Services and staffing practices in academic health sciences libraries serving college of osteopathic medicine programs: a mixed methods study


  • Joanne M. Muellenbach Director, Health Sciences Library and Associate Professor, California Health Sciences University, Clovis, CA
  • Wendy C. Duncan Senior Vice-President for Academic Affairs and Provost, California Health Sciences University, Clovis, CA
  • Cheryl Vanier Chief Research Officer, Touro University Nevada, Henderson, NV
  • Lisa A. Ennis Director, Library & Learning Resources, Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine, Dothan, AL
  • Anna Yang Science Librarian, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA



College of Osteopathic Medicine (COM) Libraries, Library Services, Library Staffing, Library Leadership


Objective: This study describes and assesses services, staffing practices, and trends in academic health sciences libraries that serve accredited college of osteopathic medicine (COM) programs in the United States.

Methods: The study was conducted in three phases. In phase one, the investigators collected data on library services and staffing through the publicly facing websites of the COM libraries. In phase two, thirty-five COM library directors were invited to complete a survey regarding their services, staffing, supported programs, and students served. In phase three, seven COM library directors participated in phone interviews regarding services that increased their visibility, their motivation to offer expanded services, adequacy of staffing, and competencies required for new librarian roles. The investigators incorporated the Medical Library Association (MLA) competencies as a framework to structure the results.

Results: Phase one identified 35 COM libraries serving between 162 and 8,281 students. In phase two, 30 out of a possible 35 survey respondents indicated that the top services offered or considered by COM libraries were in the MLA competency areas of “Instruction & Instructional Design” and “Evidence-Based Practice & Research.” In addition, we discovered that COM libraries had a median of 10 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff per 1,000 students. Phase three data revealed that library directors attributed their libraries’ success to the skills and talents of their staff, the wide range of resources and services they offered, and the desirability of their physical spaces. Library directors identified skills in the same MLA competency areas as phase two, as well as in the MLA competency areas of “Information Management” and “Leadership & Management,” as being desirable for new staff.

Conclusion: The study results provide information for medical school administrators and library directors to help identify trends across US osteopathic medical schools in order to justify the need for additional services and staffing. These results can assist medical and library leadership in COM schools in planning for their future academic health sciences libraries. Finally, the findings could assist programs in library and information sciences in redesigning their curriculums based on the MLA competencies for students who seek future careers in academic health sciences libraries.


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Original Investigation