Since first proposed in a 2000 Annals of Internal Medicine editorial , the informationist role has been well described in the health sciences library literature. Informationist now typically refers to an individual with a thorough understanding of both a health care domain and information seeking and appraisal, who employs that combination of expertise as part of a health care or research team. Authors have explored informationists' ability to select relevant evidence , lingering ambiguity of the role , training plans , integration of in-context practice with informatics applications , evaluation of a clinical informationist service [6, 7], and development of an informationist-staffed “evidence based answering service” . Other papers about the role have investigated potential implementations [9–13] and education and practice models [14–20].
The concept of this new role also met with controversy in the field of librarianship. Some librarians have regarded the informationist role as simply a repackaging of current practice or as a way to discount the value of their contributions to an organization as information providers [21–23]. Clinician reactions have also been mixed, advocating, for example, drug information specialist pharmacists as the optimal information providers on clinical teams and the need for physicians to develop their own literature searching and appraisal skills rather than rely on another professional [24–26].
While typically discussed in the clinical or bioinformatics domains, the informationist role may also be useful in any information-intensive or information-driven environment [18, 27]. To emphasize this potential applicability of the informationist role to multiple domains, the Medical Library Association (MLA) began referring to the role as the information specialist in context (ISIC) in 2002/03 .
To further explore the role, MLA and MLA's Task Force on the Information Specialist in Context (Appendix A) sought a consultant in 2003 to report on, among other issues, the state of ISIC implementations, librarians' thinking on the concept, and potential ways to move forward with ISIC work. The Eskind Biomedical Library (EBL) at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) was selected for the project and completed a comprehensive report in 2005 .
The EBL team employed a multifaceted approach combining a literature review, surveys of librarians and health care professionals, focus groups with librarians, and interviews with practicing ISICs to explore opinions of and work in the concept. This multifaceted method allowed the team both to raise awareness of the topic and to generate exploratory data about how the role was viewed.
The full Envisioning the Information Specialist in Context report includes detailed findings about librarians' and health care and research professionals' perceptions of the ISIC role, their views of the education needed for such a professional, and their views about the future of the role. The research results presented here highlight findings from librarian respondents to the survey regarding potential barriers to the widespread implementation of ISIC roles. The complete Envisioning the Information Specialist in Context report is available on the MLA member Website .