Canadian health and hospital library closures 2017-2020

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Last Update

  • Updated.jpg 20 May 2017


See also Accreditation | CHLA/ABSC (Canada) 800px-Flag of Canada.svg.png | Clinical librarianship | Hospital library standards & their value | Human resources | Informationists | Managing health libraries | Medical education in Canada 800px-Flag of Canada.svg.png | Problem-based learning | Users of health libraries

"...Print is about logic, context. "E" is about convenience, hyper-connectivity"...TV is about emotion..."

"...The Internet tends to push everything toward a self-service model. It happened in retail, banking, government services, and of course libraries. If you've worked in or used libraries for more than twenty years, try to think of all the things patrons once needed personal assistance with but which is now self-service. For example, librarians once mediated the searching of bibliographic databases on behalf of patrons, but since the advent of institutional licensing and IP-based authentication, today's users jump right in and (for better or worse) do all their own searching." — Hutchison, 2013

"...For a physician, knowledge may be acquired by reading a journal article. Wisdom is interpreting what was read in such a way that it can be incorporated into daily clinical practice. How one filters the information—the relevancy of this one journal article in the context of the millions of other pieces of information out there—that is where wisdom plays a central role in altering behavior..." — KevinMD blog Sept 2013

Canadian health and hospital libraries are going through a period of profound change: print collections are transitioning in part online, digital library services are being developed (such as digital liaison and the digital classroom) using new information technologies and social media and physical libraries are being merged or eliminated altogether. Recent drastic moves in Canadian academic libraries have taken some people in hospitals and academic health centres by surprise, all of which threaten hospital and academic program accreditation. Due to cutbacks in provincial budgets in education and health, there seems to be an emerging focus on health libraries. While there are legitimate reasons for administrators to make decisions to close health libraries - how wise can it be to shutter libraries and services in an age of evidence-based health care? In a sense, it is ill-advised but may also be dangerous to limit access to authoritative health information. Like other professions, health librarianship faces many opportunities and challenges in an increasingly digital world and where thousands of pages of text can be carried around for easy access in a lab coat or a mobile device.

Why health libraries are needed?

  • Not everything is online; print libraries cannot be replaced by virtual libraries or online resources
  • Not everyone can afford to be online or buy their own books
  • Not everyone is fortunate enough to come from a home where books and education are important
  • Research shows that those who enjoy reading are better equipped to realize their learning and creative potential
  • Not everyone is fit enough to travel longer distances to libraries, or can afford the transport costs to do so
  • Closing without proper preparation and consultation is not evidence-based
  • reduced access or the lack of it altogether will discourage research and evidence-based practice
  • librarians make suggestions but none are ever considered
  • libraries are operating at a reduced level in many organizations years before they close

How to adapt

  • reference desks in academic health libraries must evolved to address the clinical and research needs of faculty
  • closing the reference desk during the summer, moving to on-call and house call models, designing positions such as clinical research librarian and basic biomedical sciences librarian, finding alternative funding to build research capacity
  • provide technology and training to facilitate research
  • develop programming for and taking advice from library clients
  • what can be done to prevent further erosion of health libraries
  • with no adaptation, even libraries such as Scripps will close

Other hospital library closures


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