Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

Benefits of a Joint Health Sciences Practicum for Students in Library and Information Sciences: A Case Report

Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

Benefits of a Joint Health Sciences Practicum for Students in Library and Information Sciences: A Case Report

Article excerpt


A joint practicum is a structured fieldwork experience that allows library and information science (LIS) students to compare two libraries by observing their organizational structures and workflows and to network with librarians from different departments. These practicums require the discipline and flexibility of both the LIS students and practicum supervisors in completing the practicum at both locations in a fixed amount of time. When the student receives academic credit, site supervisors are required to complete and submit paperwork on the student's behalf and to host the student's academic advisor for a site visit, when required.

Joint practicums have received little attention in the LIS literature. Although articles on joint practicums have been written from the student's perspective, they have not contained any analysis [1, 2]. Previous studies examining the practicum experiences of LIS students or recent graduates have been conducted in health sciences libraries to obtain thoughts on their fieldwork experiences, suggestions for improvement, or perceptions of the fieldworks' impact on their future careers [3-8]. The joint practicum at Rush University Library and University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Library of the Health Sciences Chicago (LHSC) is the sole example of a joint health sciences practicum in the LIS literature [9].

Joint health sciences library practicums can give LIS students a comprehensive view of health sciences librarianship that they might not experience through other aspects of their educational programs. Forty-six of sixty American Library Associationaccredited LIS programs include health sciences librarianship education-most frequently standalone courses-whereas fourteen do not offer anything in health sciences librarianship [10]. In a 2015 forum on re-visioning LIS education, Abels, Howorth, and Smith specified increasing opportunities in fieldwork and providing new forms of these educational experiences as an action item [11]. Thus, a joint practicum in health sciences librarianship could be a viable action item for LIS education.

The goal of this case report is to describe the impact of Rush University Library and LHSC's joint health sciences practicum experiences on participants' professional skills and whether they ended up working in health sciences libraries.


The joint health sciences practicum at Rush University Library and LHSC that began in 2011 gave LIS students the opportunity to compare a private, single-site university with a large, public multicampus university (Table 1).

Eight participants completed the practicum between October 2011 and April 2015. Six were LIS students, and 2 were recent graduates of LIS programs. Five of the 6 LIS students received academic credit for completing the practicum. Typically, participants began their practicums at Rush University, the smaller of the 2 institutions.

The length of the practicum, which ranged from 100 to 120 hours, depended on the LIS program's requirements and was split between institutions. Practicum participants did not need formal training in health sciences resources, only an interest in learning more about health sciences librarianship.

The practicum focused on the public services side of health sciences librarianship at each institution. Participants were introduced to health sciences databases, citation management tools, and point-of-care tools that were unique to each institution through either one-on-one training or observing research consultations and workshops. They also participated in in-person and virtual reference transactions and attended library events and morning report in the department of internal medicine. Practicum supervisors arranged meetings with librarians and staff in other departments, such as circulation or special collections, so that participants could network and learn more about these departments. Participants were assigned projects that included creating subject guides using LibGuides, creating instructional materials, or designing classes on health sciences resources. …

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