Shrinking medical libraries

I’m aware of a number of hospital libraries that have lost space and/or staff in the last few years, mine included.  Part of the justification is the advent of electronic resources; administrators are convinced that we just don’t need the space any longer, and if we don’t have as much collection to maintain, we must not need as much staff, either.  As a result, we’ve had to re-examine our collection development policies, our holdings, and our practices to make do with less while staying in line with the libraries’ missions.

The latest JMLA includes 6 case studies of academic medical libraries required to reduce space in the last couple of years.  The purpose of the studies is “to point out that a trend may be developing and that lessons can be learned from libraries that have undergone a loss of space.”   In some cases, the requirement for space reduction came as a surprise to library administration and staff; in other cases, planning included time to elicit input from faculty and librarians.

Based on this sample, it seems to be only a matter of when, not if, health sciences libraries will be asked to give up space. Although advance planning and preparation cannot always lead to the outcomes that seem most desirable for the library and the parent institution, these case studies show that, as the Boy Scouts say, it is best to “be prepared.”

Freiberger G.  Introduction: be prepared. J Med Libr Assoc. 2010 January; 98(1): 24. doi: 10.3163/1536-5050.98.1.009. PMCID: PMC2801978

The January 2010 issue of JMLA which includes the case studies is free online in PubMed Central: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/issues/183881/

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One Response

  1. I agree wholeheartedly with your comments and those in the article that we need to be prepared. Our collection now takes up half the space it used to before electronic conversion. I have been proactively working with my VP to renovate the area to include a conference/computer room which the hospital desperately needs. Money hasn’t been approved yet but at least I am trying to have some say in how the space is used and what is next door to us.

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