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Medical Librarians as Search Engines

Laurel Egan from St. James Healthcare in Butte, Montana, shares her thoughts on medical librarians as a resource in our last  entry in the contest to recognize National Medical Librarians Month. Winners will be announced soon!

Medical Librarians: Your Ultimate Search Engine.

Definition: A search engine is a web site that collects and organizes content from all over the internet. Those wishing to locate something would enter a query about what they’d like to find and the engine provides links to content that matches what they want.  In other words, we as medical librarians locate, collect, and organize in order to provide needed information for our patrons. The statement that medical librarians are the best resource when searching for health information goes beyond the usual perception that we can obtain or retrieve information. It also applies to the expanding role of creating vessels that assist in organizing and assembling information to create better access for our patrons.

Medical librarians have spent hours and hours online as users with a unique perspective. We not only are seeking requested information, but during our searches we are also observing and analyzing the organization of the site and its information. We can’t help it; we are wired to notice how the information has been arranged. It is like an artist noticing the colors or the composition of a painting. We notice the headings, the format, and the overall philosophy of each site we search. We appreciate those sites or repositories that make it easy to locate the information that we want. We have become experts in knowing what works and what doesn’t. So now with so many do-it-yourself technology tools such as websites, blogs, SharePoint, DropBox, Publisher, Audacity, Movie Maker, YouTube, (and the list goes on and on) that will allow anyone to create their own container to house information in various formats, the challenge then becomes what technology tool best suits their needs and how should it be designed.

Because of our expertise we can help with this. Many might see this as an extra service, where others view it as a necessary role. Medical librarians have always connected the user to the needed information and we do this very well. This new role of technology tool advisor is the same concept, but with a different wrapping. It helps the user to organize information so that it can be accessed and shared. When you think of it these sites are kind of growth off-shoots of the library. We have so much to contribute; we truly are ultimate search engines.

One Response to “Medical Librarians as Search Engines”

  1. Hope Leman Says:

    Hi, Laurel. Well said! I am always so grateful when I post a question on MEDLIB, the main discussion list of the Medical Library Association for the instant, edifying, clearly written explanations of how to solve my search problem or where to find the info I need that I get from medical librarians in this country and abroad. Talk about expertise. I don’t know what I would do without all that help.

    And as you helpfully point out, medical librarians are not only masters of search engines, they are increasingly guides to the ever- growing number of apps and online services–and even creating some of the best coolest ones.

    You go, girl!