Librarians as Contributing Authors to Patient Education and Preventive Medicine: A Collaborative Project of the Consumer Health Committee of the Georgia Health Sciences Library Association*

Article excerpt

BACKGROUND

In librarianship, as in life in general, unique opportunities can present themselves at any time in any place. This was the case when a group of health sciences librarians were invited to author a portion of a patient-education textbook through a chance encounter at a state medical meeting.

In 1999, one of the authors attended the annual conference of the Georgia Academy of Family Physicians as an exhibitor for her library's outreach program. In the exhibit hall, she met James B. Labus, PA-C, the coeditor of a comprehensive preventive medicine handbook designed to educate clinicians and facilitate their role in patient education. For this project, he wanted to include an extensive resource list that would interest both clinicians and patients. With the overwhelming amount of available print, nonprint, and online information, this task had become daunting for him and the other authors. The few lists they had managed to compile were incomplete, incorrect, or out-of-date. He thought the obvious solution would be to include librarians, the people with the most experience at "separating the wheat from the chaff" [I]. Labus asked for her help in compiling reliable, authoritative lists of resources to supplement this publication. Following this serendipitous conversation, she invited members of the Consumer Health Committee of the Georgia Health Sciences Library Association (GHSLA) to collaboratively author the "Resources" appendix in Patient Education and Preventive Medicine [2] and volunteered to chair the committee. The book was coedited by Labus and Alison Lauber, M.D., and published by W. B. Saunders in March 2001 [3].

PARTICIPANTS AND METHODOLOGY

Fifteen GHSLA members volunteered to serve on the committee and work on the project: eight academic librarians from all four of Georgia's medical schools (Emory University School of Medicine, Medical College of Georgia, Mercer University School of Medicine, and Morehouse School of Medicine), four hospital librarians, and three Area Health Education Center (AHEC) outreach librarians. They were assisted by colleagues from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Southeastern/Atlantic Region, Baltimore, Maryland; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia; and the Nicholas Davies Community Health Library at Piedmont Hospital, Atlanta, Georgia.

The librarians' contribution consisted of resources (i.e., government agencies, institutes, health centers, national professional associations, nonprofit organizations, support groups, newsgroups, email discussion groups, Websites) for each of the topics covered in the twenty-six chapters of the book (Table 1). For each topic, several committee members collaborated to produce a brief, quality-filtered list in each of three categories: (1) organizations, associations, and support groups; (2) government agencies and offices; and (3) other Websites (i.e., those sponsored by educational institutions or commercial enterprises). Resource lists were compiled by searching the Internet, by using print subject directories and other reference materials, and by asking subject specialists for suggestions. Each resource was researched to verify accuracy, currency, and relevance to the project. The librarians included complete contact information and a short annotation for each entry (Figure 1). The committee chair served as editor for the appendix and wrote an introduction offering tips for evaluating resources and information, locating and joining electronic discussion groups, and using information brokers or personal search services in lieu of searching personally.

RESULTS

Readers were alerted to the section written by the librarians through promotional material on the back cover, which pointed out that "all diseases and disorders are cross-referenced to a 'Resources' appendix to facilitate further research" [4]. Each committee member was listed as a contributing author and received a complimentary copy of the book. …