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Whooo Says….

Who Says Logo Owl

Dear Whooo,

I am a hospital librarian in an urban hospital. Lately I’ve noticed that my users consist mainly of older physicians who have been practicing in this hospital for many years. They are avid library supporters, but the younger physicians and the nurses do not seem to use the library. I am worried that as the major library users retire the library will be seen as non-essential. Do you have any ideas about how I can encourage more clinicians to use my services?

Looking for Younger Users

Dear Looking,

Thanks for writing. I think your situation is quite common, and now is the perfect time to start changing your user base. I’m sure you are aware of the libraries being closed in hospitals across the country; a library must be strong, vital, and actively serve the mission and organizational programs to be included in the current and future plans of a hospital.

You have already taken the first step in improving the reach of your library program by realizing the need to make some changes. The next step is for you to do a careful assessment of your current situation: what is your staffing, budget, service provision, user base, collection, etc.? This should give you a very definite idea of what resources you have to use.

After you complete your assessment, give some serious thought to what you envision for your library and library services in the future. Be sure to define “future” so you can make concrete plans. For this discussion, we will define the future as a 3-5 year period. At this point, you should not be thinking of specifics, but rather general directions that you want to see your services move toward and the potential users, such as younger physicians and nurses, you would like to reach. For instance, you may discern that you currently reach about 10% of the potential user base in your hospital, and you set a goal to reach 50%. I have developed a chart (see below) to illustrate this process.

As you can see by reviewing the chart, I have identified my “Current” status with services offered, current skills by level and application, budget, percentage of potential users served and space. I have done the same thing for our defined “Future.” Now the critical piece becomes what needs to happen to move the library services from the current state to the future. The most important things that you will need to do to facilitate this movement are:

  1. Assess your users to determine what their needs are now, and what they perceive their future needs to be, and
  2. Involve your manager in this process and get appropriate approval and support.

After you have done those two things, you can begin to make specific plans for the changes you need to make. These will be driven by what you discover in your user needs assessment and your conversations with management about future directions for your hospital. For example, I have listed increased involvement with clinical staff as one of my goals. After reviewing comments from my users and managers, I might elect to develop a full clinical librarian program or I might decide that attending departmental meetings and rounds will serve the needs of my users and stay within the time and financial constraints I have. When I have made this decision, I can then identify additional skills, personnel, collection, and space requirements that will be  needed.

As you develop your plans, be sure to stay in contact with your users and keep them informed of your progress. You will need their support and interest to make your program changes successful. Always keep in mind that successful programs are built on successful relationships as well as sound planning and good execution.

The final piece of this planning puzzle is to define how you will evaluate your programs. As you progress, you will need to be able to justify and explain your decisions and progress to hospital management. You will also need to adjust your planning and implementation depending on your successes and failures.


What needs to happen


  • Reference
  • Literature Searching
  • Teaching
  1. User Assessment – what do your users need and want?
  2. Develop plan with management input and approval
  3. Network with potential users and managers to facilitate starting new programs
  4. Communicate with users about new services
  • Increased involvement with Clinical Staff,
  • Hospital Committees,
  • Knowledge Services,
  • Teaching
  • Searching,
  • Collection development,
  • Supervision
  1. Identify skills necessary for user requested services and programming
  2. Seek additional training
  • Expert Searching,
  • Knowledge Management,
  • Awareness of Clinical Staff Needs
Budget: Adequate for current program and usage Investigate costs necessary to fund programming and services desired by users Increased to allow more staff, larger collection as justified by your plan and input from manager
% of Potential Users Served:


blue arrow


Space: Adequate for collection, small meeting space Estimate space needed for proposed programming and negotiate with hospital administration Reallocate space to reflect current programming and increase of electronic resources

I hope this has been a helpful exercise, Looking. Be sure to remember – you do not need to accomplish an entire 5-year plan at one time! Start by implementing one project or program at a time to make it manageable. It is important to build success along the way with small victories that will add up to a stronger, well-implemented overall program at the end of your projected time span.



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