The status of scholarly efforts of librarians on health literacy: a bibliometric analysis


  • Alexandria Quesenberry Wilson Assistant Professor, Research and Learning Services Librarian, Preston Medical Library/Health Information Center, University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine, University of Tennessee Medical Center, Knoxville, TN
  • Courtney Wombles Medical Librarian, Reed Health Sciences Library, Lincoln Memorial University, Knoxville, TN
  • R. Eric Heidel Associate Professor of Biostatistics, Department of Surgery, University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine, Knoxville, TN
  • Kelsey Leonard Grabeel Associate Professor, Assistant Director, Preston Medical Library, Health Information Center, University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine, University of Tennessee Medical Center, Knoxville, TN



health literacy, librarians, bibliometrics


Objective: In order to determine the status of scholarly efforts on health literacy by librarians, researchers examined the characteristics of health literacy publications authored by librarians from 2000 to 2020.

Methods: Bibliometric analysis was used to assess the indicators of productivity, affiliation, collaboration, and citation metrics of librarians in health literacy–related research. Data were collected using the Scopus database; articles were screened for inclusion before importation into Microsoft Excel for analysis. SPSS software was used to run basic descriptive statistics.

Results: Of 797 search results, 460 references met the inclusion criteria of librarian authorship. There was a significant linear trend upward in publications since 2001 with an average increase of 1.52 papers per year. The number of publications per year peaked in 2019 (n=59). Journal of Consumer Health on the Internet was the most prolific journal. The majority of references were authored by at least two authors and by multidisciplinary teams. Nineteen percent (n=107) of the librarian authors were responsible for more than one publication, and 84.1% of publications were cited at least once.

Conclusions: In the last two decades, librarian involvement in health literacy publications has exponentially increased, most markedly in the years following 2014. The productivity, multidisciplinary collaboration efforts, and consistent growth in literature indicate that librarians are engaged in health literacy scholarship. Further research is needed to explore the work of librarians whose impacts on health literacy may not be reflected within well-indexed, peer-reviewed publications.


Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. History of health literacy definitions [Internet]. US Department of Health and Human Services [cited 20 Aug 2021]. <>.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health literacy [Internet]. US Department of Health and Human Services [rev. 28 Jan 2021; cited 15 Mar 2021]. <>.

Bankson HL. Health literacy: an exploratory bibliometric analysis, 1997–2007. J Med Libr Assoc. 2009 Apr;97(2):148–50. DOI:

Oelschlegel S, Grabeel KL, Tester E, Heidel RE, Russomanno J. Librarians promoting changes in the health care delivery system through systematic assessment. Med Ref Serv Q. 2018 Apr-Jun;37(2):142–52. DOI:

Barr-Walker J. Health literacy and libraries: a literature review. Ref Serv Rev. 2016;44(2):191–205. DOI:

Belter CW. Bibliometric indicators: opportunities and limits. J Med Libr Assoc. 2015;103(4):219–21. DOI:

Kondilis BK, Kiriaze IJ, Athanasoulia AP, Falagas ME. Mapping health literacy research in the European Union: a bibliometric analysis. PLoS One. 2008 Jun 25;3(6). DOI:

Durieux V, Gevenois PA. Bibliometric indicators: quality measurements of scientific publication. Radiology. 2010;255(2):342–51. DOI:

Carpenter CR, Cone DC, Sarli CC. Using publication metrics to highlight academic productivity and research impact. Acad Emerg Med. 2014;21(10):1160–72. DOI:

Ouzzani M, Hammady H, Fedorowicz Z, Elmagarmid A. Rayyan — a web and mobile app for systematic reviews. Syst Rev. 2016;5:210. DOI:

Wilson AQ. The status of scholarly efforts of librarians in health literacy: a bibliometric analysis. OSF. October 29 2021. DOI:

SPSS Statistics. Version 26.0 for Macintosh [software]. Armonk, NY: IBM Corp; 2020.

Parnell TA. Health literacy: history, definitions, and models. In: Parnell TA, ed. Health literacy in nursing: providing person-centered care. New York: Springer Publishing Company; 2014. p. 3–32.

US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Coverage. Affordable Care Act (ACA) [Internet]. Baltimore, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services [cited 15 Mar 2021]. <>.

Keim-Malpass J, Letzkus LC, Kennedy C. Health literacy and the Affordable Care Act: a policy analysis for children with special health care needs in the USA. Risk Manag Healthc Policy. 2015;8:31–36. DOI:

Whitney W, Keselman A, Humphreys B. Libraries and librarians: key partners for progress in health literacy research and practice. Stud Health Technol Inform. 2017 Dec;240:415–32. DOI:

World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe. Health literacy: the solid facts [Internet]. Copenhagen, Denmark: World Health Organization; 2013 [cited 19 Aug 2021]. <>.

Speaker SL. An historical overview of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, 1985–2015. J Med Libr Assoc. 2018;106(2):162–74. DOI:

National Library of Medicine (US), Board of Regents. A platform for biomedical discovery and data-powered health: National Library of Medicine strategic plan 2017–2027 [Internet]. Bethesda, MD: The Library; 2017 [cited 19 Aug 2021]. <>.

Lewis CL. The open access citation advantage: does it exist and what does it mean for libraries? Inform Technol Libr. 2018;37(3):50–65. DOI:

Uthman OA, Okwundu CI, Wiysonge CS, Young T, Clarke A. Citation classics in systematic reviews and meta-analyses: who wrote the top 100 most cited articles? PLoS One. 2013;8(10):e78517. DOI:

Spencer AJ, Eldredge JD. Roles for librarians in systematic reviews: a scoping review. J Med Libr Assoc. 2018;106(1):46–56. DOI:






Original Investigation