Approximately 134,800 librarians work in the United States. Medical librarians work in hospitals, medical schools, university medical centers, businesses, and large public libraries—anyplace that holds a collection of health information. Medical librarians work in institutions of all sizes, from a small branch office of a major university hospital to a large public library that serves many counties. A librarian in a smaller library may have duties in all areas of librarianship: ordering, cataloging, shelving, and circulating health information, as well as acting as reference librarian. On the other hand, a librarian at a larger institution may work in one or two specialized sections, such as a prenatal or oncology collection.
Businesses and organizations also employ medical librarians. Special librarians manage health information for industry (biotechnology, insurance, medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, publishing, etc.), nonprofit organizations, and federal and state government agencies. The materials collected usually pertain to areas of particular interest to the organization, such as pharmaceuticals or specific diseases such as diabetes or breast cancer.
Generally, medical librarians must complete all educational requirements before applying for a job. Part-time or volunteer work experience while in graduate school may turn into a full-time position upon graduation.
Upon graduation, new medical librarians should consult the career services office at their school. Employers seeking new graduates often recruit through library schools. Most professional library and information science organizations have job listings that candidates can consult, and many host conferences and other events where you can network and potentially meet and interview with potential employers. Also, many job search sites can help medical librarians find an appropriate position. Newspaper classifieds may be of some help in locating a job, although other approaches may be more appropriate to this specialty.
The beginning medical librarian may gain experience by taking a job as an assistant, performing more basic duties such as checking books in and out, shelving returned books, and checking the stacks for misfiled items. As they gain experience, the medical librarian can advance to perform more administrative functions, such as handling payroll and hiring and training staff. Another possibility is to move into a purchasing role, securing new items for the medical collection and evaluating where needs are within the existing collection. Within a large medical library, promotions to higher positions are possible, for example, to the supervision of a department. Experienced librarians with the necessary qualifications may advance to positions in library administration. A doctorate is desirable for reaching top administrative levels, as well as for taking a graduate library school faculty position.
Tips for Entry
Read the Journal of the Medical Library Association (http://jmla.mlanet.org/ojs/jmla) to learn more about the field.
Join the Medical Library Association (MLA) to take advantage of continuing education and networking opportunities and access member-only resources such as salary surveys, publications, and a mentoring program.
Visit the Student Resources page of the MLA Web site (https://www.mlanet.org/p/cm/ld/fid=73) for information on careers, grants and scholarships, and its student discussion list.
Visit the following Web sites for job listings: