v30 #4, Trends in the Health Sciences and Biomedical Sciences Information Landscape

by | Oct 10, 2018 | 0 comments

by Ramune K. Kubilius  (Collection Development / Special Projects Librarian, Galter Health Sciences Library & Learning Center, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine) 

Responding to encouragement from ATG editors, every few years, an opportunity arises to invite colleagues from the health sciences library community to share their insights.  In a series of articles, the contributors provide a view of the landscape.  What are health sciences libraries (or their larger institutions) “building” (acquiring, collecting, licensing) these days?  Where have health sciences librarians’ skills and interests led (or where could they potentially lead)? What services are being offered?  In 2018, some of the eight contributions build on themes touched upon in previous ATG health sciences special issue compilations, while others reflect on new or different themes.  This issue addresses technology, metadata, special library services (taxonomy, peer review), health literacy, One Health, eBooks, new medical school libraries, and institutional repositories.

In 2011, Stephanie Kerns addressed “Medical Education and Mobile Technology: The Next 100 Years.”  In this special issue, Jason Lilly and Kellie Kaneshiro overview technology and libraries, not limiting themselves to mobile technology or technology tied to medical curricula.  Library Director Gabriel Rios, answered some questions in a May 2018 NEJM LibraryHub posting (https://libraryhub.nejm.org/) on “Dipping a Toe into Emerging Technologies.”  The authors continue the thread, overviewing a few products, services, trends in technology medical libraries provide (or might want to have), addressing also the questions of who is requesting them (and for what purpose), as well as who is paying.

Joelen Pastva and Tony Olson overview changes, trends, and changes for cataloging and metadata in health sciences libraries.  The work of this unit and its team involves collection management, cataloging, as well as metadata services that help ensure and enhance health sciences resource management, access, and discovery.  There are increasingly more and varied applications for these skills and services.

In the 2014 special issue, Mary A. Hyde wrote “Health Association Libraries: The Spackle Needed for Member Societies.”  In this issue, David Bender also hones in on special librarians’ contributions to their parent organizations, but as an “embedded” librarian rather than one working in a full-service, more “traditional” library.  Playing off the use of “accidental” as used in the titles of books by special librarians Affelt and Hedden,2 he writes how he came to his current professional undertakings in a professional association.  He describes the creation and application of controlled vocabularies, indexing, and other activities that support diverse publishing and knowledge management projects of the health professional association, RSNA.  The Radiological Society of North America annually hosts the world’s largest medical meeting in Chicago, IL, has 54,000 members from 136 countries across the globe (http://www.rsna.org/AboutRSNA.aspx, viewed 6/5/2018), and is responsible for producing a wide array of professional and continuing education resources as well as tools.

A matter of continuing attention is health literacy of communities (including patients and the public), and that includes roles for libraries. In 2017, the National Network of Libraries of Medicine/National Library of Medicine (NNLM/NLM) South Central Region (https://nnlm.gov/scr) offered webinars entitled “How to Make the Case for Integrating Health Literacy Throughout Your Organization” and “Partnering with Community Health Workers.”  In this ATG issue, Katherine Chew overviews information outreach activities, services, and initiatives, building on Patricia Pinkowski’s 2008 ATG article, “Trends in Consumers’ Health Information Needs and Expectations.”

It has been five years since the Medical Library Association and partners planned the 2013 conference, described in the overlying theme, “One Health: Information in an Interdependent World.”  Interest in One Health has by no means waned.  In this issue, Pamela Rose surveys library and information aspects of the very interesting global, inter-related, and intersected areas that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/onehealth/) and other sites outline thusly:  “One Health recognizes the health of people is connected to the health of animals and the environment….”

In the health sciences, journals are the predominant scholarly publishing vehicle, but books (eBooks and e-textbooks in particular) remain important and have been addressed by ATG articles over the years (including special issues of 2008 and 2011/2012).  In this ATG issue, Jie Li and Geneva Stagg review one aspect of the current eBook landscape.  Their article is based in part on a poster presented at the 2017 Medical Library Association’s annual meeting in Seattle, WA, entitled “eBook Package Subscription Model: Benefits for the Library or the Publishing Industry?”

The health education landscape is in a constant state of evolution, as demographics, institutional priorities, and national trends change.  As some educational institutions close health professional programs, elsewhere programs are expanding or being newly established. In all cases, library services aim to address the schools’ or programs’ information needs and meet institutional priorities.  In 2014, Elizabeth Lorbeer addressed the topic, “Where to Start? Opening Day Collections and Services for a Newly Founded Medical School.”  In this issue, she reflects on the first five years of the endeavor that may resonate and inform others.

Lastly, institutional and other repositories try to capture research and scholarly output with goals that include priorities of open sharing and preservation for posterity.  In the 2014 ATG special issue Lisa Palmer wrote on “Cultivating Scholarship: The Role of Institutional Repositories in Health Sciences Libraries.”  In this issue, she and co-author, Dan Kipnis, again address the theme of IRs in health sciences libraries.  They overview the current medical IR landscape and share some trends that came to light as they analyzed results of a survey of medical school IRs they conducted (with Ramune Kubilius, compiler of this issue) in late 2017/early 2018.

Thanks to all of the authors for their contributions to this issue and to ATG editors for making this all possible!  We hope that ATG readers will enjoy and benefit from reading the articles in this special issue.  


  1.  Past ATG health sciences special issues:  2008,  2011.  2014 .
  2.  Amy Affelt, The Accidental Data Scientist: Big Data Applications and Opportunities for Librarians and Information Professionals, 2015, Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc.  Heather Hedden, The Accidental Taxonomist, 2nd edition, 2016.  Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc.



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