CommComm posted on January 11, 2011 23:16

Sue Woodson and I always start off talking on one subject and in a hot second we’re singing the praises of Robert Duvall movies (from Boo Radley in “To Kill a Mockingbird” to “Open Range”) Sue belongs to the Southeastern Atlantic region of the NN/LM (National Network of Libraries of Medicine), where she chairs the Print Reduction Task Force.

Along with Kathy Danko, I asked her also about the completion of the Lilienfeld project. Sue mentioned that at her last presentation she remarked that, regarding the future of Welch, “we’re no longer an institution of cultural memory”. She said she could hear a pin drop in the room. It is a blunt assessment, but it hits the bullseye. Librarians, as “defenders of the realm”, didn’t take too kindly to her honesty. Sue further proclaimed that this is the mission of humanities library, but a medical library--- a library that supports clinical work, research, and teaching in medicine and health simply isn’t funded to do that work. There are space considerations tied to financial considerations, and the 3,000 pound elephant in the room is the out-of-this-world accessibility of online journals. You can get them at your desk, in the operating room, or at your favorite little café in Paris. Couple these along with the fact that medical information is not a fixed endeavor, and you can see how remaining status quo vs. initiating a brand new action plan----suddenly finds itself as an agenda item.

When I asked Sue if other medical libraries were feeling the crunch, she cited Duke University’s Medical Library, where they’ve recently given up a floor of their stacks (gone, sayanara, bye-bye) for precisely these considerations. Now, if you’re like me, the thought of orphaned books provokes one sad image after another, but Sue said the light at the end of the tunnel is that libraries are actively seeking “trusted non-commercial repositories,” such as the National Library of Medicine. Keeping books as true treasures makes everyone smile.

 Much like the ending of my favorite childhood story “Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel,”( the thought of this new course of action paves the way toward a happier conclusion.  


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