Where We Are Heading: The Continuing Evolution of the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library

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Gretchen Arnold, Library Director, writes about the continuing evolution of the Health Sciences Library. She has been the director of the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library since 2005, and has been a health sciences librarian since 1975. Please feel free to contact Ms. Arnold at the email address below the article if you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions.

Gretchen N. Arnold

Libraries have been, and always will be, dedicated to knowledge, whatever the format.  Libraries ensure access to knowledge resources, develop systems and networks to expedite access to knowledge, teach users the optimal ways to find and use knowledge, and preserve knowledge for future use.  For many centuries, knowledge was contained in printed books and journals.  Now, knowledge is increasingly created and disseminated digitally.  We have a culture that expects all knowledge, including research and scholarship, to be open to all and resistant to walls and barriers, both physically and virtually.  The Open Access movement is pushing scholarly publications, especially medical and scientific works, to be publically available.  This culture of openness is leading to Open Research, Open Data, and Open Source initiatives.  Yet all knowledge is not created equally and it will change over time. In a world where change is the constant, how does a student, researcher or health professional navigate this exponential growth of knowledge and technology?  The Library’s historical role of knowledge management will continue into the future in response to disruptive technologies and enormous knowledge growth.

Librarians and Other Information Specialists

Librarians of the future will be knowledge navigators and will understand and work within the unbundled and open nature of knowledge content.  They will have the expertise to navigate through the complexities of the Internet to find quality content, often hidden in the deep web.  They will be versed in using emerging technologies and will function as “sherpas” for their patrons, serving as both guides and teachers. Some librarians will be embedded physically in the clinical and research environments, where they will develop subject expertise and work side-by-side with clinicians and researchers in solving complex information needs. The Library will be home to other information specialists such as statistical experts, who will work with users on data sets, bioinformatics, geo-systems support and other emerging fields. In addition, the Library will seek out strategic partnerships to create a physical and virtual dynamic center of new and evolving knowledge management services.  Finally, the Library will be home to web developers and software specialists who will guide the Library’s virtual presence and will help with library digitization projects.

The Library as Place

The Library will be a hub of intellectual activity and will be a gathering place for quiet study and reflection, group study, collaboration, discovery, and socialization.  Future Library space will emphasize flexibility, and collaborative technologies will be available for
students to share data and discuss what they are learning.  The Library will share space with other University groups or partners working in related areas.  These partnerships will form synergies that will enhance the instructional and research value of the University.

Serving Our Patrons

Students and health professionals will be expected to be self-directed learners.  Credentialing bodies will require continuous self-assessment that will require students and practitioners to continually identify knowledge and practice gaps, and know how to find the knowledge and expertise to close these gaps.  This will remain a constant as medical and scientific knowledge increases.  They will be required to think critically and know how to search for quality information to guide their decisions.  Librarians will be important partners to teach students about finding and vetting information.

Online education will continue to take distance learning to a whole new level.  The knowledge resources and skills in these educational arenas are just as important as the traditional learning environment, and the Library will support these students and adult learners.  Challenges will include embedding library expertise in the online environment in a way that is transparent and user-friendly.  Early experiences in these courses tells us that copyright and intellectual property rights will become more challenging in an environment that does not “fit” the traditional university boundaries.  Many of these students will be advanced learning students.  They will be working full time while pursuing degrees necessary for advancement or to keep pace with their own disciplines.  The Library will meet their needs by providing support expertise in creative and flexible ways.

The Library will continue to focus less on what is physically owned and rather on licensed digital content and the open web. The Library will create and deploy intuitive and smart discovery systems to power rapid and transparent access to quality knowledge content.  These systems will be both technology and human based.  Our librarians will be knowledge navigators and will guide our patrons to the best knowledge and share their expertise so that their users gain the ability to continue their learning after they leave the University.

Responding to the Changing Healthcare Environment

Healthcare is under tremendous financial and accountability pressures.  Quality and comparative effectiveness will be baseline expectations along with innovation and cost-

The Library’s Epic team: Anson Parker, Jeremy Bartczak, and Kelly Near

containment.  Librarians will be natural partners in the process.  They will have the expertise to perform rigorous and exhaustive searches of databases and the Internet to find the research studies and accompanying data sets to be analyzed.  This will be an ongoing process to continuously test standard guidelines and analyze new research for validity and impact. Librarians will continue to play a role in the development of the Electronic Medical Record (EMR), including standardizing data and integrating knowledge resources transparently into these systems.

As the “Apps” revolution continues in healthcare, more and more tests, examinations, and data mining with be done with tablets and smartphone technologies.  Patients will be part of this process and will be more involved in the diagnostic and treatment process.  Librarians other library staff will continue to assist in what is known as the “leading edge phase” of technology development, which is where a technology has been proven in the workplace but lacks the people to implement it.  Librarians will serve an important role of monitoring these developments and providing awareness and educational support for users interested in learning new technologies.

Partners in Scholarly Communication

Collaborating with UVA’s Scientific Data Consulting Group (Andrea Horne, Health Sciences Library and Andrew Sallans, Head of Strategic Data Initiatives)

Scientific scholarship will fundamentally change as researchers exploit the immediacy and democracy of the web.  Funding organizations will require that research results, including data, be shared, resulting in wider access and greater potential for reuse, especially in cross disciplinary fields.  Public data sets will be shared among researchers and our Library will have an important role in making these data sets available and useful.  Librarians will continue to work with researchers to develop data management plans based on solid information management principles.

Measuring the impact of the mass of knowledge available will become even more important. Traditional peer review is being challenged as too time intensive, closed, and resistant to change.  Some scientific disciplines are performing peer review on the web so that the entire community, known as community intelligence, can weigh in on the potential impact of results.  In the future, “altmetrics” will play a greater role in determining scientific merit.  (Altmetrics includes social media, community intelligence, and other evolving means of peer review.)  Librarians will continue to stay abreast of new trends in measuring the impact of research.


The Library will continue to evolve to meet and anticipate the changing needs of our patrons.  Librarians and other information specialists working in the Library will continue to take a strong role in supporting clinical, educational, and research initiatives, and will actively seek partnerships throughout the University.  They will provide expertise in scholarly communications, emerging technologies, ontologies, metadata, and content analysis, while ensuring the availability of historic institutional knowledge for future generations.

Contact Information: gvn8r@virginia.edu


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