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Annarita Barbaro, Sofia Enrica Amicarella, Paola Ferrari, Ilaria Sorcini, Monica Zedda
Knowledge Service – Library, National Institute of Health (ISS), Rome, Italy
In the last few years, social, technological, educational and economic changes have undoubtedly transformed Library and Information Science (LIS) professionals’ traditional roles. The ever-increasing volume of digital information and the constant development of tools to access information have driven librarians to constantly update their skills and knowledge in order to take on new functions or services.
On the other hand, this ease of access to information has brought to a progressive emptying of the libraries and a need for librarians to reconsider their role.
Now more than ever, librarians have the opportunity to embed in research teams and scholarly communications initiatives. For example, in 2016 at the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS, the leading scientific technical body of the Italian National Health Service) a substantial part of the library personnel, with a working experience of more than 20 years, enthusiastically joined an initiative to produce a new general-public-oriented health Web Portal, ISSalute (www.issalute.it), online since the end of February 2018. ISSalute aims to provide verified and easy to comprehend content on healthy lifestyles and the most common diseases and therapies, and to debunk the most common health-related fake news circulating on the internet.
This work is based on the experience of a group of librarians working at the ISS Library in taking part in this project.
As well as traditional librarianship skills such as evaluation of the inclusiveness of the topics covered and selection and analysis of bibliographic resources, participation in the creation of the ISSalute website required the acquisition of new skills: content creation in collaboration with medical researchers, monitoring of fake news on health and in-depth research in order to debunk them, social media management and video creation, helping to maintain the website, SEO (search engine optimization), line editing, and participation in the Editorial Committee. Moreover, this initiative led to the organization of information literacy courses addressed to high school students (participants in the Alternanza+ project) and to the participation to events in order to promote the ISSalute website to the broad public.
Library background, combined with the newly acquired skills, was very useful in terms of the ISS Library group’s collaboration in the success of a citizen oriented public health website.
This was a win-win situation in which librarians, on the one hand, acquired new skills and had the opportunity to go outside the library (virtually and literally) in order to collaborate with ISS researchers; on the other hand, librarians’ experience in information retrieval, evaluation and organization was of fundamental importance for the success of the ISSalute web Portal.
Librarians should not be scared of going beyond their comfort zone, acquiring different skills or experimenting with new collaborations. The experience of the ISS library group in working for the ISSalute website is that library science background gives a great amount of flexibility which helps to deal with an ever-changing environment.
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