Thoughts on Hospital Library Closures
A message from the NN/LM NER Director, Elaine Martin DA
Some of you may have been hearing about the threaded discussion on MedLib-L about library closures. There was some mention of the work done by NN/LM NER regarding hospital library advocacy. There have been other comments about the RMLs, NLM, and MLA doing something.
In case you didn’t see it, this is what I wrote and posted to the list on 1/29/14:
I have been reading with interest the various comments and concerns regarding the many recent hospital library closures. As director of the New England Region, I want to acknowledge the tireless efforts that many of our local librarians have played in developing advocacy programs and tool kits, and attending on site meetings with administrators to try to stem the tide in our region. Many also worked with me on a study of the perception of the hospital library by interviewing their administrators and educating them on the tangible benefits of having a hospital library. These efforts as reported met with mixed results. Even some of the participants were eventually let go. The New England Hospital Library Advocacy group now is refocusing its efforts at trying to identify new models of hospital librarianship; knowledge management being one but there may be others.
I think the efforts in New England show that we as a profession whether hospital or academic we are in real trouble. Even our academic medical library colleagues are losing staff, space and collections. While it is true that hospitals are needing to respond to the new funding model of not being reimbursed for every procedure and rather being funded on a model of low cost high quality, the academic side of the house is losing research dollars, struggling with keeping tuition reasonable and reduced philanthropy. In the past for those of us with both hospital and academic entities to serve, when one side of the house was having financial difficulties, the other may have been able to help them out. Today both sides are hurting financially and we all are seeing reductions in libraries every where.
Frankly, it is my opinion that we can not go on as we have, trying to save or hold on to medical librarianship as we have always known it. We need to totally reinvent ourselves. That is not to say that we do not have a very important role in providing quality evidence based health information. This is more important than ever. But the ways we do this, the settings in which we do this in, perhaps even the payment models and more, all need to change. Otherwise the bleeding will continue.
There are professions that have successfully done this. HIMSS is one. Presently the Academy of Family Physicians is embarking on a reinvention of itself called Family Physicians 2.0. There are probably other such efforts. We could learn from them.
In order for this to happen in medical librarianship we will need to challenge everything we have held dear in the past and perhaps no longer do these things. But do new things, in new ways, under new conditions. And as we design our new profession our support systems would also need to change. This would take enormous effort on the part of us as individuals, our associations and local groups. But most importantly I think we will need the Will and the Perseverance to do so. I don’t think we have been ready for the radical changes I would see necessary for us to move towards to ensure the future of medical librarianship. Are we now?
Elaine Martin DA
Director of Library Services
Director NN/LM, NER
Lamar Soutter Library
University of Massachusetts Medical School