What Criteria Do Consumer Health Librarians Use to Develop Library Collections? a Phenomenological Study***

By Papadakos, Janet; Trang, Aileen et al. | Journal of the Medical Library Association, April 2014 | Go to article overview

What Criteria Do Consumer Health Librarians Use to Develop Library Collections? a Phenomenological Study***


Papadakos, Janet, Trang, Aileen, Wiljer, David, Mis, Chiara Cipolat, Cyr, Alaina, Friedman, Audrey Jusko, Mazzocut, Mauro, Snow, Michelle, Raivich, Valeria, Catton, Pamela, Journal of the Medical Library Association


INTRODUCTION

The availability of health information for consumers grows at an exponential rate, particularly through the Internet [1, 2]. Although this tremendous surge in accessible health information can be valuable, the information varies in validity, quality, language level, relevance, and accuracy [3-7]. These inconsistencies can make assessing and selecting appropriate resources difficult and overwhelming for consumers [2, 6, 7-11]. Providing consumers with quality medical information is important because receiving unclear information or misinformation can have serious implications for one's health management and decision making [6, 12]. Consumer health libraries can intervene by providing educational and informational support to consumers [13]. This support can be tailored to meet the needs of individuals who experience barriers when seeking information, including those with lower educational attainment and non-English speaking groups [7, 13- 19]. Librarian expertise is important to managing high- quality consumer health libraries. Librarians review print and online resources to develop collections that include only those resources that are of high quality and suitable for consumers [4, 20].

Most librarians utilize collection development policies (CDPs) to assist with their review processes [2]. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that the assess- ment of consumer health collections is not always straightforward. Prior to conceptualizing this study, the authors had an informal discussion with consumer health librarians about the suitability of specific resources for their respective library collections, and several unexpected review criteria were unearthed. In particular, when speaking about the suitability of a resource about sexuality and cancer, the authors were interested to learn that it might not be considered appropriate for library collections in every setting because of librarians' regard for the religious sensibilities of the dominant population of patrons. We were further interested to learn that a resource about death might not be permitted in the general library collection because of beliefs in the inauspicious nature of the written word ''death.'' Further discussion ensued as to whether these ''rules'' were included in the respective CDPs or whether they were just common knowledge. As the discussion continued, the authors discovered that many ''rules'' were not included in CDPs and that they represented, instead, the librarians' tacit knowledge. This prompted our interest in a formal study to describe the collection development process and to compare policies with processes.

The consumer health libraries at the University Health Network (UHN) in Toronto, Canada, and the Centro di Riferimento Oncologico (CRO) in Aviano, Italy, have CDPs that librarians use to inform collection development. The purpose of this study was to describe the resource review and selection experience of librar- ians and compare it to what was described in CDPs. The UHN and CRO have a memorandum of understanding for collaborative program development and research andsoughttodothisworktogether.Theauthors focused on cancer-specific resources for this study because cancer was the primary health topic covered by the participating libraries, and it was the topic area of expertise among the librarians at these sites.

METHODS

Study design

Phenomenological research aims to capture and understand the lived experience of a group or an individual in the context in which the experience occurs [21]. Understanding these lived experiences can lead to the development of practices or policies that can include a more comprehensive description of the phenomenon [21]. We employed a phenomenological approach for this study so that we could derive a rich description of the collection development process directly from those who develop consumer health library collections in their everyday life roles. We focused on the description of the librarians' experienc- es of collection development rather than referring to processes described in library training text books [22]. …

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