The Health Association Libraries Section Survey: Finding Clues to Changing Roles

Marian Taliaferro, College of William and Mary
Lynn Dunikowski, University of Western Ontario
Aleta Embrey, Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses
Warren G. Hawkes, New York State Nurses Association
Jean Riedlinger, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Pamela Van Hine, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists


The frequent discourse and debate on the roles of librarians generally includes a consensus about the broad position characteristics 13 that former Journal of the Medical Library Association (JMLA) Editor T. Scott Plutchak, AHIP, FMLA, summarizes well: “We connect people to knowledge. We bring people together with the intellectual content of the past and present so that new knowledge can be created. We provide the ways and means for people to find entertainment and solace and enlightenment and joy and delight in the intellectual, scientific and creative work of other people” 3. Health association libraries, a unique blend of medical and special libraries, have been surveyed periodically since 1955 (Appendix A, online only). The Health Association Libraries Section (HALS) of the Medical Library Association and its predecessors surveyed health association libraries in 1980, 1996, and 2003 on the status of these libraries and their services (Appendix B, online only). The 1980 survey focused on basic library data about clientele, collections, and staff. Surveys since then have included questions on services, funding, and stability. The surveys captured reasons for library closures, including changes in association leadership, budgets, space, objectives, and staffing. The surveys also captured reasons for success, including the ability of librarians to adapt their services to the needs and objectives of their parent organizations. The data collected from the most recent survey in 2011 helps to illuminate the new and changing roles of health association librarians and provide clues on how health association librarians can position themselves for the future.