Brandon-Hill and Doody's Lists

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Last Update

  • Updated.jpg 21 February 2017


See also Abbreviations including journal abbreviations | Collection development | Print ordering | Reference collections | Top Information Sources in Biomedical Reference Services

Brandon-Hill (see Wikipedia) and Doody's are two of the names that are inextricably linked to collection development in health and medical libraries. The Brandon and Hill names are known to collection development librarians around the world for their respected lists of books in the medical, nursing and allied health areas. The names also conjure up a different era of library work, both pre- and post-web. From the start, the Brandon/Hill team selected books and created lists that have been the basis of collections development in health libraries. While there was no scientific method employed in the selection of these texts, there was much infusion of expertise and experience based on working with clinicians at the front lines of patient care.

In the 21st century, health librarians rely on recommendations from colleagues and various selection tools to build both their print and digital library collections. That said, there is a sharp move to evidence-based collection development. Selection guides are still useful (and widely-used) for a number of purposes such as tools for derived cataloguing and reference processes. Books and journals purchased for health and medical libraries, formerly listed on the Brandon & Hill lists, are now listed or superceded by new editions on the product Doody's Core Titles.

Brandon-Hill Lists

Alfred N. Brandon began the "selected book and journal list" in 1965 to assist librarians in their evaluation of medical textbooks. He built upon the usefulness of the core holdings lists sporadically published by the American Medical Association between 1940 and 1959. His experience in building collections in medical libraries and his participation as an active member of the medical librarians’ association in Baltimore occurred when he was director of the Welch Medical Library at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. The first BH list for small medical libraries was published in 1965. Many decades later, the Brandon-Hill lists are no longer being updated; in fact, the last version that was updated came in 2003 and was given the title "Brandon/Hill Selected List of Print Books and Journals for the Small Medical Library". Dorothy Hill became involved in the "Brandon List" during the 1970s. At Mount Sinai Hospital (New York), she worked as an Acquisitions Librarian; Brandon was Director. Hill drew attention to books for the "Brandon List" and became coauthor of the 1979 "Selected List." She joined the effort of making biennial updates to the Brandon selection list and later the original BH list had two spin-offs; nursing in 1979 and allied health professions in 1984. In time, the "Brandon List" evolved into the "Brandon/Hill List." First published in 1965, the list contained 358 books and 123 journals; in 2001, 630 books and 143 journals were selected. The project speaks for itself and will never be duplicated. The Medical Library Association passed a motion in 2003 to outsource this tool to Doody's but the tool is no longer openly accessible (ie. it is subscription-based).

Doody's Core Titles

Doody's Core Titles in the Health Sciences online offers an overview and analysis of major titles relevant in health libraries. It includes an overview, the purpose of the list, Doody's core titles and the web, objectivity of the selections, notes on how titles are listed, scoring, interpreting the scores, breakdowns of titles by specialty, score and copyright year, and average cost of core titles by specialty. The website also offers additional information on the selection process, selectors, and history and background of the list. Essential core titles and Key core titles (based on scores) are indicated by symbols.


Without a proper replacement of BH, some health librarians have called for a move to more mixed evidence-based models ie. quantitative methods, rather than qualitative alone. Doody's strengths and weaknesses are best illustrated by an analysis of the rating of monographs in the various categories. In many disciplines, the DCT is more or less complete, but the rating system has too little variation (1-3) to measure meaningful differences between sources. For instance, what is the true difference between mean scores of 2.5 and 2.6? or between 2.9 and 3.0? This overly restrictive range results in a system that is decidedly less useful than the Brandon-Hill lists. Text ratings for the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) or Sadock, Kaplan and Sadock's Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry are somewhat helpful - but problems exist. The first book is given a rating of 3.0 and the latter 2.9. It is hard to understand how these classics are not rated similarly. With 3.0 being the highest rating of the most important psychiatric texts (two Essential Core texts are given 3.0), the mean score for all Key Core titles is about 2.75. Therefore, the mean difference between "Essential" and "Key" is barely noticeable for the collection librarian who looks to Doody's for guidance.

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