Plans for the Development of a Medical Library Network, 1966
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a plans for the development of a medical library network martin m cummings m d many plans have been submitted during the past several years for the development of national information systems and networks unfortunately many of these proposals disregard existing institutions such as universities and their libraries and the role they can play in the development of a national information network the national library of medicine believes that any national system should build upon existing resources utilizing w techniques and equipment wherever possible to improve the flow of 1 ormation throughout me network we are in the process of developing our own concept for a national medical library systam for the health sciences the planned network was given major impetus by the recent passage of the medical library assistance act of 1965 which was signed into law by the president on october 22nd the nlm staff believes it necessary that new data on library functions and standards are required before one can intelligently perform systems analysis and design for the development of a medical library network i will report in general terms the overall framework of the type of system which we envision undoubtedly changes will occur as data is acquired the objectives of our concep of i national medical library network are 1 to increase the resources of published information necessary for he advancement and application of sciences related to health 2 to relate strengthened resources to the introduction of new technologies for development of a coordinated network of library services presented to educom group january 24 1966 edgewater beach hotel chicago illinois

Page  2 2 3 to offset inequalities of geographic distribution of information resources in an attempt to guarantee to all engaged in the national health effort equal and prompt access to the published information which they require in their work 4 to serve mission or subject-oriented groups as well as libraries themselves the following principles are basic to the development of this plan 1 the major capital investments in existing resources should be utilized optimally institutions which have developed information service functions are capable of modification but need not be replaced by new institutional forms which involve duplication of capital costs 2 modification of traditional service patterns necessitates close cooperation between government and private agencies the federal function should be one of leadership and persuasion in the establish ment and progress toward the realization of common objectives 3 universities and industry as major users of information should play an important role in the development of the system 4 to realize their full potential new technologies of information retrieval must be developed in close association with library based document retrieval systems 5 the development of a network of medical information resources involving libraries while fundamental to improved medical communication must be supplemented by programs for the dissemination of these resources to specialized interests involved in the national health effort

Page  3 3 6 the system should be compatible with other major national network efforts in other scientific disciplines overview of the total system slide 1 basic input to the system would be medical literature published throughout the world the national library of medicine would continue its traditional function as a central collecting and switching mechanism by comprehensively acquiring this literature and processing it for the widest possible dissemination distribution of this information to users at the local level would be accomplished in two ways 1 information would be distributed geographically through a network of regional libraries serving local institutions and individual users a model or prototype regional library complex is needed to test and evaluate various service patterns 2 information would also be repackaged for specialty groups where the medical literature is segmented to meet the particular needs of a subject field or institutional mission let us now turn our attention to the three major parts of the system centralized processing at nlm geographic dissemination and mission oriented dissemination centralized functions of the network slide 2 the national library of medicine has traditionally functioned as the center of an informal network of medical libraries in this country nlm will continue to serve in this role and with the advice of its board of regents will be the responsible agent for planning the network including selection of existing centers of excellence to serve as regional medical libraries and search centers once the network is operational nlm will

Page  4 4 coordinate the network activities and evaluate the services being provided by the member institutions the regional medical libraries will be supported financially by the nlm specifically i do not agree with those who believe that the federal government should pay for the costs of generating new subsystems and then withdraw leaving local institutions to maintain the operational costs it is my view that the local institutions are not financially capable of maintaining a heavy regional service load without federal assistance nlm engages in a comprehensive acquisitions program to procure published medical literature throughout the world this necessitates a constant search for all literature in the medical field and frequently requires changes of policy on scope and coverage to encompass new interdisciplinary fields eg biophysics and environmental health for economy and standardization of format bibliographic processing should be done centrally by nlm which has engaged in indexing and cataloging the world's medical literature for almost a century all new books will be cataloged and substantive journal articles will be indexed in depth bibliographic data so generated will be entered into the nlm computer medlars system and stored on magnetic tape these tapes will then be made available to other libraries and user groups for regional and local services since the library has a statuatory requirement for archival preservation of all the material in its collection it will be necessary to record most of the new acquisitions permanently in microform information in microform will then be provided for strengthening the resources of local medical libraries in those cases where materials cannot be purchased from

Page  5 5 commercial sources a film file of current material could also be useful in an interlibrary loan system covering material not available in the regional medical libraries nlm would maintain a continuous liaison with publishers in order to discuss and develop improved methods of publishing which can aid the bibliographic processes for example as more and more of the publishers begin to use automated processes in their printing plants magnetic tapes or paper tapes of the full text of documents might be available for possible experimental use in automatic indexing although the library will serve as a wholesaler of information to components of the network it will also continue to serve to some extent as a retail outlet providing local services to other federal agencies to professional societies and possibly to medical libraries in the middle atlantic states the nlm would also provide supporting services to the network through its newly approved grant programs for the development of facilities resources secondary publications and the support of local research and training activities geographic dissemination slide 3 geographic dissemination of published information would be accomplished through the mechanism of regional medical libraries nlm would periodically update the information stores of the regional medical libraries with bibliographic data on magnetic tape printed bibliographies and microforms of selected publications which were not commercially available the regional medical libraries would be responsible for providing services to local institutions including

Page  6 6 1 literature searches by computer 2 computer generated current-awareness listings 3 copies of documents or in some cases abstracts of the original documents in either hard copy or microform 4 reference services 5 training and orientation of medical libraries 6 support of specialized information centers nlm is currently seeking a responsible study group to determine adequate standards for regional medical libraries and to pinpoint the services which can be moat effectively provided through this mechanism nlm is supporting a similar study of medical school libraries through a contract with the american association of medical colleges mission-oriented dissemination slide 4 it is recognized that the regional library complex may not meet the total needs of all special interest groups in the health sciences in the nlm plan specialized bibliographic data will be repackaged in machine read able form or printed lists for the use of these mission-oriented groups for example bibliographic data will be provided to other federal agencies to provide services to their own medical and scientific personnel the nlm has already worked with the veterans administration for the establishment of a specialized medlars literature search center to provide demand bibliographies to va hospital staff members similar agreements are being negotiated with several other federal health agencies the library has also been involved for the last two years in working with professional societies and other national specialty organizations in providing recurring bibliographies to their members through the medlars

Page  7 7 computer system master film copies of several such specialized bibliographies have already been prepared examples of these include the semi monthly index of rheumatology printed and distributed by the american rheumatism association index to the dental literature printed and distributed by the american dental association and cerebrovascular bibliography jointly sponsored by the national institute of neurological diseases and blindness and the national heart institute specialized private industrial organizations may also acquire published data in machine readable form from the medical library network preliminary negotiations have been held with such organizations as the pharmaceutical manufacturers association for the distribution of medlars magnetic tapes to member companies as mentioned earlier regional medical libraries may also support mission-oriented information dissemination by providing intensive biblio graphic services for specialized information centers in their geographic locality for example the medlars center at the university of california los angeles will be providing magnetic tape files of citations of particular interest to the brain research information center located at ucla in this connection an important cycle of feedback to nlm can be achieved for example the terminology classification and vocabulary of medicine would be detailed by the user groups particularly by specialty groups in specialized information centers this detailed classification system would then be integrated into the nlm medical subject heading list nlm would perform its role of maintaining indexing tools and procedures analyzing documents converting the material into machine input handling the computer processing for the output of indices and bibliographies providing these to subsets

Page  8 8 of users and more importantly providing the horizontal base of the literature to the specialized user groups these groups then would disseminate the information to their own membership providing feedback again in a recycling so that the result would be a loop relating libraries to specialized information centers the above list of examples is by no means comprehensive but is indicative of the type of specialized repackaging of information required to meet the interests of the many mission-oriented groups experimental linkages information will flow throughout the national network in a variety of forms materials acquired from publishers may take the form of printed documents microform and machine-readable tapes used in automatic type setting systems bibliographic data can be transmitted from the central nlm facility to regional libraries and mission-oriented users via printed bibliographies the mailing of magnetic tapes or through electronic linkages utilizing teletype voice-grade or microwave circuits hard copy may be transmitted from nlm to regional libraries and within the regional complexes themselves via mailing of original documents microforms or photocopies of the original and possibly by facsimile transmiy providing the horizontal base of the literature to the specialized user groups these groups then would disseminate the information to their own membership providing feedback again in a recycling so that the result would be a loop relating libraries to specialized information centers the above list of examples is by no means comprehensive but is indicative of the type of specialized repackaging of information required to meet the interests of the many mission-oriented groups experimental linkages information will flow throughout the national network in a variety of forms materials acquired from publishers may take the form of printed documents microform and machine-readable tapes used in automatic type setting systems bibliographic data can be transmitted from the central nlm facility to regional libraries and mission-oriented users via printed bibliographies the mailing of magnetic tapes or through electronic linkages utilizing teletype voice-grade or microwave circuits hard copy may be transmitted from nlm to regional libraries and within the regional complexes themselves via mailing of original documents microforms or photocopies of the original and possibly by facsimile transmission nlm intends to experiment with the selection of the appropriate linkages for various parts of the networy providing the horizontal base of the literature to the specialized user groups these groups then would disseminate the information to their own membership providing feedback again in a recycling so that the result would be a loop relating libraries to specialized information centers the above list of examples is by no means comprehensive but is indicative of the type of specialized repackaging of information required to meet the interests of the many mission-oriented groups experimental linkages information will flow throughout the national network in a variety of forms materials acquired from publishers may take the form of printed documents microform and machine-readable tapes used in automatic type setting systems bibliographic data can be transmitted from the central nlm facility to regional libraries and mission-oriented users via printed bibliographies the mailing of magnetic tapes or through electronic linkages utilizing teletype voice-grade or microwave circuits hard copy may be transmitted from nlm to regional libraries and within the regional complexes themselves via mailing of original documents microforms or photocopies of the original and possibly by facsimile transmission nlm intends to experiment with the selection of the appropriate linkages for various parts of the network through contractor studies as well as through its own intramural research program factors which must be considered in determining the appropriate means of transmitting information are

Page  9 9 1 cost 2 volume of data to be transmitted 3 throughput time requirements 4 transmission quality requirements that is minimum allowable noise levels 5 the state of the art of the technologies for electronic linkage 6 administration and operational problems for institutions conclusion this report has attempted to outline a framework of a national medical library network the plan is by no means complete and considerable work must be done by the staff of the national library of medicine with the cooperation of many institutions throughout the united states we hope that groups such as educom will concern themselves with this problem other considerations not covered in this report must be explored also for example how should a medical library network relate to proposed networks in other disciplines and to an overall national information system should the network be eventually expanded to include international institutions to foster cooperation with organizations such as the world health organization how will nlm's experiences with mechanization be utilized by other research libraries such as the library of congress and the national agricultural library how will independent regional developments such as the columbia harvard-yale cataloging effort fit into the national network many other problems remain to be solved nevertheless the nlm intends to pursue its mission vigorously and to develop a comprehensive plan designed to facilitate the dissemination of scientific and medical information among health scientists medical educators and practitioners the scientific revolution of the twentieth century must be accompanied by technological

Page  10 10 developments which make the knowledge generated by research available to all who have need to use it however we will not attempt to do this without regard to cost we intend to utilize the test and demonstration technique as currently practiced with the medlars decentralization plan before implementing a national library network the network may be built from an apex nlm downward or from the base local libraries upward we are convinced however that it cannot be built from an uncoordinated effort outside the triangle of existing local regional and national resources