September 27, 2007
Why librarians are still important.
How many times, in hospital libraries, have we heard the questions “Why do we need a library or librarians when it’s all on the Internet”? More times than we can imagine, I suspect. Worse is when the people posing the question state that “it’s” all FREE on the Internet, though I think Hospital Administrators are slowly getting that it’s not all free and in fact can be rather expensive.
How do we, as librarians, counter this question? Well, first we can admit that yes, a great deal of medical knowledge and information can be found on the Internet. Few medical journals do not have an electronic counterpart and electronic books are becoming more prevalent and easier to use. That does not mean that librarians are superfluous or incidental. In fact, we may be more important than ever as the amount of information grows exponentially and the number of access points, in varying quality, increases.
How does administration think the resources are found, evaluated, purchased and made readily available to patrons? A lot of work goes in to making electronic resources easily and consistently available to the doctors, residents, nurses and students. The job isn’t over after initial purchase and activation of a product. Publishers change urls. Heck, even our IT departments sometimes change IP addresses, often times without notifying anyone. Ever have to tell all your electronic resource vendors that your institution’s IP address has changed? It is not a difficult process but it can be a time consuming process. Access issues are only the tip of the iceberg.
T. Scott’s recent post on valuing librariansspeaks more elegantly than I ever could on the higher level aspects of why librarians are important regardless of where and how information is available. When you add in the purchase and maintenance of print collections, interlibrary loan, and literature searching (things, along with electronic collections, I consider “basic” library services) it becomes clear that human management is needed in order for the library patrons to get quality information when they need it and in the format they need it. Physicians are experts in patient care. Librarians are experts in knowledge management. Let us do our jobs well so that the physicians can to theirs.