Learn about the Alaska Medical Library this week on Informania, Monday at 9am and Thursday at 5pm on KRUA, 88.1, The Edge.

On April 1, 2013, Deb the Librarian interviewed Kathy Murray, Head of the Alaska Medical Library.  Professor Murray shared historical information about the Alaska Medical Library, the clients they serve, health-related resources available, and tips for evaluating medical-related web sites.  Listen to this podcast using QuickTime software at www.kruaradio.org.


The Alaska Medical Library (AML) began as part of the Alaska Native Medical Center (ANMC) in 1968.  AML has gone through a series of funding changes (from ANMC to Alaska State Library to University and fee-based) and name changes (including Health Sciences information Center and Health Sciences Information Services), and is now located on the second floor in the Consortium Library.  The name, Alaska Medical Library, was adopted in 2002.  There are currently three medical librarians and three support staff that help with AML services.

Who uses the Alaska Medical Library?

Medical Professionals, University Students, Community Members

The Alaska Medical Library is the primary library for most hospitals and medical practitioners in Alaska.  There are only two other medical libraries in Alaska:  one at the Alaska Native Medical Center and one at a Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.

Students at the University of Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Pacific University, and those involved in the WWAMI medical school program have access to AML resources online using their student user name and password (also used for Blackboard and university email access).  Students studying nursing, biological sciences and allied health areas (dental assisting, emergency services, dietetics and nutrition, medical assisting, pharmacy technology, radiologic technology, etc.) are common users of Alaska Medical Library resources and services.  The medical libararians provide subject-related research instruction for courses in these subject areas.

Any person who comes to the Consortium Library can access databases paid for by the university and state.  These unique databases include Anatomy and Physiology Online, GIDEON Online, and Natural Standard.  Visitors to the Consortium Library may also ask for assistance in using any of the Library’s resources.  The Alaska Medical Library will do the research for people, but this is a fee-based service.  In other words, it costs money.

Evaluating Medical Information Online

Kathy Murray provides health literacy instruction, and provided great tips for evaluating health- and medical-related websites online.

1)  Look at the date – Is the information current?  Whas the web site updated recently?

2) Look for the author – Is the author of the web site listed?  Are their credentials (background schooling and professional experience) listed?  The Alaska Medical Library has a book that includes the board certifications of health professionals that they used to check the qualifications of medical web sites’ authors.

3) Look at the list of references / research resources that they claim support their statement about the health topic.  Does the site include a list of resources?  Can you find these resources?

4) Look for advertising on the web site.  Advertising gives a clue about who is paying for the web site.  There will be a bias (a certain perspective or an opinion) about the topic included on the web site, and when you see a large amount of advertising, be aware that the products paying for the web site might be recommended more frequently than others, even though they may not necessarily be better.  WebMD is an example of a medical web site that includes advertising.

What sources for finding medical information does Professor Murray recommend? 

It depends on the point of information needed, and the background of the person looking.

MedlinePlus is the source that Professor Murray will begin her research given a general health topic.  MedlinePlus is a source created by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.  The Mayo Clinic produces useful reports also, and these are searchable through MedlinePlus.

The next step up would be a search through CINAHL, the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health, a database available at the Consortium Library, but not accessible through the Internet without a subscription.

For Alaskans unable to come to the Consortium Library, and alternative might be the Health databases available through sled.alaska.edu/databases, which include Academic Search Premier and Health Source:  Nursing Academic Edition.

Finally, PubMed, is a comprehensive database of medical research, but is technically advanced.  This is the source used by medical professionals in their research.  It is available online through the Internet, but not all the articles are available in full text (so that you can read them).  Professor Murray said that if you search PubMed through the Consortium Library’s web page, the articles that are available in full text through the statewide databases will be identifiable.  For other titles, you could check for the title of the journal in the Consortium Library’s journal database.

Subject web pages created by Alaska Medical Librarians include:  Health Sciences, Nursing, Dental Assisting and Technology, Dietetics and Nutrition, and Medical Laboratory Science.  These web pages include subject-specific databases, web sites, books, and other sources.  A link to these Subject pages can also be found at www.consortiumlibrary.org, under the Subjects

Music played on Informania, April 1, 2013:  Information, by Dredg, and Help, by the Beatles