Staff members answer reference requests for medical information just as they answer requests for information in other subject areas. But because these staff members are not medical professionals, they will not offer medical advice or an interpretation of medical information.  Interpretation is defined as the explanation of what is not immediately plain, explicit, or unmistakable.  Although staff members will be as helpful as possible in locating and providing requested medical information, patrons are responsible for assessing the information themselves and for choosing the information that seems appropriate to their situation.

Specifically, staff members will provide the following medical reference services.

  1. Staff members will assist patrons by finding information about a disease or medical condition in books, websites, journals and pamphlets for the patrons to read.
  2. Staff members will read a definition of a medical term or description of a disease or condition from an available source. The source will be cited and quoted verbatim. When the definition is difficult to understand, staff will define terms used in the definition or description, but will not give an interpretation of the term.
  3. Staff members will read brief information about prescription drugs from drug dictionaries when the name of the drug is given. The source will be cited and quoted verbatim with no interpretation. Terms used in the text will be defined by using another available source. Staff will not identify a drug from a physical description offered by the patron. Staff members will read brief information about alternative therapies from the Natural Standard Database, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Therapies (NCCAM) website, or other resources deemed acceptable using standard library methods to evaluate websites.
  4. Staff members will advise patrons to consult a physician or other medical specialist when additional information is needed; however, they will not recommend a specific physician.
  5. Staff members will refer patrons to other health resources in the Akron area and to local health associations when these resources seem most appropriate to answer the patrons’ needs.
  6. Staff members will explain how to use the Library’s print and online reference aids. When these sources do not provide sufficient information, staff members will explain how to evaluate medical information found on websites that are found via a search engine. This assistance will be accompanied by explaining that different terminology may lead to different results.
  7. Staff members will not advise on the suitability of a treatment found on any website.


Approved by the Board of Trustees - December 13, 2018

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