Medical Library Association

Medical Library Association

MLA Logo
Formation 1898
Type Non-profit
Purpose "The Medical Library Association is organized exclusively for scientific and educational purposes, and is dedicated to the support of health sciences research, education, and patient care. MLA fosters excellence in the professional achievement and leadership of health sciences library and information professionals to enhance the quality of health care, education, and research."[1]
Headquarters Chicago, Illinois
3,600 individual members and 1,100 institutions
Website Medical Library Association

The Medical Library Association (MLA) is a nonprofit, educational organization with more than 4,000 health sciences information professional members and partners worldwide.


Founded on May 2, 1898, by four librarians and four physicians, the Association of Medical Librarians, as it was known until 1907, was founded “to encourage the improvement and increase of public medical libraries.”[2] MLA is the second oldest special library association in the United States. Two of the eight founding members were Canadians, William Osler and Margaret Ridley Charlton.

The MLA Exchange was one of the founders’ earliest and most important projects, helping build medical libraries in the United States and many other countries by exchanging duplicate publications. The organization has subsequently developed a variety of programs to serve the needs of health information specialists.

The National Library of Medicine holds a collection of the organization's archival material that ranges from 1898 to 2002.[3]


MLA's members are more than 1,100 institutions and 3,600 individuals in the health sciences information field worldwide, though—as many other countries now have their own national health library organizations—it now primarily represents health sciences libraries and librarians in the United States.

Membership is structured to accommodate varying needs and professional status of a diverse field of practitioners. Categories include Regular Membership, Institutional Membership, International Membership, Affiliate Membership, and Student Membership.

Academy of Health Information Professionals

The Academy of Health Information Professionals (AHIP) is MLA's peer-reviewed professional development and career recognition program. The Academy recognizes the personal investment of time and effort required for exemplary professional performance and for contributions to the association and to the profession.

Members of the academy are credentialed as health information professionals by demonstrating their academic preparation, professional experience and professional accomplishments. Credentialing differs from certification in that certification focuses on the attainment of minimum standards and measurable competencies, whereas credentialing recognizes the time and effort that is required for professional development. It also differs from licensure because licensure is a legal requirement for professionals in certain professions, such as medicine.

History of the Academy

MLA established its credentialing program in 1949 and the Academy of Health Information Professionals was established January 1, 1978. The program has been revised subsequently. The most recent action by MLA occurred in April 1995, when the MLA Board of Directors appointed members to the Task Force to Review the Academy of Health Information Professionals. In May 1996, the task force completed its report and recommendations to the MLA Board of Directors, who reviewed the academy in its current form and made recommendations for future goals.

AHIP membership Levels

There are five levels of membership in AHIP – Provisional, Member, Senior Member, Distinguished Member, and Emeritus Member. Each level is based on earning points for professional activities and a series of professional competencies, which can be found online.[4]

Governance and structure

MLA is governed by a board of directors. The president, president-elect, immediate past president, seven directors elected by the membership at large, and chairs of the Chapter and Section councils serve as voting members of the board of directors. The president serves as chair of the Board of Directors and does not vote except to make or to break a tie. The executive director serves as a nonvoting member of the Board of Directors.


Fourteen geographic groups within the United States are currently affiliated with MLA. These chapters provide a vital link to the programs and services of the association; they are open to bot MLA members and non-members.


Twenty-three MLA sections represent the varied subfields and areas of specialization of the association’s membership. Sections meet at the Annual Meeting and share information during the year through email list communication, informal networking, and newsletters.[5] Sections sponsor contributed and invited paper sessions at the Annual Meeting.[6] Examples of MLA Sections include: Cancer Libraries, Consumer and Public Health Information, Hospital Libraries, Medical Informatics, Nursing and Allied Health Resources, Public Health/Health Administration, Research, and Veterinary Medical Libraries.[6]

Special interest groups

According to the MLA Section Council's Special Interest Group Manual, "MLA Special Interest Groups (SIGs) provide a forum for members with unique interests to identify and meet with others with similar interests without having to fulfill the governance requirements of Sections. SIGs are generally created as less formal and more flexible organizational units, with the advantages of fewer reporting and no minimum membership requirements."[7]

Committees, juries, panels and task forces

MLA depends on members with a wide range of skills and expertise to serve on its committees. Committees have varied roles in the association. The word committee includes committees required by the bylaws, committees of the Board of Directors, standing committees, subcommittees, ad hoc committees, juries, panels, and task forces. A description of these various committees is provided below:



Advocacy efforts for librarians and the library profession take many forms within MLA: Resources are provided to help hospital librarians communicate with other leaders in their institutions about the true value of librarians and library services, including Advocacy Toolbox: A Practical Guide to Communicating Your Value. The MLA Governmental Relations Committee is charged with developing consistency in the Association's position on information policy issues, and on governmental actions affecting medical libraries. Legislative updates on topics such as funding for library programs and services; health care reform, and copyright issues are provided. The MLA Vital Pathways Task Force reviews existing data and trends in the status of hospital librarians, collects data on the links between libraries and quality and financial outcomes, and develops action plans to influence hospital decision-makers and key leaders in the health care field.

Career development

MLA offers career services for health sciences information professionals, students attending library school programs, and those interested in learning more about a career as a medical librarian. MLA offers programs to improve the knowledge and skills of its members and provide continuing education and credentialing to its members.

Cunningham fellowship

The Cunningham Fellowship is an award for health sciences librarians from countries outside the United States and Canada. The award provides for attendance at the MLA annual meeting and observation and supervised work in one or more medical libraries in the United States or Canada.

Librarians without Borders

MLA believes that key elements in improved health for all peoples are the ability of each nation to strengthen and build health sciences information capacity through qualified health sciences librarians, implementation of supporting technological infrastructure, and access to quality information. MLA supports capacity building programs at the association, section, chapter, and individual member level. MLA believes that building capacity will be most effective and long-lasting when partnerships are created with groups sharing similar goals, particularly partnerships with international agencies where shared goals intersect with available expertise and infrastructure. MLA is an official supporting organization of Healthcare Information For All by 2015, a global initiative that aims to improve the availability and use of reliable healthcare information in low-income countries.

Oral History Project

The MLA Oral History Project is an ongoing collection of audio interviews, focused on the history of health sciences librarianship and the history of the Medical Library Association. The project started in 1977, with additional support provided by the National Library of Medicine in 1980. The project is moderated by the Oral History Committee, and printed, soft-bound volumes of edited transcripts are made available through interlibrary loan (ILL) from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, (NN/LM).

Publications and website

Journal of the Medical Library Association MLA's quarterly, peer-reviewed scholarly journal. Vols. 90- 2002-

Bulletin of the Medical Library Association Vols. 1 to 89; 1911 to 2001

Biomedical Digital Libraries (2003-2007)

MLA-FOCUS A bimonthly electronic newsletter for MLA members.

MLA News A monthly newsletter for members and subscribers that includes news about the profession; articles that impart practical, on-the-job wisdom; and information about MLA products and services.

Books Books written by medical librarians on subjects of interest to medical librarians and other health information professionals.

BibKits Selective, annotated bibliographies of discrete subject areas in the health sciences literature.

DocKits Collections of representative, unedited library documents from a variety of institutions that illustrate the range of approaches to library management.

The association's website includes information for patients as well as librarians. The Washington Post recommended this site to patients, stating that it can help patients understand medical terminology and find the best sources of information on the Internet, but that the association's website is difficult to navigate.[8]

Conferences and meetings

Attendees at MLA’s annual meeting present and discuss scholarly papers, applied research, and issues in health sciences information management. Professionals with specific interests in related fields such as medical informatics come together to address topics of timely importance. Educational sessions are complemented by an exhibit featuring more than 100 vendors of appropriate products and services. The first MLA annual meeting was in 1898, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


  1. Archived February 15, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. "George Gould: Medical Libraries1" (PDF). Med Lib. 1: 15–19. 4 May 1898. PMC 2047412Freely accessible. PMID 18340740. Retrieved 2015-09-27.
  3. "Medical Library Association Archives 1898-2002". National Library of Medicine.
  4. Archived September 26, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. Archived January 13, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. 1 2 Archived August 28, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  7. "Section Council of the Medical Library Association". Retrieved 2015-09-27.
  8. Zeidner, Rita (December 2, 2003). "Health Web Site Reviewed". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 30, 2013.  via HighBeam Research (subscription required)

Further reading

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