Social justice and the medical librarian


  • Elaine Russo Martin Director of Library Services, Countway Library, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA



Janet Doe Lecture, Medical Library Association, Social Justice, Medical Librarians


This lecture discusses social justice and the role that medical librarians can play in a democratic society. Social justice needs to be central to the mission of medical librarianship and a core value of the profession. Medical librarians must develop a new professional orientation: one that focuses on cultural awareness or cultural consciousness that goes beyond ourselves and our collections to that which focuses on the users of our libraries. We must develop a commitment to addressing the issues of societal, relevant health information. Using examples from medical education, this lecture makes the case for social justice librarianship. This lecture also presents a pathway for social justice medical librarianship, identifies fundamental roles and activities in these areas, and offers strategies for individual librarians, the Medical Library Association, and library schools for developing social justice education and outcomes. The lecture advocates for an understanding of and connection to social justice responsibilities for the medical library profession and ends with a call to go beyond understanding to action.

The lecture emphasizes the lack of diversity in our profession and the importance of diversity and inclusion for achieving social justice. The lecture presents specific examples from some medical libraries to extend the social justice mindset and to direct outreach, collections, archives, and special collection services to expose previously hidden voices. If medical librarians are to remain relevant in the future, we must act to address the lack of diversity in our profession and use our information resources, spaces, and expertise to solve the relevant societal issues of today.


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