Q: I am completing my MLS and will be looking for a job in a health sciences setting. Can you give me any advice on how to begin my search and what to emphasize on my resume? Thanks.
SM: As you probably know, there are many different types of health sciences libraries in a variety of settings â€“ clinical, academic, and public. Health sciences librarianship can be a very diverse, exciting, fast-paced, and progressive field, especially if you enjoy working with digital resources. Health sciences librarians generally deal with the most current, up-to-date information possible, much of which is online. The magnitude of information in the biomedical field alone grows by staggering amounts every day. For an example, take a look at the primary bibliographic database for the biomedical world, MEDLINE, with its more than 12 million citations.
Where to Begin?
The roles of health sciences librarians can vary tremendously, depending on the type of institution or setting they work in. They may all work with similar materials and resources and deal with the same publishers and vendors. Depending on their clientele, though, they are probably in very different roles doing very different things.
You already know that you are interested in the health sciences. So, you have the “what” down, but how about the “where” and the “who?” Are you interested in working with physicians, residents, nurses, and other medical staff in a clinical setting, or working with the public in a consumer-health setting, or working with students or researchers in an academic/research setting? Think about what kind of patrons you might like working with and what type of environment you want to work in. The duties of a clinical librarian in a hospital can be quite different from those of a reference librarian in a university health sciences library.
What to Emphasize?
If you have a background in the sciences, took a health sciences library course, have experience with medical terminology, or are just very interested in the field, be sure to state this in your resume or cover letter when applying for jobs in a health sciences setting. Many jobs may not require that you have a health sciences background or experience, but it definitely helps if you do. At the very least, show that you have an interest in the subject area and that you are motivated to learn. You may want to take a class in medical terminology, a health sciences/medical reference class, or perhaps attend a mini-med school.
One of the best aspects of the biomedical/health sciences field is that so much of the information and tools are online, and some of it is free – like PubMed, MedlinePlus, and PubMed Central.
For more information about the field of health sciences librarianship as well as professional development opportunities, visit the Medical Library Association’s web site and join the electronic discussion list MEDLIB-L. You can find job postings on both the web site and the discussion list.
The National Library of Medicine has a NLM Fellow program, which is “…designed to prepare librarians for future leadership roles in health sciences libraries and in health services research.” They also have an Informationist program. Informationists are “…information specialists who have received graduate training and practical experience that provides them with disciplinary background both in medical or biological sciences and in information sciences/informatics.”
Do your research before you start looking for jobs to try to determine what type of health sciences library you want to work in, and what type of health sciences librarian you want to be. Good luck!