, mobile access, electronic health records, and personal health records.
  • Understand ethical issues surrounding the provision of medical information, including the use of discretion and the patron’s need and right to privacy. Know and apply the library’s policies regarding the use of disclaimers when providing medical information. Provide recommendations for health information resources only; never provide medical advice. Understand the limitations of the librarian’s role, and always recommend that the user discusses the information received with a health professional.

Competencies are from Finding Health and Wellness @ the Library: A Consumer Health Toolkit for Library Staff, 2nd Edition. Updated March 2018.

CHIS Levels I and II

Experts in providing consumer health information created two levels of CHIS. Level I requires courses in five foundational competencies. While you may take courses in other competencies, you will gain skills in the basics when you earn Level I. Level II requires you to take courses in three additional competencies. While you may take courses in other competencies, you will gain skills in higher level competencies when you earn Level II.

Your Level I CHIS shows that you have skills in these 5 Core Competencies for Providing Consumer Health Information Services:
  1. Know the Community    
  2. Know the Health Consumer    
  3. Knowledge of Subject Matter and Resources
  4. Evaluation of Health Information
  5. Communication, Reference, and Instruction

You meet the requirements for Level I by completing 12 credit hours in these five competencies.

Your Level II CHIS shows that you have skills in all 8 Core Competencies for Providing Consumer Health Information Services:

  1. Know the Community    
  2. Know the Health Consumer    
  3. Knowledge of Subject Matter and Resources
  4. Evaluation of Health Information
  5. Communication, Reference, and Instruction
  6. Literacy and Health Literacy
  7. Technology and Health
  8. Ethical and Legal Issues

You meet the requirements for Level II by completing 12 additional credit hours that include at least one credit in each of competencies 6, 7, and 8.

CE Credit and Competency Requirements

  • Each level requires 12 MLA CE credits of coursework that covers that level’s competencies.
  • You may apply for either level if you have met the corresponding credits and competencies requirements.
  • Your coursework does not need to focus exclusively on the competencies of the level you’re applying for, but these competencies must be covered at some point.
  • You meet the requirements for Level II by completing 12 credit hours that include at least one credit in each of competencies 6, 7, and 8.
  • Credits must be earned within 3 years before your application date.
  • Your CHIS certificate will be valid for 3 years.
  • To renew your certificate at either level, you must earn 8 credits every 3 years, covering any of the competencies.
  • We recommend that individuals with a Level I aim for Level II when renewing; only 4 more credits are needed.

CHIS Courses

These MLA-approved consumer health courses have been developed and selected for the MLA Consumer Health Specialization. Use the CHIS Competencies Tracking Grid to ensure that you take courses in the required competencies.

Network of the National Library of Medicine (NNLM) now offers five free learning modules that cover the basics of providing consumer health information and earn up to 5 MLA CE credits. Register now

Credit for Activities Not Approved for CHIS

If you complete an educational activity, a Discussion Group activity, Independent Reading Program activity, webinar, or other activity not on the list of MLA-approved consumer health courses and would like to have it considered for meeting a CHIS requirement, please fill out an Individual Participant Request (IPR) form and submit it with your application.

Applying for or Renewing Your CHIS 

Before submitting your application

Requesting an application form

  • To receive an application, pay the application fee by visiting the MLA Store. The application fee is $99 for MLA members and $129 for non-members. (If you applied for NNLM sponsorship of the application fee, do not purchase the fee here. You will receive application instructions by email.)

Completing your application

  • After your payment is processed, we’ll email you a link to the online application.
  • Complete the online application and indicate if you would like a letter celebrating your accomplishment sent to your supervisor.
  • Upload your certificate(s) and IPR form(s) for each course or activity not on your MEDLIB-ED transcript. To make your application easier, we will access your transcript and check it against the Competencies requirements for your level.

MLA will process your application and, on approval, send you a certificate recognizing your accomplishment. Your award letter will include a link to a digital badge you can include in your email signature line or website: 

CHIS-Level-I.jpg         CHIS-Level-II.jpg

We encourage you to Promote Your Accomplishment with a  press release your public relations office can publish in your organization’s newsletter and local papers, print and digital. Customize the release to highlight your unique CHIS-related achievements.

Instructors: Get Your Course Approved for CHIS

Only courses that focus directly on consumer health issues or on providing consumer health information can be approved for CHIS. To be considered, select "Consumer Health" in the Specialization Consideration part of the Submit a Course for MLA CE Approval application form.  Contact the MLA Professional Development department for more information.

LIS and iSchool instructors can also get their class approved to offer CHIS through the Consumer Health for Library Students program. In partnership with the Network of the National Library of Medicine (NNLM), NNLM is delighted to guide LIS and iSchool instructors through getting their classes approved to offer CHIS certificates to students. Teaching an MLA-approved consumer health course in your program allows students to gain knowledge in providing health information services to patrons and recognition for the accomplishment of gaining new health information skills from future employers.

Visit to learn more about the benefits, feedback from students and professors participating in the program, and how to get your class approved to offer CHIS.  

CHIS in the News


CHIS was created in 2001 with the support of the National Library of Medicine.