The historical evidence suggests that the health professions might never have developed EBP had it not been for the development of sophisticated research tools such as PubMed/MEDLINE and the Cochrane Library for identifying authoritative evidence (Eldredge, 2008a). By working with health professionals in using these tools, health librarians were pivotal figures in the development of Evidence Based Medicine (EBM) and the broader EBP movement. From supporting health professionals in EBP, health librarians have gone on to develop and use evidence within their professional practices – EBLIP. This chapter will provide a context for health librarian's work, describe EBLIP within the health library field and the state of the evidence base, and discuss the types of evidence used by health librarians. Two case studies show how EBLIP has been translated into practice and demonstrate how health librarians continue to push the boundaries of EBLIP. Finally, the future directions for research and EBLIP practice will be considered within a health library context.
The health library context
Health librarians often collaborate with other health professionals in a fast-paced environment that demands high levels of accountability for the accuracy of their work. Any mistakes can result in missed diagnoses, inappropriate treatments, incorrectly trained health professionals (Maggio et al., 2015) or misguided research projects. Many health librarians take years to establish credibility for their expert skills among other health professionals (Hannigan and Eldredge, 2014). With increasing frequency, health librarians work outside of physical libraries in roles as embedded colleagues, liaisons, clinical librarians, informaticists and informaticians; therefore, throughout this chapter the term health librarian will be used to describe all of these roles.
The context in which health librarians work is continuing to change (Funk, 2013). At one time, the majority of health librarians worked in hospital libraries. Now, in the USA many librarians work in centralized academic health-science centre libraries that co-ordinate access to electronic databases for their users, including health professionals and staff in affiliated hospitals. The National Library of Medicine in the USA coordinates outreach and other centralized functions. In the UK, health librarians work in hospitals, academic institutions and, increasingly, throughout other NHS organizations. Collections for NHS staff are centralized and health libraries are monitored and supported by a national Library and Knowledge Service.