How to Become a Medical Librarian

Medical library
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Healthcare professionals and clinicians must have access to an overwhelming volume of current information and updated scientific data in order to be successful in the medical field. Medical librarians are vital to helping healthcare professionals obtain access to a variety of valuable sources of information. According to the Medical Library Association (MLA), medical librarians "provide health information about new medical treatments, clinical trials and standard trials procedures, tests, and equipment to physicians, allied health professionals, patients, consumers, and corporations."

Medical librarians conduct research, help retrieve information, and update information pertinent to patient care, diagnosis, and treatment.

Skill Requirements

Medical librarians must not only love working with people, but interacting with them continually, and providing service and assistance to people in a variety of roles, such as physicians, nurses, and allied health professionals. Therefore, excellent written and oral communication skills are needed.

In addition to strong people skills, medical librarians need to be technologically savvy, as well as skilled in instructional content design, budget planning, and information management, according to the MLA website.

According to the MLA, there are seven core competencies required to be a successful medical librarian, also known as a health sciences librarian.

  1. Understand health sciences and related trends.
  2. Know and apply leadership, finance, communication, and management theory.
  3. Understand principles and practices of information services to meet needs of users.
  4. Management of health information resources in a variety of formats and media.
  5. Skilled use of technology systems for information management.
  6. Educational design, curriculum development, and instruction.
  7. Understanding of scientific research methods.

Like much of the healthcare workforce, the role of medical librarians has evolved significantly as technology advanced over the past few decades. Medical librarians of yesteryear may have presided over countless shelves of books, and manuals, while today's medical librarians are curators of information in a multitude of different digital and high-tech formats.

Educational Requirements

The minimum education level is a Master's degree in Library and Information Science, from a program that is accredited by the American Library Association.

Work Environment

Medical librarians may be employed by hospitals, universities, nursing schools, technical schools, public health agencies, to name a few options.

Medical librarians may also work for corporations in the medical industry such as pharmaceutical companies or medical device manufacturers.

Average Salary

According to, the median income for medical librarians nationwide is in the low to mid-$50,000 range, which equates to about $25.00 per hour, assuming a full-time schedule. However, chief librarians and directors of medical libraries can earn much more, sometimes over $100,000 annually.

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