The purpose of the Health and Medical Reference Committee (HMRC) is to support the specialized needs of library staff who answer health-related reference questions in a variety of settings, including, but not limited to, public libraries, academic libraries, health care institutions, and special libraries. The HMRC seeks to provide educational opportunities focusing on health and medical reference in RUSA and ALA venues, both online and in person. Topics that the committee will address include legal and ethical issues, resource evaluation, health literacy, cultural differences, library programming, and health reference interview skills. This committee takes responsibility for maintaining the Health and Medical Reference Guidelines developed by this committee in 2015:
Providing Consumer Health Reference Service
The National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM) has a lot of good information that is freely available for you when providing a health reference service. Consumer Health Reference Interview and Ethical Issues provides tips to keep in mind.
- An introduction to understanding Health Literacy culturally, socioeconomically as well as other factors is explained on this page from the National Network of Libraries Medicine.
- Evaluating Health Websites provides criteria to assist in know which websites are reliable sources for health information to include on your website as well as to gude your patrons.
The Medical Library Association includes a section for health consumers and patients which can also be used by library staff to gain some basic understanding of health information.
Finding Health and Wellness @ the Library: A Consumer Health Toolkit for Library Staff, 2nd ed., published in 2013, is an excellent resource to begin a health reference service and can be freely downloaded and printed.
Accompanying video (1 hour)
Consumer Health Resources
Listed below are just a few of the highly recommended resources for consumers you may find helpful.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)
- Genetics Home Reference
- Mayo Clinic
- National Institute on Aging
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Health Professional Resources
- PubMed Central
- National Institutes of Health (NIH)
- Evidence-based Practice
- American College of Physicians Guidelines Page
Multi-Language and Multi-Cultural Materials
- MedlinePlus in Spanish
- MedlinePlus multiple language health information
- Health Reach
- NNLM list of Multi-Language Resources
Hospital and Health Ratings
- Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade
- CMS Nursing Home Compare
- CMS Hospital Compare
- Consumer Reports doctor/hospital ratings
Webinars and online CE
Classes and webinars can provide an opportunity to develop skills and knowledge to help you feel more confident in providing health information at your library.
Find us in Connect
Find this committee in ALA Connect (log-in required):
ALA values committed and active committee members. Qualified members are welcome to volunteer to serve on the committee. Committee members must have an interest in the work of the committee; be able to attend Annual Conferences and Midwinter Meetings to participate in the meetings and activities of the committee; and be able to work between conferences via e-mail and ALA Connect. Express your interest in serving on this or other committees by filling out an application form. Appointments take place once a year, during the spring. Committee service usually begins following Annual Conference, about July 1.
Training and Events Coordinator