Scope and Services of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1965
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file scope and services of the u s national library of medicine martin m cummings m d director national library of medicine public health service u s department of health education and welfare bethesda md usa the national library of medicine was founded in 1836 as the library of the surgeon general's office u s army and developed as a national resource under the leadership of dr john shaw billings librarian from 1865 to 1895 designated the army medical library in 1922 and the armed forces medical library in 1952 it was officially named the national library of medicine and made a part of the public health service in 1956 with the passage of a law cosponsored by senator lister hill and the then senator john f kennedy in april 1962 the library moved into its new quarters next door to the national institutes of health in bethesda maryland a suburb of washington slides 1-5 the mission of the library is to assist in the advancement of medical and related sciences through the collection dissemination and exchange of scientific and other information important to the progress of medicine and public health in accomplishing this mission the library 1 conducts direct operations relative to the collection organization and servicing of information materials and 2 administers extramural programs designed to strengthen the development of medical library services in the united states for a hundred years the library has served as a national and international reservoir of the published literature of the medical sciences its holdings representing more than 70 languages exceed 1300000 pieces thus making it the world's largest research library in a single scientific and professional field

Page  2 2 approximately 15000 serial titles are being received currently materials are collected exhaustively in nearly 40 biomedical subject areas and to a lesser degree in a number of related areas general chemistry physics zoology botany psychology and instrumentation the library acquires new material at the rate of approximately 100000 items per year through its interlibrary loan program the library provides a world-wide service to the biomedical community by making its collection available to workers in fields related to health upon request the library will furnish other libraries with single photocopies of journal articles which those libraries do not possess and which are not available locally there is no charge for this service and the photoduplicated material may be retained permanently by the requesting library slides 6-7 all loan requests must be submitted to the library by authorized libraries on prescribed forms showing a complete bibliographic citation for each request the library further assists the work of u s libraries by lending original copies of volumes in its collection in addition the national library of medicine has the responsibility for the comprehensive indexing of the world's literature pertaining to medicine it is the only library in the united states performing this task nearly 60 of the library's collection of medical journals is in languages other than english to ensure that the world's biomedical community has bibliographic access to this literature the library has for many years published subject indexes of which the index medicus is best known in an effort to achieve more effective management of the literature in the face of the tremendous growth biomedical

Page  3 3 information the library conceived and developed a new system for bibliographic indexing and data processing medlars stands for medical literature analysis and retrieval system this system combines the intellectual talents of trained literature analysts with the processing capabilities of a high-speed electronic computer the literature analysts review each article to determine how it should be indexed the data they develop are punched on tapes input into the computer and transferred to magnetic tapes for storage and retrieval each reel of tape about 12 inches in diameter holds approximately 35000 bibliographic citations the system began to input data on 1 january 1963 and now has more than 500000 scientific articles indexed and stored on magnetic tape medlars does three principal jobs index medicus slide 8 the library's computer is used to process ie compile and print this publication a comprehensive monthly subject and author index to articles from approximately 2400 of the world's biomedical journals this process formerly required 22 days per month with medlars it is now being done in five days more than half of the material in index medicus comes from journals published outside the united states recurring bibliographies these are periodically issued lists of citations in specialized medical subject areas such as rheumatic diseases diabetes heart disease mental health and drug toxicity these specialty listings are compiled at regular intervals from data in the computer store and printed for distribution by government agencies and nonprofit national professional organizations working in the specialty fields

Page  4 4 .demand bibliographies slide 9 a major reason for computerizing the library's information files is to permit rapid machine searching of the computer's data files to provide answers to complex reference questions which cannot be effectively handled by existing printed indexes and catalogs the results of such searches are called demand bibliographies by 1969 the medlars computer file will contain over 1,000,000 citations a simultaneous search of all these citations for answers to as many as 35 different complex reference questions can be made reports summarizing information from the computer are printed out by two processes the high speed printer which operates at the speed of 21600 words per minute and the graphic arts composing equipment grace a computer driven phototypsetter which operates at a speed of 3600 words per minute grace prints in multiple fonts and several type forms slides 10-lla medlars decentralization much of the importance of medlars lies in its ability to adapt to the changing need in medicine and the medical literature aside from the great quantity of the literature a second phenomenon of science since world war ii is the merging of medical and biological disciplines into new relationships as required by various health missions researchers in cancer or heart disease for example draw on the work of scientists from many disciplines requiring literature management systems which can retrieve information from many disciplines thus medlars covers many subjects related to medicine from the beginning the concept of medlars has included plans for the decentralization of its citation retrieval capacity to a network of library centers across the country thus giving medical scientists teachers and practitioners faster and more effective access to biomedical information

Page  5 5 the library plans to develop such a network by building on the existing computer and medical library resources in educational and research centers the first step in this program was taken in december with the establishment of a pilot search center at the biomedical library of the university of california at los angeles using duplicate tapes provided by the library the california center is reprogramming the nlm tapes for use on other types of computers and will study the utility of these tapes for search and retrieval in a regional setting the center's experiments with demand searches will help to resolve technical questions inherent in formulating searches and will develop cost data and search center personnel training requirements the university of colorado center has already demonstrated the feasibility and economy of such operations slide 12 decentralization to other nonprofit institutions began in 1966 it is planned that medlars search capabilities will have the benefit of experience in specialized programming data conversion personnel training and specialized information utilization after broad decentralization is realized any one of the cooperating institutions should be able to retrieve reference services locally from medlars tapes master data tapes will be maintained and updated by the national library of medicine thus other institutions will be spared the high costs of the equipment and personnel necessary for the indexing and inputting of bibliographic citations finally the nlm has completed the design of a conceptual framework of a national medical library network slides 17-20 in summary the national library of medicine serves as the principal united states depository bibliographic and reference services for the

Page  6 6 world's medical literature the functions of the library in accumulating storing and retrieving biomedical documents are designed to make maximal utilization by physicians and scientists of the knowledge contained in printed records this knowledge has but nominal value until it is successfully communicated to teachers students researchers and practitioners of medicine where it then may result in better health for the peoples of the world the awesome task of indexing the world's biomedical literature has been assumed by the national library of medicine for almost a century computer techniques have been applied to this task to help keep pace with the massive increase in published medical literature which has taken place during the past several decades to the extent possible we intend to share our capacities as a reference and document retrieval system with other libraries throughout the nation through the development of a medical library network

Page  7 The Pan American Health Organization has studied the problem of library services needed for Latin America and I am pleased that they have concluded that the creation of regional library resources represents an economical and practical approach for solution to the medical communications problems which exist. We at the National Library of Medicine stand ready to help with technical consultation and assistance should this be desired and requested. The National Library of Medicine proposes to give 50,000 its book credits held at the U.S. Book Exchange to each of several regional medical libraries to be established throughout the world. These libraries should be created in existing medical centers where serious deficiencies in biomedical communications exist. To assure effective and sustained regional library services to physicians and scientists of the area will require modern facilities, careful administration and some mechanism for sustained support. Thus we were pleased to learn that the G.M.L. and the republic of Panama were interested in serving these functions for Central America. I hope you will give such a proposal to establish a regional library in C. America your careful consideration and support.