Priscilla L. Stephenson, MSLS, MSEd, AHIP, FMLA
Chief, Library Service
James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital and Clinics, Tampa, FL
Editor’s Note: One of the hallmarks of Doody’s Core Titles is the number of individuals who contribute to its development year after year, including health sciences Librarian Selectors, Content Specialists, medical book distributors, and the staff of Doody Enterprises, Inc. Their belief in the importance of this endeavor and willingness to offer expert analysis is critical to DCT’s success. Because of the cumulative efforts of over 180 individuals, we are able to produce a reliable list of core titles in just over two months every year. With gratitude, this month we present the profile of Priscilla Stephenson of James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital and Clinics, who has served as a Librarian Selector for Doody’s Core Titles since the early years of DCT.
Defining Health Sciences Librarianship
How do you define health sciences librarianship? Do you see it as helping consumers make sense of medicine in terms of their personal health issues? Does the term refer to the sometimes fast-paced support of hospital clinical staff looking for answers to patient care dilemmas? Or perhaps you see medical librarianship focusing on health science research support and exploring new arenas for medical care?
I’ve been fortunate to have worked in each of these settings during my career as a librarian, and each has contributed to my professional skills and knowledge. My academic library experiences required me to step-up my teaching and presentation skills and supported my professional activities and writing efforts. The university setting provided me with access to more advanced technology, fewer IT restrictions, a wider selection of databases, and the opportunity to work with likeminded colleagues each day. Working with academics and researchers has demanded me to be alert to clinical developments and to stay current with expert searching skills. And working with consumer health services has made me a better teacher and a more patient person – I hope!
Although I have worked in a college library and an academic health science library, most of my career has been spent in hospital libraries where I enjoy the variety of each day’s tasks and the satisfaction of providing information to support patient care. For the last 15 years I have been a part of the VA’s library network providing service to researchers, clinical staff, and Veteran patients. Perhaps the greatest stretch for me has been working with the public side of our profession – consumer health services. Since making the move to the VA, my library patrons have included as many Veterans (and their caregivers) as nurses and physicians. Veterans typically present with personal health concerns and are strongly motivated to learn. But answering their health questions with referral to MedlinePlus.gov or another web site often requires a lengthy hands-on computer help session. As the Veteran population ages, this is changing, but it is still the situation in our library. It takes time and patience to elicit the actual question from a health consumer with only a limited understanding of medical terminology. Very often a consumer health librarian must also have compassionate heart to provide an ear to a Veteran with a story to tell.
The need to remain an active learner is a critical aspect of medical librarianship. Our reference databases update and change regularly. Who hasn’t started a PubMed or other database search (or worse, an instruction session), only to find it has changed since last week? Vendors provide online training sessions to explain their products, and professional meetings provide opportunities to learn about new products – some from previously unknown vendors! Our listservs help by sharing information from our peers, and we use our research skills to locate product reviews in our professional literature. Our daily work requires us to be technologically savvy in ways we probably never imagined. Today this is what it means to be a part of health sciences librarianship.
The Importance of Doody’s Core Titles and Serving as a DCT Librarian Selector
You’ve got your book budget in hand, and whether it’s only a fraction of your requested amount, or if it reflects a generous donation from an anonymous benefactor, you recognize the need to make the wisest possible choices with those dollars. How do you make your library book selection choices? I’m going to guess that most of us rely on Doody Core Titles (DCT) and/or Doody’s Review Service in some way for these decisions.
Today, Doody’s Core Titles is the acknowledged authority for recommended titles covering 121 biomedical specialties, including clinical medicine, basic sciences, nursing, allied health, and other disciplines, and it is used by medical librarians worldwide for collection development decisions. Titles are objectively selected by one Content Specialist and three Librarian Selectors per specialty in just over two months; then, the librarians score each title and make “Essential Purchase” recommendations for limited budgets. The result is Doody’s Core Titles – published in April, with the process repeated each year. According to its website, DCT 2020 included 2,189 unique titles with 569 designated as Essential Purchase titles. Licensees can sort the list by specialty subject, score, publication date, ebook availability, and Essential Purchase designation, and licensees of the Premium edition can read reviews written by Content Specialists.
It’s exciting to be a part of this process as a Library Selector, something I’ve done since the early years of DCT’s existence. It takes so little time, a few hours limited to a single month each year, and it gives incredible satisfaction to know that I’ve contributed to the process – and the profession – in a small way. The season for the DCT 2021 selection process is coming soon. This year, the publication date for DCT is April 20. Librarians will start making book selections in mid-February, and the call for Library Selectors – new and experienced – begins this week. I encourage readers of this newsletter to volunteer for this singular experience. Contact Doody’s Managing Editor, Clare Konner (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information or to volunteer.