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Report on 1/13/14 Hospital Libraries Panel Discussion

by Raquel Abad, MLIS, Health Sciences Librarian
Blaisdell Medical Library
University of California, Davis
Sacramento, CA

On January 13, 2014, NN/LM PSR and the Northern California and Nevada Medical Library Group (NCNMLG), co-sponsored a panel presentation regarding the current disturbing trend of hospital library closures. The session was held at the Stanford Hospital and Clinics Hoover Pavilion in Palo Alto, and was also made available for remote participation using WebEx. Total attendance was about 50 people. The panel presentation was followed by a lively question and answer session among both in-person and remote attendees.

The three presenters were:

  • Nancy Dickenson, MLIS; Librarian; Stanford Health Library; Stanford Hospital & Clinics
  • Peggy Makie, MLIS, AHIP; Library Manager; Kaiser Permanente Health Sciences Library, Sacramento and Roseville
  • Geri Bodeker, MS, MLIS, AHIP; Medical Librarian, Palo Alto Medical Foundation Physician Library; Nursing Librarian, Samuel Merritt University San Francisco Peninsula Learning Center Library; Adjunct Faculty Librarian, College of San Mateo Library

Kicking off the panel was Nancy Dickenson. She explained that there are three librarians on staff at her library, which primarily functions as a consumer health library. With so many hospital libraries closing, the librarians at Stanford Health Library decided to focus on ways that they could make themselves relevant at the hospital, outside of traditional library services. The library currently manages a database for patient education, and also trains hospital employees that work at the hospital call center. Librarians train these employees to conduct a “reference interview” in order to help determine the kind of assistance that people calling the hospital might need. This includes directing callers to the library if necessary. The library also provides educational information to the employee wellness programs at the hospital.

The next speaker, Peggy Makie, also spoke about keeping the library relevant. There are thirteen staffed Kaiser Permanente libraries in Northern California, and the librarians of these frequently collaborate on programs and services. Peggy explained that the libraries focused much of their efforts on building a robust online presence; the print collections were decreased and consolidated in order to increase online subscriptions, and a web-based platform called LibAnswers (using Springshare technology) was created in order to allow patrons to interact with librarians through an online form, texting, or online chat. The Kaiser libraries also formed a marketing committee that created the necessary signage and flyers to alert staff to the various changes, with the ability for each librarian to edit these documents in order to make them specific to their own library. Each librarian also spends time out of the library making rounds, attending hospital committee meetings, or making presentations. While these changes were being implemented, the Library Director ensured that the libraries aligned their specific projects with Kaiser Permanente’s strategic goals, and each librarian was assigned an activity in order to address larger needs of the organization. Finally, Peggy participated in a program called Health Information by the Bedside, during which she visited the Stroke Unit and the ICU at the Kaiser Permanente Sacramento Medical Center to offer consumer health research services to patients or their families. Though the service was successful, it cannot be maintained at present due to staffing levels, but the Kaiser libraries do have interest in pursuing it in the future.

The final presentation was by Geri Bodeker. She explained how she is always looking for opportunities where the library can be involved with its institution. As she brainstorms library programs and services, she uses strategic planning in order to build a foundation for future initiatives, and uses metrics and statistics as a way to assess her library’s services in order to ensure continual improvement. Geri talked about the concept of Patron-Driven Libraries, to give patrons the services that they want, and reducing the distance between the librarian and the patron. Finally she discussed that she is always thinking of how libraries can also support each other. In collaboration with other regional librarians, Geri helped build the Consortium of Health Information Professionals website, a portal that offers links to career and library planning information.

The question and answer session touched on a number of timely topics, including the role of the Medical Library Association (MLA) as an advocate for hospital libraries, the importance of cost ratio and Return on Investment (ROI) for hospital administrators, the effect of hospital libraries on an institution’s mortality rate, conducting an annual needs assessment of the library’s clientele as a public relations tool, and the role of hospital librarians in facilitating their institution’s achievement of magnet status. Advice for one-person libraries included prioritizing duties and eliminating the non-essential ones, focusing on key areas of institutional goals, using volunteers judiciously since there is a cost involved in managing them, and finally to walk around and be visible to the institution!

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