A Day at Work: Medical Librarian

Medical librarians help hospital staff and patients.
By Alexis Benveniste
a librarian in a mask stands in front of books
Medical librarian Stella Sigal conducts research for doctors, lends books to patients, and runs support groups.

Being a medical librarian isn’t easy. Stella Sigal works at the NewYork-Presbyterian Westchester Behavioral Health Center, in New York. The role gives her a unique opportunity to connect with both hospital staff and patients. Your Hot Job talked to Sigal about her career and what a normal day looks like for her.

Starting the Day

Sigal starts the day at 5:30 a.m. After hitting the snooze button twice, she gets up and gets ready. This involves getting dressed, washing her face, and packing her lunch and snacks. “It’s essential to have some snacks,” Sigal says. You never know when you might get hungry.

On Fridays, Sigal works from home. But Monday through Thursday, she drives to the hospital. She gets in early so she can meet with the night staff who are finishing their shift. 

When Sigal arrives, she drives up a windy road to get to the medical library. “It feels as though you’ve made your way to a country village,” she says. She clocks in and pours herself a cup of coffee.

Time to Work 

At 7:30, as she sips her coffee, Sigal goes through her emails, prioritizing those that are research-related. Sometimes, the emails are time-sensitive and relate to patient-care, so she makes a list of what needs to be searched. If she’s running patient support groups, she prepares the necessary materials. She grabs markers and bookmark templates, and prints out poetry, writing prompts, and literacy handouts. 

Between 8:30 and 10:00, Sigal answers questions with the help of various databases. She finds articles that she feels answer the clinical question at hand. Then she emails these, along with the search strategies she used to find them, to the clinicians who’ve written to her. 

If there are book requests from staff members, she sends out interlibrary loan requests on their behalf. During this time, she might also have scheduled research consultations for staff questions that relate to patient care or research projects. “Some days, I offer database searching courses for the nursing residents or students fulfilling their nursing school rotation requirements,” she says.

The rest of Sigal’s morning is reserved for patient groups or book-cart rounds. She might have two groups back-to-back, or she might take the book cart to patients’ rooms.


Sigal usually eats lunch around noon. She goes on a quick nature walk so she can take advantage of the beautiful greenery around the hospital campus. “On these walks, I might encounter a groundhog, a group of geese, a cardinal, or even a bluebird,” she says. It’s spectacular in the spring, with everything in bloom.

Wrapping Up the Day

After lunch, Sigal answers emails and attends interdisciplinary meetings and research consultations. She also catalogs new books for the library’s collection. 

Around 2:00 p.m., she usually attends a meeting, meets with a staff member for a research consultation, or runs a patient recreational group with therapists. Sometimes, she does a second book-cart round across the different patient units.

Late in the day, Sigal ties up any loose ends and finishes her day before heading home.