Library instruction in medical education: a survey of current practices in the United States and Canada


  • Amanda M. Nevius Research and Instruction Librarian, Hirsh Health Sciences Library, Tufts University, 145 Harrison Avenue, Boston, MA 02111
  • A’Llyn Ettien Head of Technical Services, Alumni Medical Library, Boston University Medical Campus, 72 East Concord Street, L-12, Boston, MA 02118
  • Alissa P. Link Education and Information Services Librarian, Alumni Medical Library, Boston University Medical Campus, 72 East Concord Street, L-12, Boston, MA 02118
  • Laura Y. Sobel Technical and Information Services Librarian, Alumni Medical Library, Boston University Medical Campus, 72 East Concord Street, L-12, Boston, MA 02118



Canada, Curriculum, Education, Medical, Evidence-Based Medicine, Information Literacy, Faculty, Libraries, Schools, Surveys and Questionnaires, United States


Objective: The most recent survey on instruction practices in libraries affiliated with accredited medical institutions in the United States was conducted in 1996. The present study sought to update these data, while expanding to include Canadian libraries. Additional analysis was undertaken to test for statistically significant differences between library instruction in the United States and Canada and between libraries affiliated with highly ranked and unranked institutions.

Methods: A twenty-eight-question survey was distributed to libraries affiliated with accredited US and Canadian medical schools to assess what and how often librarians teach, as well as how librarians are involved in the curriculum committee and if they are satisfied with their contact with students and faculty. Quantitative data were analyzed with SAS, R, and MedCalc.

Results: Most of the seventy-three responding libraries provided instruction, both asynchronously and synchronously. Library instruction was most likely to be offered in two years of medical school, with year one seeing the most activity. Database use was the most frequently taught topic, and libraries reported a median of five librarians providing instruction, with larger staffs offering slightly more education sessions per year. Libraries associated with highly ranked schools were slightly more likely to offer sessions that were integrated into the medical school curriculum in year four and to offer sessions in more years overall.

Conclusions: In US and Canadian libraries, regardless of the rank of the affiliated medical school, librarians’ provision of instruction in multiple formats on multiple topics is increasingly common.

 This article has been approved for the Medical Library Association’s Independent Reading Program.


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