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The Value of Medical Libraries

The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) have just published an excellent report entitled “Questions of life and death, describing the value of health library and information services in Australia http://www.alia.org.au/advocacy/HLI-ALIAValuingHealthInformationServicesReport2012Final.pdf. Based on a survey done in September 2012, the report shows how people use health library and information services in the country, and the impact usage has on clinical care and education. This is the type of report we need to conduct in Canada to answer to those who want to close health and medical libraries.

Library and information service users were asked how they believed their use of the service over the last year had helped them.

*   95% said it helped them discover new information
*   86% said it helped keep them current with the latest clinical developments
*   83% said it helped them improve health outcomes for patients
*   82% said it helped them progress their research
*   76% said it improved their diagnosis or treatment plan for a patient
*   76% said it helped them achieve higher marks in exams
*   65% said it helped confirm their diagnosis or treatment plan

HLI and ALIA are using the report to advocate for renewed investment in health libraries in Australia. The survey shows that despite significant increases in users, budgets for books, staffing levels and floor areas have declined with no prospect of improvement in 2013.

Key issues included:

*   Reduction in staff hours having a detrimental effect on the delivery of services
*   Lack of budget for essential print and e-resources
*   Visibility of the service in the digital environment
*   Continuing need for print collections
*   Uncertainty about the future
*   Lack of understanding about the value of libraries at a senior level

The full report can be downloaded here: http://www.alia.org.au/advocacy/HLI-ALIAValuingHealthInformationServicesReport2012Final.pdf

Other studies of the value of health libraries

Harrison J, Creaser C, Greenwood H. Irish health libraries: new directions. Report of the status of health librarianship and libraries in Ireland (SHELLI). Dublin. Library Association of Ireland, Health Sciences Library Group, 2011.<http://www.lenus.ie/hse/handle/10147/205016>

Marshall JG. The impact of the hospital library on clinical decision making: the Rochester study. Bull Med Libr Assoc. 1992;80(2):169-78.<http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pubmed&pubmedid=1600426>

See also Hospital library standards & their value<http://hlwiki.slais.ubc.ca/index.php/Hospital_library_standards_%26_their_value>

Connie Schardt
Associate Director for Research & Education Medical Center Library Duke University DUMC 3702
10 Searle Center Drive
Durham, NC 27710
connie.schardt@duke.edu

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