Obtain a Specialization

Obtain a Specialization

NNLM offers free classes that support specialization for several programs. Click the green tabs below to find out more about our classes and the specialization programs they support.

Consumer Health Information Specialization

What is CHIS?

CHIS is an acronym for Consumer Health Information Specialization, a program provided by the Medical Library Association (MLA). The MLA Consumer Health Information Specialization (CHIS) offers training in providing health information services to consumers and recognition for the accomplishment of acquiring new health information skills.

Why Get a CHIS?

Librarians know the life-saving and life-enhancing value of accurate evidence-based health information. By earning CHIS, you acquire skills and knowledge needed to become a confident, expert provider of health information to your community. Your CHIS shows employers, colleagues, and the public you serve that you are committed to offering quality consumer health information services and to staying current with developments in consumer health information resources, technologies, and services.

Read our article "Impact of a consumer health information specialization (CHIS) sponsorship program on the ability of public library staff to provide consumer health information” (free, JMLA, July 2021) and discover the value of CHIS training in providing health information services. 

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How to Earn CHIS Credits

Level 1

In order to earn CHIS you will need to complete 12 CE hours worth of courses and webinars, and those 12 CE must cover core competencies 1-5:

  1. Know the Community
  2. Know the Health Consumer
  3. Knowledge of Subject Matter and Existing Resources
  4. Health Information Evaluation
  5. Communication and Instruction

Level 2

To earn level 2 CHIS you need an additional 12 CE hours worth of courses and webinars, and those 12 CE must cover core competencies 6-8:

  1. Literacy and Health Literacy
  2. Technology and Health
  3. Ethical and Legal Issues

You can see a grid of classes and their competencies on the MLA website. Competencies also listed on the NNLM class page. 

CHIS Learning Plan

We offer training via live webinars, on-demand classes, online classes and recorded videos.

Upcoming CHIS classes

View all upcoming CHIS-approved webinars and online classes from NNLM

On-demand CHIS classes

Available 24/7. Offered in Moodle. Register & access on link below. 

Level 1 

Consumer Health Collection Management - 4 CE 

Drug and Chemical Information - On Demand - up to 6 CE 

Foundations of Citizen Science + Libraries as Community Hubs for Citizen Science - 2 CE

Introduction to Health Reference: Ethics and Best Practices - 4 CE (also qualifies for Level 2)

MedlinePlus for Librarians and Health Educators 1 CE 

PubMed Essentials  1 CE (also qualifies for Level 2)

Level 2

Assessing Health Materials: How to Use NLM’s Health Education Materials Assessment Tool - 1 CE

Health Literacy On Demand - 1 CE 

Getting the Right Information to Patients Using MedlinePlus Connect - 1 CE 

Recorded CHIS Webinars

Enroll in Recorded CHIS Webinars to watch a past CHIS webinar, download class materials, and access an evaluation with directions to obtain CE credit. New classes are added and announced on a regular basis

CHIS Application Fee

The CHIS application fee $75 and the specialization is valid for 3 years, at which point it must be renewed. 

NNLM Sponsorship

NNLM sponsors the CHIS application fee for level 1 or level 2 for library workers, including renewals. Once you've completed the necessary coursework, fill out the sponsorship form.


  1. NNLM CHIS classes: Contact your Regional Medical Library.
  2. CHIS application process and program: Contact the MLA Professional Development department.
Data Services Specialization

What is DSS?

DSS is an acronym for Data Services Specialization, a program provided by the Medical Library Association (MLA). DSS indicates that you have received training in providing data services to researchers, clinicians, students, librarians, and others who work with data--and recognition for the accomplishment of acquiring skills in providing data services.

Why get a DSS?

As scientific research becomes increasingly data-driven, libraries are expanding their data services. Medical librarians and other health information professionals are ideally situated in the research and information-seeking process to provide data services support.

Your DSS shows employers, colleagues and researchers and others who work with data that:

  • You have skills in providing a range of data services
  • You are committed to offering quality data services
  • You are committed to staying current with developments in data management and data services.

A Basic DSS certificate gives you a solid grounding in all areas of the competency and the flexibility to choose additional learning based on your interests.

MLA Data Services Specialization logo
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What Skills Does the DSS Promote?

The competency encompasses five skill areas at two levels of expertise. A data services specialist:

  • Applies principles of data literacy
    • Basic: Finds, interprets, and manages data according to ethical principles  
    • Advanced: Critically appraises data and data collection methods
  • Establishes and advances data services
    • Basic: Collects and uses knowledge of institutional and research context to initiate institutionally relevant data services
    • Advanced: Evaluates and expands upon existing data services by developing partnerships and becoming integrated into the institutional research environment
  • Supports research data best practices across the data lifecycle
    • Basic: Provides guidance on generalizable, domain-agnostic research data best practices
    • Advanced: Identifies and implements domain-specific research data best practices
  • Applies knowledge of research methods, ethics and rigor, and open science practices
    • Basic: Applies a basic understanding of scientific method and ethical and sound research practices to data-related problems, encouraging open science practices when appropriate
    • Advanced: Applies specialized knowledge of one or more scientific disciplines and research methods to advanced, domain-specific data-related problems
  • Provides training and consultation on data-related topics
    • Basic: Develops and delivers instruction to enhance data literacy and skills
    • Advanced: Provides customized discipline- and context-specific training on advanced data-related topics, including those requiring computational approaches

How to Earn DSS Credits

DSS Basic Level


  • Earn three credits in each of the five skill areas. A single course can meet requirements for more than one area.

You can see a grid of DSS classes and their competencies on the MLA website.

Browse and register for NNLM's DSS courses.

DSS Application Fee

The DSS application fee is $75 and the specialization is valid for 3 years, at which point it must be renewed.  

NNLM Sponsorship

NNLM can sponsor your DSS application fee. Once you've completed the necessary coursework, apply for NNLM sponsorship through our DSS Sponsorship Application


If you have questions contact MLA's Professional Development Department before completing your DSS application or taking a course. 

Disaster Information Specialization

What is DIS?

The MLA Disaster Information Specialization (DIS) provides training and recognition for librarians and others who rely on information for their work in disaster preparedness and response.

The specialization, developed by MLA and the National Library of Medicine (NLM), trains professionals to access, use, and manage information to support their institutions and communities in planning for, responding to, and recovering from emergencies and disasters.

All Specialization courses are offered at no cost. There is a modest fee for reviewing applications and granting certificates.

Why get a DIS?

The Basic and Advanced levels of the Disaster Information Specialization give you new, marketable skills that can help you advance your career and support your institution and community in times of disaster and public health emergencies.

MLA contact hours earned through the specialization may also be used for MLA's Academy of Health Information Professionals.

MLA DIS logo
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Eligible Participants

The Disaster Information Specialization is designed for:

  • Librarians, library staff, informationists, and information professionals, including those affiliated with medical, public, academic, special or any other types of libraries.
  • Disaster workforce members, including health professionals, allied health professionals, public health workers, first responders, emergency managers, community volunteers, and others who play a role in health-related disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.

Specialization Levels

Basic Level

The Basic Level of the Specialization demonstrates foundational skills and knowledge in:

  • accessing essential health-related information to provide services for supporting disaster mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.
  • the purpose and operation of the National Incident Management System (NIMS), the operational heart of coordinated efforts to address emergencies and disasters
  • the purpose and operation of the Incident Command System (ICS) and how to coordinate with government and private-sector response partners

The Basic Level requires 15 CE credit hours of training:



You have three years to gather the credits needed to apply for the Basic Level of the Specialization. The Basic Level is valid for three years.

Advanced Level

The Advanced Level of the Specialization demonstrates advanced knowledge and skills in areas of special interest in Disaster Information. The Advanced Level requires a total of 27 CE Credits: the Basic Level requirements plus 12 additional credits. Select from the many offerings those that best serve your goals.

You can complete all the Advanced Level requirements in three years, or you can complete the Basic Level requirements and then take up to an additional three years to take 12 more credits for an Advanced Level.

You have three years to gather the credits needed to apply for the Advanced Level of the Specialization. The Advanced Level is valid for three years.

Basic and Advanced Level Renewals

To keep your Basic Level or Advanced Level Specialization valid, you must earn 8 CE credit hours of approved training every 3 years and submit a renewal application. We recommend that individuals with the Basic Specialization use their 3 years to acquire the Advanced Level Specialization instead of maintaining Basic Level. This requires only 12 more credits.

If your Specialization lapses for more than 6 months, you must begin the accreditation process from the beginning. Please apply for renewal 30 days before expiration to ensure a seamless process.

eLearning Courses: Get Started Now!

Applying for or Renewing Your DIS

Before submitting your application:

  • Complete required courses and credits for the Basic or Advanced level.
  • Collect course completion certificates for FEMA and UVA Health courses (“Disaster Health Information: The Basics,” “In Case of Emergencies (COOP),” “A Seat at the Table: Working with the Disaster Workforce”). Also, collect certificates for any MLA and NNLM courses not credited in your MEDLIB-ED transcript.
  • Fill out an Individual Participant Request (IPR) form to receive credit for any relevant educational activity sponsored by other education providers. 
  • Pay the application fee by visiting the MLA Online Store. (members: $55, nonmembers: $75) or Complete the NNLM DIS Sponsorship Interest Form
  • Once you submit payment, you will receive a link to the online application.
  • Complete the online application and upload requested certificate(s) or IPR form(s). 

MLA will process the application and, on approval, send you a notification letter and certificate recognizing your level of achievement.

If you have questions about the Disaster Information Specialization program, please do not hesitate to contact MLA's Professional Development Department.

NNLM Sponsorship

NNLM sponsors the DIS application fee for level 1 or level 2 for NNLM Network Members, including renewals. Once you completed the necessary coursework, please fill out the NNLM DIS Sponsorship Interest Form

Upon completion of the interest form, NNLM will forward your information to MLA. MLA will contact you to complete the application process.

Note: If you are unable to access this Google Form, please contact your Regional Medical Library for assistance.


If you have questions contact MLA's Professional Development Department before completing your DIS application or taking a course. 


Certified Health Education Specialist

About CHES

Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) is a certification given to individuals who have a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree in health education or significant coursework in this field. The CHES examination measures possession, application and interpretation of knowledge in the Seven Areas of Responsibility for Health Education Specialists:

  • Area I: Assess Needs, Resources and Capacity for Health Education/Promotion
  • Area II: Plan Health Education/Promotion
  • Area III: Implement Health Education/Promotion 
  • Area IV: Conduct Evaluation and Research Related to Health Education/Promotion
  • Area V: Administer and Manage Health Education/Promotion
  • Area VI: Serve as a Health Education/Promotion Resource Person
  • Area VII. Communicate, Promote, and Advocate for Health, Health Education/Promotion, and the Profession
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These responsibilities are defined by the most current US-based practice analysis study. Those who receive the CHES certification must complete 75 hours of continuing education every five years to keep their certification. NNLM offers continuing education for those with the CHES certification for select classes that align with one or more of the seven areas of responsibility.

View a list of all NNLM CHES-approved classes.

The National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC) is the body responsible for this certification. More information about obtaining this certification and continuing education opportunities outside of NNLM can be found on the NCHEC website.


For more information on CHES learning opportunities through NNLM, contact the Public Health Coordination Office. 

Consumer Health for Library Students
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In partnership with MLA, NNLM is pleased to guide LIS and iSchool instructors through getting their course approved as a consumer health course for students to earn their CHIS certification.

Have you ever wondered how your course can be certified for the Consumer Health for Library Students program? This page will show you how!

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How to Get Started

To get started, go to MLA Course Submission Page to submit the MLA CE approval application form to be considered. You can also refer to our guide to help you complete the form. Contact the MLA Professional Development department for questions or assistance.

Additional Information

For more information about the requirements for earning CHIS, please visit www.mlanet.org/page/chis to learn more. If you have any questions, please contact Samantha Nunn (NNLM) or Jim Westwood (MLA) for additional information.

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What are the Requirements to Have Your Class MLA-Approved as a Consumer Health Course?

Your course must address one or more of the eight core competencies for providing consumer health information services. NNLM and MLA will work with you to ensure that your coursework entails the CHIS competencies listed below.

CHIS Competencies

Required for Level 1

  • C1 - Know the Community
  • C2 - Know the Health Consumer
  • C3 - Knowledge of Subject Matter and Resources
  • C4 - Evaluation of Health Information
  • C5 - Communication, Reference, and Instruction

Required for Level 2, in addition to Level 1 requirements

  • C6 - Literacy and Health Literacy
  • C7 - Technology and Health
  • C8 - Ethical and Legal Issues
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What Are the Benefits?

Teaching an MLA-approved consumer health course in your LIS program allows students to gain knowledge in providing health information services to consumers and recognition for the accomplishment of acquiring new health information skills from future employers. These skills are designed for a wide range of librarians, such as:

  • Public librarians
  • Medical librarians
  • Librarians working in the consumer health environment.

Want more benefits? Scroll down to read an interview with Dr. Emily Vardell, Assistant Professor for the School of Library and Information Management program at Emporia State University, about her experience in teaching an MLA-approved course.

Are There Fees Applied?

No! With this partnership, MLA will waive the approved course application fee for professors who are taking part in the program. Additionally, NNLM will cover the CHIS application fee (a $75 value) for level 1 or level 2, including renewals for students who complete the course.

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Emily Vardell

Dr. Emily Vardell is a certified CHIS instructor and Assistant Professor for the School of Library and Information Management program at Emporia State University.

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An Interview with Dr. Emily Vardell

Below describes Dr. Emily Vardell's experience and accomplishments in teaching her MLA-approved course.

What was your experience going through the process of getting your course approved?

“I worked with Debra Cavanaugh from MLA who helped me go through the process. She sent me the CHIS competencies and I reviewed my syllabus to make sure the elements were there. Luckily, my syllabus was already perfectly aligned with the CHIS competencies. We were able to cover a lot of content in my 12 week-long class and the CHIS competencies perfectly aligned and made sense to teach in a consumer health course. I had to submit my syllabus to Debra for review to make sure everything was aligned with the CHIS competencies and all the other required information was included. It was pretty seamless.”

“It is pretty easy for students to access their CHIS certification once they’ve completed the course. At the end of the semester, I would provide students with step-by-step instructions on how to obtain their certification with the code needed to access it. It was helpful and easy to follow and It’s not a super long process.”

What would you suggest to professors interested in getting their course approved?

“It is really a great benefit to offer to students that already connects them to practice. Often times people say, ‘Library School is so theoretical. I’m not seeing the practical applications.’ CHIS, however, offers that practical application because its certification students can earn before they graduate. It helps them secure that position that gives them the ‘leg-up’ in a job interview setting.”

“CHIS is a great way to attract students to courses that are overlooked or never looked at twice because students would assume, 'Oh, this is a health class, not for me.' Having that extra level of connecting public libraries helps.”

“Make sure to keep MLA updated on what's going on. Send them a list of students, give further communication with the Regional Medical Library. NNLM helps get everything completed and ready to go.”

Student’s Feedback

“When I enrolled in the SLIM program through Emporia, I did not set out to earn the CHIS certification. Having a professor my first semester that was a former medical librarian piqued my interest. My background is in teacher education, and while I taught, I would use my summers and weekends to work in healthcare. As my life evolved to librarianship, I have continued to use my sum experiences to inform my philosophy and mindset. Long ago, I realized that the hope to change lives for the better rested in education. This class affirms my beliefs. I know that I can make differences in the lives of library patrons by sharing what I have learned and by advocating for those individuals whose voices are rarely heard. Thank you NNLM and Dr. Vardell for making this certification possible.”

What motivated you to sign up for this class?

“I love working in a public library and would love to continue on that path, but I'm open to other possibilities should opportunities arise. I decided to sign up for this class because I am interested in earning my CHIS and enjoyed the last class I took taught by professor Vardell.”

“I decided to take this class because my current library manager has informed me that there are very few people employed by the county with any consumer health information know how. With this under my belt, and the benefit of the CHIS, I will have a much higher chance of acquiring a better job than the one which I currently hold.”

“I have probably looked at every possible conceivable source for health information from Google to PubMed to National Libraries of Medicine (NLM). I have taken several courses/webinars through NLM and am currently enrolled in a "Wellness in the Library Workplace" course. My goal was to earn my CHIS which is "reason 3" why I am taking this course.”

“I really like being in the public library and I will probably stay in that area, although if the right opportunity in a different library came up I would be up to try it. I am taking this class because I want my CHIS certification. I also know an awesome medical librarian so I using this class to explore the possibilities of medical librarianship.”

Additional feedback from Dr. Emily Vardell

“I am so grateful for the RML’s financial support. It would be a barrier to students if they had to cover the fees. There are more students taking advantage of the certification because of the RML covering the fees.”