The Library Values Integrity & Equity

October 29, 2013 at 2:32 pm

In today’s electronic world, some are inclined to think that libraries are simply unnecessary. Why bother having a library when everything is electronic? By extension the value of library staff may also be questioned. What indeed do libraries and their staff offer in today’s electronic world? The Library’s Value Statement (Mayo intranet) addresses some of these questionsand more recently a viewpoint article in JAMA (Sollenberger, JF, Holloway, RG Evolving Role and Value of Libraries and Librarians in Health Care, JAMA September 25, 2013) addresses the value of librarians in patient care. In this brief essay, we offer some thoughts on the library and Mayo Clinic values of integrity and equity.

At the Mayo Clinic Libraries, one of the most important attributes of our work is integrity. All librarians adhere to the Code of Ethics of the American Library Association, which inform our daily practice. These ethical standpoints, some of which will be outlined below, help the Libraries contribute to Mayo Clinic’s ethical standards in the clinical practice, education, and research shields.

Bias is a known problem in medical research reporting, but it unconsciously affects all of us in our daily decision-making. One of the tenets of the ALA Code of Ethics is that we, as librarians and other library staff, “distinguish between our personal convictions and professional duties and do not allow our personal beliefs to interfere.” Though this is evidenced throughout the libraries, from the types and breadth of materials we collect to the organization of our website, perhaps the most clear-cut way that we demonstrate this ethic and help reduce bias is through our literature search service—and even more so with our participation in systematic reviews.

When librarians are asked to contribute to systematic reviews (Mayo intrantet), integrity is always a context. First and foremost, librarians performing systematic review searches do so without an inherent stake in the outcome of the systematic review. Unlike researchers who may have an interest in a topic, receive funding from a professional organization or a for-profit company and thus may unconsciously distort the search strategy to find a specific outcome, a librarian will design a search strategy to be thorough and comprehensive without bias towards the results. A librarian may also choose to have the search strategy peer-reviewed by another librarian, another added measure of integrity. This helps a systematic review be truly evidence-based, not opinion-based, as some clinical guidelines can be.

The Libraries also embrace equity — of electronic access and subject domain coverage. Sometimes it may seem as though a specialty or an area in Mayo Clinic does not have every journal or information resource available electronically. With the funds allocated to the Libraries, the Collection Development Committee, comprised of librarians across all Mayo Clinic sites, deliberates each year on what resources are most valuable to the institution as a whole. Equity across departments, specialties, and research areas matters in these decisions, as does empirical evidence of use and need. The Libraries need to be fiscally responsible and judicious with Mayo Clinic’s funds, while supporting the Clinic’s needs as comprehensively as we are able. This can also mean not requesting a free trial of an electronic publication when there is no intention to actually purchase access.

The Mayo Clinic Libraries have built a reputation based upon integrity, equity, and excellent resources and services — and always in the context of confidentiality, privacy, and putting the needs of the patient first.

Thanks to Dr. Victor Montori for sparking these ideas with his presentation on integrity for the Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery, Health Care Delivery Scholars Program (Mayo intranet).

Melissa L. Rethlefsen
Patricia J. Erwin
Mayo Clinic Libraries

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