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Health sciences librarians can encourage critical engagement with the catalog by teaching users not only to find items, but also facilitating activities like user tagging, which allows groups to identify and define their own populations. Health sciences librarians can also encourage patrons to examine the power structures at play when using corporate search engines, including Google and web-scale discovery tools.

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Several critical teaching methods have been used by library workers, including critical pedagogy, feminist pedagogy, and critical information literacy [ 16 ]. At their core, these methods prioritize learner engagement and personal agency and aim to create actors for social change rather than passive learners. Feminist pedagogy actively addresses patriarchal power structures by creating interactive, decentered classrooms [ 17 ] and critiquing traditional library assessment methods [ 18 ]. Additional scholarship in this area has included raising awareness of oppression and social issues via search examples and teaching exercises, and incorporating self-reflection into our teaching [ 16 , 18 ].

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As health sciences librarians, we can utilize critical methods in our teaching by rejecting the traditional lecture model and prioritizing activities and exercises that rely on learner input. Many of our users are health professionals or graduate students.

  1. The Innocence of Father Brown (HarperPerennial Classics).
  2. Search Filters?
  3. Linear Systems Control: Deterministic and Stochastic Methods.

We can take advantage of their expertise and clinical knowledge and work together to create class goals, learning outcomes, and search examples based on their existing knowledge and self-identified needs. Consciousness-raising through the use of social justice—related examples during instruction sessions is an easy way for health sciences librarians to employ critical pedagogy.

Using search terms around coercive contraception or sexism in residency programs to demonstrate database search features can raise awareness about these issues and help create an inclusive classroom space. Because many health sciences library workers do not teach in traditional classrooms and instead lead in-service trainings, orientations, or meetings, we can be creative in applying these techniques by considering each interaction as a teaching moment.

Critical reference practice can involve working with users to raise thoughtful questions about their research topics and reflect on the social impacts of those topics [ 21 , 22 ], documenting the experiences of library workers of color at the reference desk [ 23 ], and using consciousness-raising to highlight problematic aspects of the search process, like sexist subject headings or the economics of academic research that lead to global inequities in database access. Library workers apply a feminist ethic of care by interacting with our users as fellow humans: asking how users are feeling, acknowledging emotionally difficult research topics, creating spaces where users are comfortable interacting with library staff, and acknowledging the personal and affective nature of many reference interactions [ 21 — 23 ].


Like critical instruction, a key facet of critical reference is the empowerment of users. The panel highlighted the importance of providing culturally relevant service to LGBTQ patrons and recommended the creation of tool kits that contain concrete examples of how library workers can make spaces more accessible, including displays of visible signs of support and LGBTQ-specific resources like dedicated subject guides [ 26 ]. In health sciences libraries, we can also draw from the medical field to incorporate principles of patient engagement [ 27 ], shared decision-making [ 28 ], and narrative medicine in our provision of reference and outreach services [ 29 ].

As with critical teaching methods, health sciences library workers can utilize this type of critical practice during each interaction with users. The promotion of social justice and application of critical librarianship principles to scholarly communications can take many forms. Similarly, the publishing industry is overwhelmingly white and, at the executive leadership level, overwhelmingly male [ 30 ].

The same demographics are at play in librarianship. Together, the lack of diversity in these industries and environments limits the voices that are heard and the scholarship that is disseminated. The provision of open access scholarly publishing platforms, such as library-managed institutional repositories, can provide a platform for authors who have traditionally been excluded from scholarly discourse communities.

Scholarly communication librarians who perform outreach and education have used their platforms to educate students and patrons about inequities in scholarly publishing and the potential of open access publishing models to alleviate some of these inequities [ 30 ]. Health sciences libraries, particularly smaller libraries or those in hospital settings, are uniquely situated to benefit from open access publishing models. However, gold open access, which is supported by author processing fees, is only an option for scholars who can afford to pay those fees.

Library-based publishing, often through an institutional repository, has the potential to mitigate the harms associated with publishing in a capitalist economic system. Repositories allow providers in clinical settings without the large subscription budgets of academic medical centers to freely access publications and reports that have been uploaded. Likewise, low-resource settings around the world gain increased access to scholarly research through repositories.

Repositories have the potential to disrupt the for-profit, capitalist structures of traditional, subscription-based publishing. Furthermore, repositories that publish student and clinician work allow us to hear voices that are often excluded from scholarly conversations.

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Individuals with expert clinical knowledge, but for whom scholarly writing is an area of growth, will have greater opportunities to contribute to the body of knowledge in their disciplines when they can disseminate their work through a repository. Archives, like libraries, have historically consisted of materials focused on white history and, in particular, the historical acts and artifacts of wealthy, white, heterosexual men. Critical archival practices include ways to identify and dismantle white supremacy around description, appraisal, access or use, education, and professional life [ 33 ].

Other priorities involve including voices and stories of marginalized populations in archives, increasing accessibility of archival materials, deconstructing colonial archival terms e. In health sciences archives, we can acknowledge this legacy of racism and intersectional oppression in medicine, pay special attention to the materials of marginalized populations, and seek out those voices that are not always included in archival materials. Health sciences librarians can also promote access to materials and curate displays that educate and engage our local communities around social justice issues.

While providing access to archival materials is important, especially in hospital libraries that are not open to the public, we must also recognize the cultural sensitivities of some materials that demand limited access, for example, sexually explicit materials and materials that involve recorded cultural heritage of Indigenous groups [ 36 , 42 ]. Partnering with relevant communities is not only essential to providing inclusive, conscious, and critical archival services, it is also an opportunity to garner community support and provide education about health sciences archives.

It is important to recognize the structural racism built into our profession and our spaces. Just fifty years ago, libraries were segregated spaces. The myth of library neutrality that claims libraries and library workers are objective and that we should bring no biases or emotions to our work is challenged by critical librarianship, which promotes self-reflection among library workers, considers the effects of emotional labor [ 43 ], and advocates for the importance of offering equitable services to all users, which is in itself a rejection of the status quo.

Such examinations attempt to disrupt the unjust status quo and the tenets on which librarianship is based.

MLA was founded in and officially integrated in after 10 years of deliberation [ 47 ]. Acknowledging that health sciences libraries and library workers are not neutral is the first step in addressing broader issues in our organizations and profession. Health sciences librarians can critically evaluate our services and spaces and advocate for action to address inequities in our libraries, in our professional associations, and in the broader field.

  1. The Organic Codes: An Introduction to Semantic Biology.
  2. Women and the City: Gender, Power, and Space in Boston, 1870-1940?
  3. 2011 Canberra Australia Illustrated City Travel Guide.
  4. Primate Communication: A Multimodal Approach.
  5. Technology and Digital Scholarship | Florida State University Libraries.
  6. The Priest: A Gothic Romance (Supernatural Minnesota);

We also acknowledge the librarians actively working to reject and disrupt the status quo in libraries, including those referenced in the resources below and those who make critical librarianship part of their everyday work. Sacramento, CA: Litwin Books; Critlib [Internet].

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Drake JM. Documenting dissent in the contemporary college archive: finding our function within the liberal arts. On Archivy [Internet]. Ferretti JA. Neutrality is hostility: the impact of false neutrality in academic librarianship [Internet]. Where are all the librarians of color? Knott C. Not free, not for all: public libraries in the age of Jim Crow.

University of Massachusetts Press; Series on critical race studies and multiculturalism in LIS [Internet].

Series on gender and sexuality in information studies [Internet]. Pagowsky N, McElroy K. Critical library pedagogy handbook. Radical Reference [Internet]. Radical Reference [cited 26 Feb ]. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. J Med Libr Assoc. Published online Apr 1. Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer.


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Received Oct 1; Accepted Dec 1. Articles in this journal are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4. Recent News More News. Upcoming Events More Events. John C Hodges Library - Game Night Sep. Digital scholarship is at its heart an iterative and collaborative process that increasingly turns to library resources, staff, and faculty to reach fruition. To highlight these efforts to support such collaboration and begin to offer insights into the challenges of such work, the Association of Research Libraries will be publishing a series of profiles of digital scholarship centers at ARL member institutions throughout this spring and summer.

Matthew G. Edward L. Endnotes 1.