Bioinformatics and Biology Essentials for Librarians*

For more information on this course, or to schedule, please contact Katherine Majewski at

Bioinformatics for Librarians is an introductory, online bioinformatics course for librarians using the Moodle learning management system. It is a 16 week self-paced course worth 30 hours of CE credit from the Medical Library Association. This course was designed both for librarians who offer, or intend to offer, bioinformatics services; and also for librarians who use bioinformatics information on a periodic or irregular basis to serve their patrons.

Subject Matter Experts/Additional Instructors for this course include: Dr. Peter Cooper, PhD and Dr. Bonnie Maidak, PhD, MLS, National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Library of Medicine.

The suggested pace of topics is listed below. Modules open progressively. Course content is provided in the form of videos, hands-on exercises, readings, discussion posts, and open book quizzes. Synthesis activities conclude the class with actual reference questions from the NCBI and the creation of a personal bioinformatics action plan.

Course URL:

Course Objectives:

Upon successful completion of this course, you should be able to:

  • Gain a functional understanding of molecular biology concepts sufficient to use the NCBI bioinformatics databases
  • Define bioinformatics, describing some research questions that scientists are exploring now using bioinformatics tools and techniques
  • For the Nucleotide, Gene, Structure and Protein databases:
    • Describe what kinds of information are contained
    • Develop a search strategy for common patron questions
  • Identify where genetic and protein data comes from, and describe data quality concerns
  • Answer common patron questions, referring to appropriate databases
  • Find genetic information that is translated to clinical application
  • Explore the roles and activities of other librarians working in bioinformatics
  • Discuss public policy and ethical implications of bioinformatics data storage, access and use
  • Direct others to experts and sources of assistance


Week 1: Genetics Basics

Week 2: Genetics Basics

The first two weeks of the course consist of pre-work to orient you to molecular biology concepts you need to understand in order to use the bioinformatics databases effectively. We've framed the learning experience as an open book quiz with readings and activities and given you two weeks to work through the content and ask questions using the discussion board.  
Week 3: Introduction

What is bioinformatics and what does it have to do with librarianship? In this module you'll learn the scope of bioinformatics and explore different roles for librarians by watching a 60 minute video and forum discussion.

Week 4: Molecular Biology Techniques

How do scientists acquire nucleotide sequences from organisms? In this module you'll explore some basic techniques for sequencing through an interactive website and open book quiz. 

Week 5: NCBI Nucleotide

The NCBI Nucleotide database is where you can find the DNA and RNA sequences. This module explores the NCBI Nucleotide Database through videos, a hands-on exercise, and quiz.

Week 6: BLAST Sequence Similarity

This module uses videos and hands-on exercises to explore the Basic Local Alignment Sequence Tool (BLAST) to identify and compare sequences, and review the GenBank record.

Week 7: NCBI Gene

The NCBI Gene Database pulls together data from many sources, to give you quick access to what is known about a gene. In this module you will learn about the NCBI Gene database through videos, a hands-on exercise, and quiz. 

Week 8: Basics of Proteins

Before you delve into the NCBI Protein and Structure Databases, it's best to understand the structure and function of proteins. This module reviews the fundamentals through videos and an open book quiz. 

Week 9 (Mar 26-30): Catch up week 

Week 10 :  NCBI Protein and Structure Databases

This module shows how to use the Protein and Structure Databases through videos, hands-on exercises and quiz. 

Week 11: Clinical Applications

This module uses video and hands-on exercises to explore the NCBI databases MedGen, ClinVar and Genetic Testing Registry (GTR).

Week 12: Ethics and Policy in Bioinformatics

In this module, we discuss public policy and the ethical implications of bioinformatics data storage, access, and use through readings, videos and discussion posts. 

Week 13: What's Next in Genomic Research

This module takes a look at advances in genomic research through readings in Genetics Home Reference and a PubMed literature search activity. 

Week 14: Synthesis

You now have an opportunity to reflect on and apply what you've learned. Work through four synthesis activities based on actual questions that the NCBI has been asked, then reflect on your own next steps by creating a personal bioinformatics action plan. 

Week 15: Synthesis and Evaluation

Take an additional week to finish up your synthesis activities, then complete the evaluation to receive 25 hours of CE credit from the Medical Library Association. 

Week 16 : Additional catch up week (if needed)  

MLA CE Credits: 30