The Health Sciences Library continues to provide a wide range of online services. Read our COVID-19 FAQs for more information.

You are here

About Us

Welcome to the Health Sciences Library at McMaster University. For over 50 years, we have played a central role in supporting health research and promoting student learning. Our commitment to lifelong learning has allowed us to build one of the most sought-after learning and collaboration spaces on campus. Whether you plan to visit us in person or online, we are confident you will find the experience rewarding.

Jennifer McKinnell

About Us




Engaging with information for a healthier society


The Health Sciences Library fosters excellence in education, research and information access in an optimal learning environment


  • Life-long interdisciplinary and interprofessional learning
  • Service Excellence
  • Collaboration
  • Equity & Equality
  • Honouring and preserving our heritage
  • Staff development
  • Providing a welcoming and safe physical environment
  • Financial responsibility and stability

Strategic Objectives

Strategic Objectives


1. Facilitate Health Research Excellence

2. Information Exploration and Discovery

3. Honour and Preserve FHS & HHS History

4. Embrace Meaningful Community Engagement

5. High-Quality Information Resources

6. Fiscally Responsible & Inviting Work Environment


Health Sciences Library Plan 2017-2020


Objective #1: Facilitate Health Research Excellence

  • Develop a Vision for HSL Research Services
  • Support scholarly communication activity for McMaster’s health research community
  • Enhance access to the HSL consultation services
  • Provide high-quality learning opportunities in support of health research



Support & empower research co-ordinator to identify and document research service vision

  • Completed vision document (Complete Winter 2018)


Define and communicate research support services


  • Complete service catalogue (Complete Spring 2018 – Researchers Toolkit)
  • Establish research services team (Complete Spring 2018 –Functional Team Framework)

Provide sessions and resources focused on the publishing needs of the health researchers


  • Participate in University-Wide Open Access Week activities by providing content designed specifically around the needs of health researchers (Complete Fall 2018, Fall 2018 – Now part of regular schedule - no longer a project)

Learn more about health researchers’ data management need with a view to defining future services

  • Partner in the administration of campus-wide data management needs assessment survey (on hold, pending University Library involvement)

Define a HSL bibliometric service that meets the needs of the Hamilton health research community


  • Consult with relevant research groups and where appropriate, establish partnerships with the Office of Institutional Research and Analysis, University Library, and HHS and St. Joe’s research offices (Incomplete)
  • Define and implement ORCiD promotion and instruction strategy (Ongoing partnership with University Library)

Implement online consultation booking system

  • Evaluate existing software options (e.g. LibAnswers)(Complete Spring 2017)
  • Implement online consultation booking system (Complete Winter 2018)
  • Develop procedures and staff training opportunities to ensure streamlined referral from the service desk (Complete Fall 2018)

Design and deliver online and face-to-face seminars and workshops forcurrent and future researchers


  • Develop online literature searching crash course (Complete Winter 2019)
  • Create tools to support students enrolled in BHSc research project courses (Complete Winter 2018, project focus changed Winter 2019 – see Praxis Curriculum)
  • Expand existing graduate education seminar series across multiple disciplines (Complete Winter 2018 – now part of regular work - no longer a project)
  • Complete LibGuides (online resource guides) for all graduate programs (Ongoing)


Objective #2: Lead Information Exploration and Discovery

  • Deliver relevant learning opportunities for students required to use health information in their course of study
  • Provide online library interfaces that promote exploration, ease of use and discovery of HSL services and information resources
  • Provide relevant services for clinical teachers and learners



Continue HSL liaison transformation activities


  • Form information literacy team, establish terms of reference, devise work plan (Complete Spring 2018 – see Functional Team Framework)

Develop information-literacy curriculum for undergraduate FHS programs


  • Complete BHSc Information Literacy needs analysis (Project redefined by Praxis Curriculum)
  • Define BHSc information literacy program (Project redefined by Praxis Curriculum)
  • Design and implement instruction formulas for nursing and midwifery
  • Develop online tutorial in support of HTH SCI 1G03 (Complete Summer 2019)

Develop online library orientation tutorials

  • Complete orientation tutorial and support materials (Complete Fall 2018)

Explore new strategies for supporting entrepreneurialism focus in FHS programs

  • Visit various community-based and academic accelerator centres (Complete Fall 2018)

Design and launch new HSL website

  • Form HSL website governance team and establish terms of reference and work plan (Complete Spring 2018 – See Functional Team Framework)
  • Contract MPS web design services (Complete Winter 2018)
  • Launch new site (Complete Summer 2018)

Review where and how the Library supports clinical learning

  • Map HSL activities (including eLearning initiatives) to CanMed Competencies (Complete Winter 2019)
  • Analyse how HSL activities supports information-literacy and EBM health professions accreditation standards completed (Project postponed pending introduction of new UG MD curriculum)

Develop a plan for better meeting the information service needs of faculty and learners located outside Hamilton

  • Define MacCare service (which may include instruction sessions, research consultations, and the provision of online tools) (Complete Winter 2019)
  • Hire Librarian to support MacCare services (Complete Fall 2017)


Objective #3: Honour and Preserve the History of FHS & HHS

  • Employ best-practice in archives curation, preservation, information access, and service activities



Work with archiving experts and stakeholders to define FHS/HHS archival needs and hire an archivist with skill set required to support these needs.

  • Provide interim archive support during the period when the archivist position was vacant (Complete Summer 2018)
  • Work with stakeholders to define an FHS/HHS archiving strategy (Ongoing)
  • Write archivist job-description to reflect skillset required to meet current Faculty needs (Complete Summer 2018)
  • Successfully transition archives service from interim to fully operational with support of new full-time archivist (Complete Winter 2019)

Work with local experts and newly hired archivist to review and redefine existing curation and digital preservation practices

  • Define digital archiving strategy (On hold pending input from University Library)
  • Define curation protocol developed in partnership with HHS and FHS administration (Postponed)
  • Revise archives collection development policy (Ongoing)

Review and update current archives finding aids, databases, and webpages to reflect best practice

  • Update online presence (website and LibGuides) (Complete Fall 2018)


Objective #4: Embrace Meaningful Community Engagement

  • Develop a Vision for HSL Community Engagement activities
  • Prepare strategies in response to The Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Call to Action
  • Deliver relevant learning opportunities for community partners



Support & empower librarians’ interest and expertise to complete visioning activities

  • Document current engagement activities and reflect on value, success, and failures (including partnerships with McMaster Health Forum and Hamilton Public Library) (Complete Spring 2019)
  • Draft HSL community engagement vision (Complete Spring 2019)

Active participation in FHS Indigenous Health Initiative

  • Initiate conversations with FHS Indigenous Health Initiative Lead (Ongoing)
  • HSL response developed in partnership with FHS academic schools and programs and perhaps aligned with resources developed in partnership with other Canadian medical schools (On hold pending release of IHI strategy document)
  • Perform collections analysis to ensure appropriate resources are available to support the FHS Indigenous Health Initiative (On hold)

Provide learning sessions that align with HSL vision for community engagement

  • Host Wikipedia forum and editing party party  (Complete Spring 2018, Spring 2019, now an annual event)


Objective #5: Provide High Quality Information Resources 

  • Provide cost-effective and relevant information resources



Examine the value (relevance, quality, timeliness, etc.) and format (accessibility, usability, etc.) of library collections to look for cost savings areas requiring additional  investment

  • Complete drug resource analysis and select preferred drug tool selected for purchase (Postponed)
  • Complete e-book analysis and recommendations for cancellations and/or new purchases drafted (Complete Spring 2018)
  • Complete review of other journal packages and renewal/cancellation decision made (Postponed pending outcome of 20/21 budgeting process)
  • Identify collection gaps through consultation with FHS schools, programs, and research areas (Ongoing)


Objective #6: Manage a Fiscally Responsible and Inviting Work Environment

  • Establish partnerships focused on enhancing employee work environment, improving service quality, and achieving cost savings
  • Establish an environment that supports ongoing learning and development
  • Implement HSL strategic plan with a view to clarifying the Library’s role within the Faculty and the University
  • Ensure alignment between the HSL budget, the FHS Strategic Plan and the University’s Strategic Mandate Agreement



Improve communication between HSL and UL with a view to improving overall library service quality at McMaster


  • Established cross-library teams in a variety of areas (including Library Web Redesign Group, Web and Public Interfaces Committee) (Ongoing)
  • Implemented Sierra Library Services Platform (Complete Summer 2018)
  • UL-HSL Sierra governance agreement completed and signed (Incomplete)
  • Participated in Interlibrary Loans software planning and implementation (Postponed)

Look for partnerships within FHS with a particular view to improving efficiencies

  • Review of Computer Services Unit contracts completed
  • Plans for future Computer Services Unit/HSL collaborations completed
  • Review of Education Services transfer agreements completed

Adopt technology solutions to promote staff success in the workplace

  • Completed VDI platform pilot (Complete Summer 2018)
  • Established IT CE plan for library staff (Postponed pending completion of IT needs assessment)
  • Completed Dropbox pilot (Complete Summer 2019)

Provide opportunities to support staff in a changing work environment

  • Succession planning initiated (Carry forward)
  • Coaching approach adopted (Carry forward)
  • Training materials reviewed and updated (Carry forward)
  • Staff goal setting activities initiated (Carry forward)

Formalize and communicate planning documents

  • Strategic plan shared with staff and posted on library website (Partially Complete)
  • Benchmarks for evaluating strategic outcome identified (Ongoing)
  • Communications strategy defined and implemented (Carry forward)

Pursue activities that focus on transparency and financial success

  • Monthly US dollar report sent to University Treasury (Complete Spring 2018)
  • HSL budget analysis circulated widely within the library and the Faculty (Partially complete)
  • Review of Interlibrary loan fee structure (Complete Summer 2018)

Last updated September 2019

Collection Policy

Collection Policy

Library Collection Policy


  • The Health Sciences Library takes an evidence-informed and holistic approach to developing and sustaining collections to advance health-focused research, professional clinical education, and scholarship at McMaster University.
  • Our priority is to provide an electronic collection that serves learners and researchers in a distributed environment, in order to provide the most equitable and efficient access to health information.
  • Our digital collections focus on the most current information, and they are not static. We do not guarantee long-term preservation for every item.
  • The library’s print circulating collection is not static, and most clinical subjects are reviewed for out of date material in order to ensure best practices in healthcare.  We do not retain every item purchased in perpetuity, though items accepted into the  History of Health and Medicine or the Archives collections are retained in accordance with their own collecting mandates.

The Library has two types of collections:

  1. "Collections of Use" that support McMaster research, health professional programs, and study in the area of health. They are:
  • Evidence-based in support of health curriculums and learning for patient care
  • Broad-based to support a wide range of health research, scholarship, and learning
  • Easily discoverable, accessible and compatible with tools that clinical learners and scholars use in their everyday lives
  • Built and managed through several means:
    • Local collections (purchases, licensed subscriptions, locally preserved digital collections, donations)
    • Networked collections (consortially licensed content via OCUL, CRKN, open Internet collections)
    • Borrowed collections (through ILL) 
  1. "Collections of Record" that are selectively curated for the long term stewardship of Faculty of Health Sciences contributions to scholarship.

The Health Sciences Library plays a critical role in upholding intellectual freedom:

We strive to acquire and make available the widest variety of materials, including those that may be considered unconventional, unpopular, or unacceptable.

As a member of Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) the Health Sciences Library supports the Statement of Freedom of Expression in Research Libraries (adopted by CARL membership, ca. 1987):

All persons in Canada have a fundamental right, as embodied in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Bill of Rights, to have access to all expressions of knowledge, creativity and intellectual activity.

It is the responsibility of research libraries to facilitate access to all expressions of knowledge, opinion, intellectual activity and creativity from all periods of history to the current era including those which some may consider unconventional, unpopular, unorthodox or unacceptable.

To this end research libraries shall acquire and make available, through purchase or resource sharing, the widest variety of materials that support the scholarly pursuits of their communities. (Source: CARL Guiding Principles – Freedom of Expression)

Library Collection Guideline


The Library prioritizes the purchase of electronic format for new resources. Requests for the print version may be submitted to the Collection Team for consideration. 


The Library acquires English-language materials, though non-English journals may be available through subscriptions to journal packages.


The library normally maintains unlimited user access for journals. Access to books may be unlimited or limited by the number of users at one time.  Requests to increase the number users for a title may be requested through the Collection Team. The majority of our resources are accessible remotely via McMaster ID and password.

Donations / Gifts

The Library does not accept donations for the general collection, however we accept donations of material that fall within the scope of our History of Health and Medicine areas of interest. 

For information on donating materials to the library, please see the Health Sciences Library Donation Policy:


Evidence-based weeding of materials in all formats is an essential component of the Library’s collection management responsibilities, in order to:

  • Ensure that the overall collection is current for patient care 
  • Relevant and useful to McMaster researchers and students
  • Eliminate outdated and worn-out materials
  • Replace content with updated formats
  • Maximize shelf and floor space
  • Make materials more accessible and easier to find

Weeding occurs:

  • On a day-to-day basis, as staff handle/process materials (ie. Removing older editions of ebooks)
  • Annually in the summer
  • On a project basis, as needed

Types of Materials Acquired for the Collection


  • Our priority is to purchase barrier-free (Digital Rights Management-free), unlimited user access
  • Single user access ebooks are acquired selectively when the multiple or unlimited access option is too expensive
  • Access to ebooks is provided via multiple AODA-compliant platforms

Print books

  • Print books are not actively collected in most subject areas, but are purchased when the ebook is not available
  • In support of McMaster Children’s Hospital-Hamilton Health Sciences, the library will purchase core titles in print for the following subject areas: obstetrics & gynecology, women’s health, neonatology, pediatrics, and pediatric surgery. 


  • "e" preferred
  • E -journal backfiles (to replace print) are purchased very selectively, as funds permit


  • The Library subscribes to selected online streaming sources in support of clinical learning


E-Resources Policy

E-Resources Usage Policy

Acceptable Use of Electronic Resources Policy

The McMaster Health Sciences Library licenses content from a variety of vendors and publishers to provide students, faculty, and staff with thousands of electronic resources (e.g. databases, e-journals, e-books, etc.). These resources support our users’ learning, teaching, and research activities, and cost millions of dollars per year.

Use of these resources is governed by copyright restrictions and by contracts between the Library and the electronic resource provider. The negotiated license agreements stipulate how and by whom a given resource may be used. If license terms are violated by anyone, licensors may temporarily suspend access for the entire university community. In cases where a resolution cannot be reached, the vendor may have the right to permanently revoke access to the resource.

By using electronic resources licensed by the Health Sciences Library, users agree to review and comply with all applicable terms and conditions.


  • Making a limited number of print or electronic copies for personal use
  • Using materials only for personal, instructional or research needs
  • Sharing content only with McMaster faculty, staff and students
  • Posting links to specific content rather than sharing an electronic copy
  • Showing videos only to a McMaster audience. Seek additional approval when showing more broadly.

        Research poster, presentation, publications, theses

  • Always seek permission from the publisher or vendor before using images, charts etc. Most large publishers or vendors have online submission forms to handle such requests.
  • Always acknowledge your source on any document when you use data found on electronic resources.

Not acceptable

  • Sharing resources with individuals not affiliated with McMaster University
  • Providing access to someone outside of the university community, such as an employer or non-McMaster members of a research unit
  • Posting (re-distributing) licensed content to the web or Listservs
  • Using content such images, charts, etc in public presentations, posters, or publications without prior permission from the publisher or vendor
  • Using electronic resources for commercial purposes or selling content
  • Engaging in systematic or substantial printing, copying or downloading (such as entire journal issues or entire books), including use of any crawling or replicating software
  • Modifying or altering the contents of licensed resources in any way
  • Sharing your Mac ID and password with others. Your MacID is your personalized credential that allows access to licensed resources.

Grey areas

There is variation between licences. Some license agreements explicitly provide allowances for courseware, multiple copies for classroom use and interlibrary lending. Other licenses may prohibit one or more of these activities.

Specific license conditions may be shown on the website of a given electronic resource under such headings as "Acceptable Use", "Conditions of Use", or "Copyright".  In addition, some of our license information is publicly available through the Ontario Council of University Libraries.

If you are unsure about permissions for use, contact the Health Sciences Library’s Technical Services Department.