Deborah Magnan, MLIS, AHIP
Samuel and Sandra Hekemian Medical Library
Hackensack University Medical Center
30 Prospect Ave.
Hackensack, NJ 07601
phone: (201) 996-2326
Reviewed December 2010*
Hackensack University Medical is a 781 bed non-profit tertiary-care teaching and research hospital, affiliated with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. It has had a medical library for at least fifty years. In 2003 the library moved to a larger space and became the Samuel and Sandra Hekemian Medical Library. This new space included a dedicated room to house the Community Health Library (CHL), a new consumer health library. The CHL’s collection includes books, videos, consumer health journals and brochures on a wide variety of topics as well as a computer with access to the Internet.
The medical library is open during the week from 8:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m., on Saturday from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., and on Sunday from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. Library staff members assist patrons for both the medical and consumer health libraries during those hours. The library staff presently consists of three full-time librarians and three full time equivalent library assistants (a total of four individuals). Library assistants often work evening and weekend hours without a librarian present and must provide assistance to consumers looking for health information during those times.
Prior to the opening of the CHL in 2004, the library support staff was trained to use resources in its collection as well as those found on MedlinePlus to locate appropriate information that might answer questions from patients, their family members or friends, and members of the community at large when a librarian was not present. When the question was a more complicated one, the library assistants would do their best to find appropriate information resources, however at times they were unsuccessful. In those instances, the library assistant would ask the patron to leave a completed search form detailing their question with the assurance that it would be handled as soon as a librarian was available. In discussing some of these incidents with the library assistants it became apparent that they were not aware of many of the helpful resources in the collection of the CHL.
Consequently, a training program was initiated to increase the abilities of the library assistants to locate resources that would answer consumer health questions from patrons when a librarian was not present. The objectives for the program were that support staff would:
A case study approach was chosen as an appropriate method to use in training library support staff. There are many advantages of a case study approach, some of which include that case studies promote active learning, develop critical thinking skills, capture the interest of learners, and can be custom designed to meet the needs of learners.1
Weekly case studies were used in the CHL over a four month period. Each was designed to address a specific combination of resources and/or skills identified as needing improvement. The case study for the week was distributed on Friday and each library assistant had three to five days to locate appropriate resources to answer the question. In most cases, library assistants were expected to locate both Internet and print resources to answer the question. Each library assistant reviewed the resource they found to answer the question in the case study with a librarian on an individual basis and any questions they had about that week’s assignment could be addressed at that time.
After a four month period of weekly case studies, significant improvement was seen in the abilities of each the library assistants to locate appropriate resources to answer consumer health questions. Some of the specific skills that were learned included:
*Originally developed as a handout for the poster, "The Truth in in Here... A Case Study Based Training for Consumer Health Library Support Staff," presented October 17, 2006 at "The Evidence is in..." NAHSL/NY-NJ MLA Joint Conference.