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Author: Cummings, Martin Marc, 1920-2011
Title: Librariagenesis and Librariacide, 1981
Occasion: Presented to the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.
MMC Commentary: This talk deals with the controversy between the commercial publishing sector and the information sector. The meaning of this title was the contrast between the growth and development of libraries or the death of libraries. The fact that the speech was given in Philadelphia was important not only for its content but also because some of the attacks against the National Library of Medicine came from a commercial organization in Philadelphia. Thus the adversarial relationship was brought forth in the home town of one of the adversaries. It also provided me with an opportunity to compliment one of the nation's oldest medical societies, the Philadelphia College of Physicians, and to seek to gain their support in this important confrontation. The arguments I presented received strong expressions of support from the leaders of medicine. It should be noted that the Philadelphia College of Physicians serves as one of the original seven regional libraries in the National Network of Libraries of Medicine. It also was one of the first institutions to receive financial support for its history of medicine collection. Some leaders of the Philadelphia College of Physicians who were interested in the problem were present. They included Dr. Leroy Burney, the former Surgeon General of the Public Health Service; Dr. Richard Kern, a former President of the College; Dr. William Kellow, Chairman of the Deans Committee of the University of Pennsylvania; Dr. Sam Ravdin, Professor of Surgery, University of Pennsylvania; and Dr. John Hubbard of the College of Physicians. All were influential in supporting the library's position. It should also be noted that I was honored to be a Fellow of the College of Physicians. The origin of the confrontation between the private sector and National Library of Medicine stems from a legal challenge to the library by the Williams and Wilkins Publishing Co. of Baltimore, which demanded fees for allowing photocopying of their journal articles. But the more serious challenge came from a large Dutch publishing company named Elsevier. They engaged registered foreign lobbyists to attempt to influence Congress to prevent the National Library of Medicine from providing its computer-based information services. Also Elsevier owned a competitive commercial service called Excerpta Medica, which produced abstracts of selected medical materials. The struggle went on for years before it was clearly ended by the American medical community coming to the support of the National Library of Medicine and the Congress ultimately giving explicit authority to NLM to continue its practices.
Subject terms:
National Library of Medicine (U.S.)
Access to Information
Library Services
History of Medicine
College of Physicians of Philadelphia
Morse, Elliott H. (Elliott How), 1916-1992
Library of the College of Physicians
Radbill, Samuel X., 1901-1987
Billings, John S. (John Shaw), 1838-1913
Mitchell, S. Weir (Silas Weir), 1829-1914
Medical Library Assistance Act of 1965