Here is a statement from the National Library of Medicine with more details on deciding factors and eventual plans to phase out Go Local.
For approximately ten years, the National Library of Medicine (NLM) has provided infrastructure support and minimal start up funding for Go Local sites around the United States. In 2001, Go Local was an exciting new service and many organizations around the country accepted the challenge of building and promoting local sites and providing what many considered a natural extension to existing library services. It was a service that our partner organizations supported and promoted to the extent possible, even with limited resources. Many Go Locals gained support from state and university officials and funding from external resources. Go Local sites, now over 30 in number, provide excellent outreach services, opportunities for partnerships, and greater visibility for libraries in the local community.
However, there have always been concerns expressed by staff at the sites and also at NLM. Among these concerns are: the amount of staff time required to maintain each Go Local site, low use at many sites, the inability of some sites to keep records current, shrinking library budgets that result in fewer resources to support and sustain sites, and NLM’s inability to increase funding levels due to a tight federal budget. As the members of South Central Academic Medical Libraries Consortium (SCAMEL) described the situation in a recent letter to Betsy Humphreys, Deputy Director, NLM, “an under-defined or under-maintained Go Local database has the potential to cause more harm than having no information at all”.
In late 2009 and 2010 NLM staff, partnering with Go Local staff, began examining the situation. The group did an environmental scan, identified goals and strategies, looked at use statistics, and had conference calls with the Go Local sites. The goals of the examination and subsequent recommendations were to find ways to decrease the level of effort required to maintain the Go Local sites while increasing the usefulness of Go Local to the public.
NLM staff and Go Local partners have spent almost 300 hours since last July examining Go Local, hoping to come up with a redesign or a revitalization plan to increase usage, better meet user needs, and achieve a strong buy-in from partner institutions. What we found was this:
- Other sources, such as search engines, do an equal or better job providing access to health services information. Moreover, their costs are negligible because they crawl Web sites whereas Go Local contributors manually create and maintain data, thereby incurring higher labor costs. Insurance company sites provide added value that Go Local can’t, and at the provider level, such as service hours, parking information, fee schedules, quality measures and in some cases, even patient reviews.
- Use of Go Local is trending dramatically downward even as we add sites and the percentage of population served increases.
- Neither NLM nor many Go Local sites have the funding or staffing needed to support and grow Go Local.
- Staff hours spent at Go Local sites are declining and there is a backlog in auditing the information provided at many sites.
- Users don’t return to Go Local, or recommend it to colleagues, family or friends as evidenced by the decline in use. Compelling web sites increase in use by providing a service people return to and recommend.
Despite NLM staff at all levels wishing fervently that this program could be reinvigorated and sustained, we were left with no choice but to eventually cease its support. With shrinking usage, it is an extremely poor return on time and effort by NLM and our Go Local partners. Today’s Internet resources have surpassed what was an exceptional idea in 2001. Many Go Local sites are struggling to keep current; and data shows that even strong outreach efforts yield low use in return.
NLM is working with all the Go Local partners to discuss the next steps. We have no intention of stopping support at once. NLM and your Regional Medical Library (RML) will work with each Go Local, individually, to determine what to do next for these sites. Some may wish to continue on their own in some fashion; many have commitments to staff and their institutions. We take this transition effort quite seriously and recognize our obligation to work with each of the Go Local sites. NLM thanks the hundreds of people who worked so hard to build Go Local, to share its many successes, and to demonstrate the strength of the medical library community. Now it is time to move forward.