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Logo of jmlaJournal informationSubscribeSubmissions on the Publisher web siteCurrent issue of JMLA in PMCAlso see BMLA journal in PMC
J Med Libr Assoc. 2009 October; 97(4): 319.
PMCID: PMC2759153

Answers to the Health Questions People Ask in Libraries

Reviewed by Shari Clifton, MLIS, AHIP

Laura Townsend Kane, Rozalynd P McConnaughy, Steven Patrick Wilson, David L. Townsend 
Answers to the Health Questions People Ask in Libraries.New York, NY: Neal-Schuman Publishers. 2008. 278 p. $65.00.  ISBN: 978-1-55570-642-5.

When consumers look for health information or attempt to answer a specific health question, one of their primary destinations is often their local library. In Answers to the Health Questions People Ask in Libraries, a team of medical librarians in consultation with a physician have identified some of the most common health questions encountered by all types of librarians and then answered those questions in a readable, consumer-friendly format. While the health care consumer is certainly the primary audience for this book, the content will also inform librarians about the kinds of health questions they are most likely to encounter and resources to consult for further information on the topic.

Answers to the Health Questions People Ask in Libraries is organized in six broad chapters, each of which begins with a brief overview of the content. The book is ideally used as a reference resource, with a detailed table of contents reflecting the sections covered in each chapter, followed by a list of the specific health questions answered in that section. The answer to each question includes a concise overview of the topic, highlights relevant facts and background information, and concludes with a short list of references. Many of the referenced works are free and accessible on the web. Key points are highlighted in gray boxes, as are pointers to resources for additional information. Each of the chapters concludes with an “Ask the Experts” section that lists the types of health care professionals and specialists trained to address more specific or in-depth questions similar to those discussed in the chapter.

The book also contains some very useful appendixes, including a copy of the survey tool used by the authors to collect the questions included in the book. It also includes a summary of the types of libraries that responded to the survey, a glossary of experts with a brief description of the expert's role, and pointers to additional information. An annotated bibliography of print and electronic resources will also assist those seeking more information. Additional navigation of the content is facilitated by a comprehensive index.

The primary audience for this work is the health care consumer, and the writing style, organization of content, and appendixes make it a very useful tool for that target group. In addition to libraries, it would be helpful to make the title available in a variety of venues where health care consumers are found, such as clinics, pharmacies, and public health agencies. Librarians will also find the work beneficial because it identifies many of the consumer health questions they are likely to encounter. They can also use the book as a guide when planning consumer health programming as well as a tool for resource discovery and collection development. This title is a nice complement to other recently published consumer health volumes that specifically target librarians such as Michele Spatz's Answering Consumer Health Questions: The Medical Library Association Guide for Reference Librarians and the Medical Library Association Guide to Health Literacy at the Library, edited by Marge Kars, Lynda M. Baker, and Feleta L. Wilson. Answers to the Health Questions People Ask in Libraries is a valuable addition to the consumer health collections of all types of libraries.

Articles from Journal of the Medical Library Association : JMLA are provided here courtesy of Medical Library Association