January 26, 2022

Research Article: “New Activities and Changing Roles of Health Sciences Librarians: a Systematic Review, 1990–2012”

The following article appears in the October 2013 issue of the Journal of the Medical Library Association.


New Activities and Changing Roles of Health Sciences Librarians: a Systematic Review, 1990–2012


I. Diane Cooper
NIH Library
Bethesda, MD

Janet A Crum
Director, Library Services
Lee Graff Medical and Scientific Library
City of Hope
Duarte, CA


Journal of the Medical Library Association
2013 October; 101(4)


A systematic review of the literature was conducted using MEDLINE, Library and Information Abstracts, Library Literature, Scopus, and Web of Science. To find new roles that might not yet have been described in the literature, job announcements published in the Medical Library Association email discussion list archives from 2008–2012 were searched. For inclusion, an article needed to contain a substantive description of a new role and/or activity performed by librarians and be in the field of medical or health sciences librarianship. Papers that did not describe an actual (rather than proposed) librarian role were excluded.


New roles identified through the literature search were: embedded librarians (such as clinical informationist, bioinformationist, public health informationist, disaster information specialist); systematic review librarian; emerging technologies librarian; continuing medical education librarian; grants development librarian; and data management librarian. New roles identified through job announcements were digital librarian, metadata librarian, scholarly communication librarian, and translational research librarian. New twists to old roles were also identified: clinical medical librarian, instruction librarian, outreach librarian, and consumer health librarian.


While the main purposes of health sciences librarianship remain the same, the new roles represent major new activities so that, for many librarians, daily on-the-job work is completely different.


This list of new activities should inform students contemplating medical librarianship careers, guide formal and continuing education programs, and encourage other librarians to consider these new services.

Direct to Full Text Article

See Also:  The Following Article by the Same Authors Also Appears in Journal of the Medical Library Association, 2013 October; 101(4): Emerging roles for biomedical librarians: a survey of current practice, challenges, and changes


About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.