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Basic Medical Library Management: Collection Development

Depending upon the type of library you work in and the needs of your users, your online collection of resources may be larger than your hard copy collection. Below are some options to consider when purchasing books and journals for the small medical library.

Collection Development Overview

The Medical Library Association Collection Development Section, has developed a list of collection development resources by subject. They also have a great web site which discusses electronic libraries, copyright, policies and more.

Books for the Medical Library:

LOCATORplus: is NLM's catalog of books, journals, and audiovisuals and an access point to other medical research tools. Use this wonderful resource to find books on a particular medical subject.

The Brandon/Hill Selected Lists have been endorsed by JCAHO and used as buying guides for medical libraries for over thirty years.

Buying Books

When purchasing books you can order directly from the publisher (be sure to use your educational or non-profit discount if applicable).

You can also use one of the many online bookstores:

  • One of the first online bookstores offering millions of titles.
  • An ebay company offering discounted books.
  • AddAll: Book Search and Price Comparison.
  • Searches dozens of bookstores to find the lowest price.

Sources for Book Reviews

  • Publishers usually have a brief abstract describing the book in question.
  • Organizations and Associations also often offer titles related to their subject specialty.
  • E-Streams offers electronic reviews of science & technology references covering engineering, agriculture, medicine and science.

Online Medical Books and Dictionaries

  • Free Books for Doctors currently has over 450 books sorted by specialty.
  • The Bookshelf is a growing collection of biomedical books from the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  • The Merck Manual of Medical Information--Home Edition: includes vital information about diseases, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment.
  • OMIM™ Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man: This database is a catalog of human genes and genetic disorders. The database contains textual information, pictures, and reference information. It also contains copious links to NCBI's Entrez database of MEDLINE articles and sequence information.
  • On-Line Books Page: Medical Books Online indexed by call number. Many of these books are historical works and may not be relevant to your collection. However there are a few recent texts, i.e. Networking Health: Prescriptions for the Internet (2000).

Quick Online Reference

  • Medical Dictionary: Medlineplus features Webster's Medical Dictionary. Find specialized dictionaries on specific health topic pages such as diabetes.
  • National Health Observances: Days, weeks, and months devoted to promoting health concerns.
  • DIRLINE: (Directory of Information Resources Online) is NLM's online database containing location and descriptive information about information resources including organizations, research resources, projects, and databases concerned with health and biomedicine.
  • Health Hotlines: is an online database of health-related organizations operating toll-free telephone services. The database also includes information on services and publications available in Spanish.
  • The National Health Information Center: provides a comprehensive list of toll free numbers if you need more information about a particular health care issue or disease.


A large part of your job as the Library Manager will be to order and track journal subscriptions. You can do this yourself or you can use a subscription agent. When working with journals you will need to:

  • Maintain renewal date records.
  • Log in receipt of journal issues.
  • Track payments to publishers.
  • Contact publishers when journal issues do not arrive.
  • Alphabetize journal collection for easy access.

SERHOLD offers a wonderful means of keeping a current list of journal holdings. To access SERHOLD your institution must be a member of DOCLINE The SERHOLD function works in conjunction with Locatorplus to add journals to your collection. With Locatorplus, you will be able to ensure that you are cataloging the correct title. Contact your Regional Medical Library to find out about becoming a member of DOCLINE.

Brandon/Hill Selected Lists is a very good place to start when deciding which journals to purchase.

PubMed's Journal Browser: denotes which journals are indexed in MEDLINE. Browsing by title word is a helpful feature (for example finding all journals that have the word nuclear in the title). Access to publisher information is also available from this site.

LinkOut for Libraries is a service that improves access for PubMed users to their libraries' journal collections. It provides direct connections to electronic journals and gives information about print journal holdings. LinkOut saves PubMed users' time and is a valuable way for libraries to publicize their journal collections--both electronic and print. Contact your Regional Medical Library if you have any questions.

Electronic Journals

Ejournals: are changing the nature of medical libraries at a rapid pace. When developing a journal collection one must consider cost, accessibility, and archiving. The ejournal site listed seeks to address the many issues that arise when working with electronic journals.

Subscription Agents

Subscription agents or jobbers generally offer the following services:

  • Order the journals from various publishers for you.
  • Keep track of the renewal time for all journals
  • Handle the payment for the journals. You will only need to make one payment to the subscription agent and the agent will then pay each of the individual publishers.
  • Make claims to the publishers for any journal issue that was not received.

ASA Members Directory: (click on members) The Association of Subscription Agents and Intermediaries provides a directory of members which details services, the range of periodicals they supply, the subjects covered, to whom and in which countries, and the promotional services offered to publishers.

Consumer Health Resources


Cataloging Books and Journals

  • NLM's Classification Scheme: covers the field of medicine and related sciences. The scheme is a system of classification intended to be used for the shelf arrangement of all library materials, regardless of format.
  • MESH (Medical Subject Headings): is the National Library of Medicine's controlled vocabulary thesaurus. MeSH is arranged in both an alphabetic and a hierarchical structure and is thus an excellent resource to utilize when cataloging materials in the medical library.
  • The Cataloger's Reference Shelf: provides information on USMARC Data Formats, USMARC Code Lists, other reference manuals and subject cataloging manuals.
  • Shelflisting Procedures for Monographs and Classed Serials: is a NLM resource which will take you through all the procedures to catalog your collection.
  • LOCATORplus: is NLM's catalog of books, journals, and audiovisuals and access points to other medical research tools. Using Locatorplus is an excellent way to avoid duplication of effort when cataloging.
  • Marcive: cataloging is but one of the services Marcive offers to libraries.
  • OCLC: offers collection management and cataloging services.
  • Book vendors: often sell cataloging services along with their with books.

Document Delivery and Interlibrary Loan

Copyright Law and Guidelines