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HLSP Manual

This guide is meant for the Hospital Library Service Program members from CDLC.

Purpose of Hospital Library Services

Health sciences library services shall be provided by the hospital in a timely manner to meet the clinical, educational, research-related, and outreach needs of all hospital personnel.  Immediate and long-range goals and objectives of the library, as they relate to the hospital's mission, vision, and strategic plan, shall be part of the written departmental policy manual.

Administration of Library Services

The library should be designated as a separate department within the hospital's organizational structure directly responsible to the administration. All aspects of library service should be under the direction of a qualified health sciences librarian either employed by the institution or retained under contract. The health sciences librarian provides effective leadership as well as:

  • coordinating the function of the library with the primary mission of the institution
  • strategic planning for library operations
  • budgeting for library operations
  • providing effective leadership in KBI (Knowledge Based Information)
  • recommending appropriate professional and support staffing for the library
  • recommending appropriate space for the library
  • developing and implementing KBI-related policies and procedures
  • developing a performance improvement program for the KBI function
  • hiring and evaluating the performance of the library staff
  • providing training and educational opportunities for the library staff
  • selecting and evaluating information resources in any format for incorporation into the physical or virtual collection
  • evaluating new information technologies and assessing their application to library management and services
  • negotiating license agreements with vendors of publications and databases
  • responding in a timely manner to all requests for information related to patient care or patient safety
  • performing mediated searches of Internet and KBI resources
  • training users in searching and evaluating information resources
  • providing tailored information to groups or individuals within the institution performing other activities as appropriate

The health sciences librarian continuously interacts with department managers and administrators to ensure the effective transfer of information. Library staff should participate in institutional committees as appropriate.

Information Services

Library and information services are provided to meet the needs of the medical and nursing staffs, administrators and managers, other health professional staff, other staff in the organization, students, patients and their families, and researchers.

The following services should be available through the hospital library:

  • Access to the collection and regular hours of service
  • Computer workstations for use by library staff and patrons
  • Access to knowledge-based databases to respond to requests for information
  • Knowledge based information service
  • Document delivery and interlibrary loan using electronic networks, such as DOCLINE
  • Online access to other library collections, such as through OCLC
  • Access to electronic regional and national networks, through the Internet
  • Up-to-date book, journal, and software collections, regardless of format
  • Current awareness services
  • Access to patient education and information resources and services
  • Photocopy/scanning facilities
  • Access to poison control information
  • Access to hospital formulary
  • Participation in cooperative networks
  • User orientation and education
  • Facsimile capabilities
  • Access to audiovisual equipment and programs
  • Participation on hospital committees


The library and information services should be managed by a qualified health sciences librarian (see definition below).

A qualified health sciences librarian is an individual who has a graduate degree in library and information science from an American Library Association accredited program.

If a qualified health sciences librarian cannot be employed, the institution shall contract with a qualified medical library consultant on a fee basis. When a librarian is retained under contract and not present on a daily basis, an employee of the institution should be assigned the responsibility of performing routine library operation. The health sciences librarian is responsible for training and directing library staff.

As per MLA standards (2004 rev.), each institution should employ 1 library FTE for every 700 institutional employees.

Physical Environment

The library and information services should be centrally located and easily accessible to all hospital and medical staff and other appropriate patrons. This area should be reserved exclusively for library service.

Space adequate to promote study and browsing by users shall be provided. The library should have sufficient space to ensure an efficient working environment.

The library should have adequate office space to accommodate library staff and to enable privacy of communication between library staff and customers.

Adequate shelving shall be available to facilitate access to materials and allow for growth of the collection. There should also be sufficient space for a catalog, seating facilities, and other necessary furniture and equipment.

When a library renovation or addition is planned, a qualified medical librarian and a library building consultant are involved during all stages of planning to ensure that the plans for the library facility are adequate to meet the institution's needs.

The library is open and accessible to all hospital staff and medical staffs, students, and other appropriate customers. During hours when the library is not staffed, there is a plan for controlled access to the resources on-site and online.


A designated library budget developed and administered by the librarian should be established within the hospital's budgetary process. If a health librarian is retained under a contractual arrangement, the librarian should assist in the preparation of the budget and should regularly review library expenditures in consultation with the appropriate hospital administrator.

The budget should include (but not limited to):

  • Staff
  • Print and non-print materials
  • Photo-duplication
  • Electronic Resources
  • Interlibrary loans
  • Equipment and supplies
  • Continuing educational activities of the library staff
  • Cooperative arrangements

Contractual library services where applicable.

Library Advisory Committee

A multi-disciplinary library advisory committee should be established representing the full range of library users. The librarian shall be a permanent member of this committee. The committee should meet at least twice a year to advise on library policies, consult on collection development, and serve as the liaison between the library and its patrons. The day-to-day management of the library should not be the responsibility of the committee.


An up-to-date, authoritative collection of library online and print resources including indexes, directories, medical dictionaries, journals, monographs, handbooks, textbooks, pamphlets, audio-visual materials, and locating lists should be available. Written policies for collection development, including criteria for the selection and discarding of materials and the acceptance and disposition of gifts, should be formulated.

The collection should be cataloged, labeled, and arranged by the National Library of Medicine's Classification system or the Library of Congress's system.

There should be books and at least one journal representing each specialty or field of interest in the hospital. Back-files of journals should be readily available to library users.

Cooperative Arrangements

The health sciences librarian should develop and participate in external linkages with other libraries and networks and in internal linkages within the institution.

The health sciences librarian's knowledge and use of available resources, networks and cooperative arrangements outside the institution are essential to ensure access to clinical and management information beyond the institution's collection. The active participation in cooperative networks will allow for the identification and delivery of needed resources and services that are not owned or provided by the organization. Examples of functions that benefit cooperating libraries and improve access to information include:

  • sharing resources
  • access to online systems and cataloging services
  • developing shared acquisition programs
  • distributing interlibrary loan requests equitably
  • developing locator tools

Participating in the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM) provides access to resources and services on a regional and national level. All cooperative arrangements are documented with the points of agreement specifically defined.

The health sciences librarian takes a leadership role in developing and coordinating linkages within the institution to interface knowledge-based information with patient care data. Internal information systems that may be integrated include clinical information systems, knowledge-based information systems, financial systems, and office support systems. These linkages can be made utilizing internal computer information networks and systems, as appropriate, and can be made through participation on committees, clinical rounds, or quality teams.

The health sciences librarian should collaborate with the institution's information services to ensure the successful implementation and integration of knowledge-based information service into the information infrastructure.

Quality Assurance

The library and information services should be continuously assessed to determine how well the organization's information needs are being met and to identify necessary modifications, desired enhancements, and opportunities for improvement.

A quality assessment plan should be developed to implement a quality improvement program that periodically and systematically evaluates the library services and resources. The plan should include the following strategies to advance quality improvement:

  • educating library staff about quality improvement
  • identifying customer expectations
  • measuring and monitoring performance
  • improving processes
  • empowering employees
  • reallocating resources to pursue quality

The plan should document how feedback is collected from the patron, how well the information needs of the patrons are being met and how improvements are to be made in providing service.

Disaster Plan

  • Have the disaster plan written and multiple copies in various places such as the library and the institution’s security and administration offices.
  • Keep a disaster kit in a waterproof container in the library.
    • Helpful items for the kit:
      • Plastic boxes
      • Hardhats, waterproof gloves and boots
      • Disposable waterproof cameras
      • Dust masks
      • Eye protection
      • Flashlights AND batteries
      • Tarps/plastic sheeting
      • Scissors, masking tape, waterproof markers
      • Sponges, mops, buckets
      • Wax paper
      • Copy of disaster plan
      • List of vendors to assist in recovery efforts
  • Prioritize the library’s collections, planning to save the highest priority first, and write this into the disaster plan. The first priority should include disaster preparedness and basic/reference clinical materials first.
  • Make sure to work with institutional administrators when writing the plan.
  • Don’t plan on relying on cleaning or maintenance staff to take care of the library in a disaster.

Adapted from “Before Disaster Strikes: Essentials of Formulating a Library Emergency Management Plan” by Donna Beales. Journal of Hospital Librarianship 2003; 3(4): 11-24. DOI: 10.1300/J186v03n04_03

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