Australia facing a critical shortage of health librarians | Census report forecast


18 July, 2016, Sydney: Australia is facing a potentially critical shortage of health librarians according to the findings of a new census report from ALIA Group Health Libraries Australia (HLA).

With a 7:4 ratio of retirees to new entrants, job vacancies in health libraries were found to be running at almost 10 per cent, compared with a national job vacancy rate of 1.2 per cent.

ALIA HLA Chair, Ann Ritchie, said: ‘We were aware of the issue but hadn’t appreciated the scale of the problem.  The shortage is particularly troubling given the results of an earlier survey[1] which found that 76% of health practitioners had changed their thinking or improved their diagnosis and treatment plan after using the library service.

‘It is not overstating the case to say that health librarians help save lives – and if we can’t fill these vacancies in future, patients will suffer.’

The census revealed the breadth of services provided by health librarians, from teaching people how to develop their own information-seeking skills through to providing decision-ready information for clients. It also showed the broad range of users, including clinicians, educators, researchers, management, students and the general public.

Ann Ritchie again: ‘In addition to assisting with better patient outcomes, health librarians also help improve the bottom line. Some 74 per cent of respondents were involved in subscription management and content licensing. With electronic resources such as journals and databases costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, the role of the health librarian as contract negotiator has become even more important over the last decade.’

ALIA HLA is the national professional organisation representing librarians and information professionals working in all health sectors including: hospitals and other clinical facilities, research institutes, regulatory agencies, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, government departments, regional health services, professional colleges, universities, cooperative research centres, not-for-profit and community organisations, and parts of public library services. HLA is a group of specialist professionals within the membership of the Australian Library and Information Association.

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About the Australian Library and Information Association


The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) is the professional organisation for the Australian library and information services sector. With 5,000 members across Australia, we provide the national voice of the profession in the development, promotion and delivery of quality library and information services, through leadership, advocacy and mutual support.



Heather Wellard, Communications Manager: | 02 6215 8225 | 0409830 439