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JMLA Special Issue on New Century, New Roles for Health Sciences Librarians

Call for papers

The advent of both digital content and new forms of communication has made radical changes in the expectations of health science library users for access to information.   At the same time, in response to concerns over the increasing cost of health care, government funding agencies have changed their expectations for how health-related research is conducted.  Funding agencies look for translational medicine and dispersion of information across disciplines and institutions.   Researchers and clinicians expect information at their desktop, 24 x 7, in a format that can be easily digested and used.

Responding to the opportunities provided by these changes, some librarians and libraries have changed their focus, no longer emphasizing libraries as keepers of the information universe but instead stressing their ability to provide expertise in support of those who work in the health information universe.  A number of new paradigms have been reported at conferences and in the media:  embedded librarians, e-science experts, support for translational medicine, and data curation and management.  To help us gain a better understanding of these new paradigms, the Journal of the Medical Library Association is planning to devote our October 2013 issue to papers that focus on the outcomes experienced by those who have taken on these new roles.

This issue will include invited papers summarizing the current state of the field.  We also encourage submissions from those with new roles who are willing to share their successes, or failures, with their peers.   To be considered for this issue, papers must be submitted by February 15, 2013.

We particularly welcome submission of:

  • Brief Communications that describe evaluations of either the need for, or success of, new roles.  Papers should provide a brief literature review and then describe the new role, the method used to assess the need for the role or to evaluate its success, such as a small scale survey, focus groups, or measures of user participation in services provided; and the results of that evaluation or assessment.  Papers describing evaluations of education and training programs relevant to new roles are also welcome.  Brief Communications are 1800 words or less.
  • Case studies that describe, in depth, new or innovative roles for librarians such as embedded librarians, e-science experts, support for translational medicine or data curation.  Papers submitted in this category should provide a brief literature review; describe the components of the new role and relate, if relevant, the institutional factors that supported the creation of this new paradigm; followed by an evaluation of the success or failure of the initiative and any lessons learned.   Papers submitted as Case Studies must include evidence that allows the reader to judge the value of the contribution of the librarian in this new role independent of the author’s opinion.  Examples of evidence include results of a user survey, inclusion of the librarian in papers authored by a research team, improvements or changes in an open access journal attributed to a librarian, or continued financial support from, or additional responsibilities assigned by, the institution.  Case studies are 3500 words or less.
  • Full-length research papers investigating a research question related to new roles for health sciences libraries or librarians.   Research papers should use a standard quantitative or qualitative research design; quantitative studies should employ a sampling methodology that allows extrapolation to the larger population.  Examples in this category would be qualitative or quantitative studies evaluating faculty or clinicians reactions to embedded librarians or illuminating the features of digital libraries that contribute to their success, or a benchmarking study of librarian roles in CTSA grant funded projects.  There is a 5000 word limit for research papers.

To appear in this issue papers should be received no later than February 15, 2013.

If you would like to discuss an idea for a paper, please contact Susan Starr, Editor, JMLA at  Further details on procedures for JMLA submissions and requirements for brief communications, case studies and full-length papers can be found on the JMLA Information for Authors page,  All papers should be submitted online at

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