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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Spring 2011
DOI: 10.5062/F4J1012Q

Book Reviews

The Accidental Health Sciences Librarian

Bette Anton
Optometry/Health Sciences Librarian
Head, Fong Optometry & Health Sciences Library
University of California
Berkeley, California

Copyright 2011, Bette Anton. Used with permission.

Lisa A. Ennis and Nicole Mitchell. The Accidental Health Sciences Librarian. Medford, NJ, Information Today, Inc. 2010.

The Accidental Health Sciences Librarian, by Lisa A. Ennis and Nicole Mitchell, both librarians at the Lister Hill Library of the Health Sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, is a lively and well written handbook, aimed at a wide audience: new librarians, those thinking about a career change, who have just become "accidental health sciences librarians", librarians and others who must answer occasional health-related questions, and even high school and college students considering going into librarianship. In other words, it is directed at a very broad audience. As an undergraduate history major myself, I especially appreciated the recommendation from the authors in the first chapter that, "Whatever your undergraduate degree is in, don't let it hinder you from becoming a health sciences librarian."

In the first chapter ("Health Sciences Librarianship"), an overview is offered of the many different varieties of health sciences librarianship: academic, medical center, hospital, veterinary, and more, as well as the large universe of patrons such librarians serve. Chapter 2, "Putting the Medical in Health Sciences Librarianship," gives readers familiarity with some common terms/concepts (HIPAA, Joint Commission) used by librarians in the field, as well as extensive information on NLM classification and MeSH; the importance of familiarity with medical vocabulary is stressed. The chapter entitled "It's All About the People" (chapter 3), discusses the assortment of people one is likely to interact with as a health sciences librarian, such as researchers, clinicians, students, and consumers. An important section of this chapter, "Areas to Watch," gives a clear description of evidence-based health care, including definitions of PICO and "how to" practice EBHC. Chapter 4, "Technology", has simple definitions for technical terms and functions (e.g., firewall, VPN) as well as up-to-date descriptions of social networking tools. It also presents some common sense advice about dealing with IT personnel. "Databases and Resources," Chapter 5, offers good descriptions of essential tools for health sciences librarians (e.g., PubMed/MEDLINE, Cochrane Library), a very timely section on mobile apps, and of some specialized resources as well. The final chapter, "Resources and Networking" goes over the many organizations and associations that health sciences librarians might find themselves joining, as well as the importance of doing so. It also covers other means of networking and keeping up, such as blogs and RSS feeds.

Each chapter includes "how I got here" vignettes, first-person accounts of becoming a health sciences librarian, taken from responses to a survey (included in the Appendices) conducted by the authors in 2008. At the end of each chapter are endnotes. In addition, one appendix contains recommended further reading for each chapter. The book also contains several other useful appendices. A particularly noteworthy feature is the book's web site, which updates all the links cited in the book, chapter by chapter.

As the authors say, this book, by intent, provides a broad overview of the field of health sciences librarianship; it is a "place to start." It covers a laundry list of skills required to be a health sciences librarian, very broadly defined, along with good, solid advice on how to develop these skills. The Accidental Health Sciences Librarian is most definitely worth reading, for those who fit into the audience categories noted above. It would be an excellent addition to the libraries of library schools, health sciences libraries, and even high school libraries. Overall, this book can be a useful and quite comprehensive resource for those who are new to the field, as well as those thinking of becoming, or who are already "accidental" health sciences librarians.

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