To the Editor:
Dr. Adler’s1 November 2015 letter to the editor, “Medical Literature: Don’t Believe Everything You Read,” makes several critical points about evaluation of the medical literature, including the need to understand research methodology and dive deeper than press-release-ready claims to truly assess meaning and quality. Dr. Adler rightly asserts that these skills are critical to the practice of evidence-based medicine, and that numerous resources exist for better understanding the medical literature.
I write to add one vital missing piece to the evidence evaluation puzzle: medical librarians. These professionals are masters of information with specialized training in finding and evaluating the best evidence for any clinical, research, or educational scenario. They are first and best in providing education for moving beyond simplistic approaches to the targeted, more efficient expert searches that ensure that critical evidence isn’t missed. Many medical librarians apply their expertise to authoring systematic reviews and informing institutional quality and education initiatives. It is a natural fit—after all, assessing and recommending information has been a key part of librarians’ mission for centuries.
When the need arises to thoroughly and critically review medical evidence, I would highly recommend making contact with a medical librarian. In hospital systems that have reduced or eliminated medical librarian staffing, I encourage readers to advocate for restoration of these vital services. As health care continues its evolution toward interprofessional teams of experts, the medical librarian plays a vital role in providing the best and more relevant information for patient care.
Rachel R. Walden, MLIS
Associate dean, Learning Resources, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tennessee; [email protected]
1. Adler AC. Medical literature: Don’t believe everything you read. Acad Med. 2015;90:1432.