Libraries have traditionally been safeguarded the fulfillment of goals of continuing education in their respective fields. It is felt to accord enhanced priority to the health science librarians while the continuing education experts enhance their knowledge of the learning process and the various elements that make the scope of the continuing education effective. Really, the role of health sciences libraries is enormous particularly in the sphere of the lifelong learning and Continuing Education.
The concept of Continuing Education has been conveniently been divided by Gruppen as formal CE that concentrates on conventional programs concerning specific topics and aimed at particular audiences; and the informal CE that emphasizes on the learning that involves the anxiety of practitioners anxious of resolving the problems in their routine practice. (Messerle, 1990) The role of health science libraries has been realized to be significant in both the categories of continuing education and alternatives are available for enhanced qualitative and quantitative involvement in both.
The libraries have seen to be supporting the Continuing education in four demarcated spheres categorized as resources support, content support, educational support and information management based support. The role of libraries enhancing support of lifelong learning in such fields has been significantly realized. The resource support by the libraries in respect of formal Continuing Education also involves provision of video players, slide projectors and computer projection panel to assist the process of a lecture.
As a parallel support service the libraries in hospitals and academic institutions identify courses, workshops, or audiovisual programs to cater to the needs of the practitioners using specialty journals, synopses of CE offerings, and locally generated reference tools. In the field of content support the physicians rely on the libraries for provision of knowledge and guidance on specific problems at the time he is diagnosing a patient.
It also entails a model system that would assist the user detect information requirements at the time of necessity, providing effective reach to resource that could help in remolding the need and finally generate a quality-refined reaction. The role of libraries in the sphere of Education Support is emphasized in the publication ‘Handbook of Medical Library Practice’ in terms of its responsibility for imparting education to its users on a daily basis. The role has been considered to be passive in nature and is practiced as a mater of routine till 1960.
(Messerle, 1990) Since then however, there prevails a growing trend in health science libraries to interact actively with users by entailing instruction in bibliographic technique. The librarians acknowledge organization of information is very crucial for their effective functioning. Studies have been made for development of strategies for articulating likeness and dissimilarity of the flow of information. The development of databases, personal information management systems and new hypertext works contribute significantly in respect of continuing education.
Irrespective of the fact that the librarians of health sciences libraries do not frequently consider the continuing education as a significant part of their role the libraries are quite intensely embedded in their user perception of their own continuing education. Taking this aspect into consideration it is increasingly felt that the conventional methods as well as the present day practice is necessitated to vary so as to cope with new understanding of learning, new information technology and management strategies and the pace at which new knowledge develops.
(Messerle, 1990) While the academic medicine has concentrated on the generalist physicians both as an instructor and service provider, medical schools have detected a necessity to generate enhanced techniques for improving the academic competencies of physicians. (Schwartz, 1995) The fundamental role of the health sciences librarian has not considerably varied through out history. It is persistently and continuously remains to collect information and organize it for effective application.
However, the setting on which this role is carried out and the tools applied for fulfillment of the tasks has been changed to a great extent. (Braude; Wood, 1997) Taking all these facts into consideration Matheson emphasized on the synergistic reformulation of the roles of both the medical inforamtician and librarian necessitated by the emergence of new forms of institutional and corporate knowledge generated from aggregate data.
The scopes of medical informatics have been evolved and experienced a great change in relation to health sciences librarianship and broader dimension of information science. The informatics has been defined by Frise and others as the intersection between biomedical science and information technology with a concentration on devising and conveying information systems that safeguard healthcare, decision making, databases for outcomes analysis and health sciences research and administration.
The librarianship of Health Sciences has been regarded as theorizing about and applying organizational and management technologies to biomedical scholarly interactions. (Perry; Roderer; Assar, 2005) Tremendous evolutionary impact has been noticed on the scope of informatics over a period of three decades. The evolutionary trend in this regard is seen from the magnitude of difference of the present day definitions from that leveled during 1977, when it referred simply to the application of computer technology to all fields of medicine-medical care, medical teaching, and medical research.
During the 1980s it involved the theoretical and practical features of information processing and communication stressing on knowledge and experience generated from processes in medical and health care. During the 1990s the scope of medical informatics is extended to include the rapidly developing scientific field that addresses the problems associated with storage, retrieval and optimal use of biomedical information, data and knowledge so as to assist in effective decision making.
With the inception of twenty-first century the Biomedical informatics emerged to be an interdisciplinary science dealing with biomedical information, its structure, acquisition and application of biomedical applied in its broadest sense as to incorporate research, education and service in health related basic sciences, clinical disciplines and health care administration. The Biomedical informatics involved the principles of computer science, information science, cognitive science, social science, and engineering along with the clinical and basic sciences.
The conventional role of librarians were viewed as that of selecting, organizing, developing and disseminating information involving the transferable and worthy skills amidst rich and complex health care settings. The primary goal was to extend the proper knowledge to the right person, at the right time, in the right place. It has increasingly been felt that the information supporting system should be evidence based and easily available, shareable and accessible.
Being the pioneer in infusing the new information management techniques, the librarians and informaticians are represented as key players in health care planning teams for information related issues. (Perry; Roderer; Assar, 2005) The electronic environment has generated significant variation in the roles of librarians of health sciences. It has become imperative that the librarians are required to expand their expertise into the areas of instructional programs, enhancing the access, and fostering the scientific communication.
The librarians have been required to increasingly devise both training and instructional programs to assist users aware of and exploit the benefits of electronics resources to the fullest possible extent. The access to the electronic resources involves number of concerns such as ownership agreement with vendors; those who use information price, and the design or quality relating to the software systems. (Weller, 1998)
The libraries are undergoing a transition from printed knowledgebase to a digital knowledgebase. This trend has been further strengthened by the review of new services being implemented by Academic Health Sciences Libraries — AHSLs in reaction to the varying information and technological settings. The rapid emergence of Web in the mid-1990s along with the rapid increase in the availability of digital, full text information resources made the printable system implemented by NLM outdated.
(Kronenfeld, 2005) The revolutionary changes and improvements in sphere of health sciences libraries during the last three decades visualized to have been fundamentally attained through the pioneering efforts of the National Library of Medicines with involvement of technology and in the creation of biomedical communications network. The Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System — MEDLARS, implementation of the Medical Library Assistance Act — MLAA and defense of fair use all exemplifies the changing role of the libraries. (Raymond, 1987)
The extensive requirement of reformation in medical education made it imperative to many of the medical schools transiting from the conventional didactic model of medical education in favor of more innovative educational models. A large number of medical schools have since been adopting specific type problem based learning, an approach taken to mean the issues behind requirements for reform in medical education. With incorporation of such aspects of problem based learning into the curricula in increasing number of medical schools, the role of health science libraries are fascinating and challenging.
The physical structure of the library is required to be tailored to cope with special requirements of the Problem Based Leaning. (Block, 1997) The educational role of health sciences librarians in the both academic as well as clinical fields are enormously growing as a result of the effects of new educational models and increasing use of technology. The continuing education presently embodies new innovative health service curricula and also incorporates new technologies.
The educational responsibilities of the health science libraries incorporate teaching access to the literature and other information resources, making aware of the application of technology as a mode of accessing and managing information and also relevant skills in information organization and critical appraisal. The emerging variations in health sciences environment represents numerous teaching opportunities but also entail flexibility, the process of adapting to situations and creative solutions by practicing librarians. (Rankin; Sayre, 1993)
The persistent evolution of computer technology has enhanced the rate of variation in information-seeking activity, particularly in the health sciences. Consequently, the librarians are required to bring modifications to their behavior, resources and services to better dole out their clientele and own professional activities. The Annual Statistics of Medical School Libraries in the United States and Canada caters to the need of quantifying assessing the library services. Since long the librarians have been continuously involved in varying their roles both in the literature and in practice.
(Scherrer; Jacobson, 2002) Bibliography : Block, Karla J. (Summer, 1997) “Problem-based learning in medical education: Issues for health sciences libraries and librarians” Katharine Sharp Review. Graduate School of Library and Information Science, Dominican University/College of St. Catherine. No. 5. pp: 25-28 Braude, Robert. M; Wood, Samuel. J. (January, 1997) “On the origin of a species: evolution of health sciences librarianship” Bull Medical Library Association. Vol: 85; No: 1; pp: 116-121 Kronenfeld, Michael R.
(January, 2005) “Trends in academic health sciences libraries and their emergence as the “knowledge nexus” for their academic health centers” Journal of Medical Library Association. Vol: 93; No: 1; pp: 32-39. Messerle, J. (April, 1990) “The changing continuing education role of health sciences libraries” Bull Medical Library Association. Vol: 78; No: 2; pp: 180-187. Perry, Gerald J; Roderer, Nancy K; Assar, Soraya. (April, 2005) “A current perspective on medical informatics and health sciences librarianship” Journal of Medical Library Association.
Vol: 93; No: 2; pp: 199-205 Rankin, Jocelyn A; Sayre, Jean Williams. (22 June, 1993) “The educational role of health sciences librarians” Library Trends. Vol: 8; No: 1; pp: 21-23 Raymond, Palmer. A. (1987) “Perspectives on the effect of federal programs on health sciences libraries: The Federal Government and Health Information: Patterns, Impact, Expectations” Journal of the American Society for Information Science. Vol: 38; No: 1; pp: 40-47 Scherrer, Carol S; Jacobson, Susan. (April, 2002) “New measures for new roles: defining and
measuring the current practices of health sciences librarians” Medical Library Association. Vol: 90; No: 2; pp: 164-172. Schwartz, D. G. (October, 1995) “Medical Education and faculty Development: A new role for the health science librarian” Bull Medical Library Association. Vol: 83; No: 4. pp: 483-489. Weller, Ann. C. (1998) “Changing Roles of Health Sciences Librarians in the Electronic Environment: Providing Instructional Programs, Improving Access, and Advancing Scientific Communication” IFLA Journal. Vol: 24, No. 1; pp: 64-67