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June 2008, Week 1


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Medical Libraries Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Heidi Adams <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 3 Jun 2008 16:29:43 -0600
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Heidi Adams <[log in to unmask]>
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Original Question:

Does anyone know where I can get a rough estimate of the number of
hospitals with medical librarians?  As compared to hospitals without
medical librarians?


I was hoping to have the number because one of our administrators
mentioned for a newspaper interview that we're part of "an elite few
hospitals who had a medical library" -- which then led to the question
of how many?  

Because the information was needed in "administrator-time" (and a
reporter can be a captive audience for only so long) I ended up counting
the number of hospitals in our state as listed in the AHA guide (63) and
then comparing that to our state's Hospital Library members of NN/LM (15
total, 11 full members) and used that for comparison purposes for our
state.  I did not go any further than this for various reasons.  

It remains to be seen how this will be printed in the article - if it
will be at all.

For the many of you who are interested in the summaries, here you go:

Carla Funk at MLA may be able to help you with this

Did you check with MLA headquarters?  They may already have this type of
statistic, and would also hopefully be able to show the change over time
(since several hospitals have recently closed their libraries).  
In the past they also had letters which were sent to hospital
administrators stressing the importance of libraries.  There are several
good items here:

Response from Carla Funk at MLA:

[the following] data was gathered as part of the Vital Pathways Project-
we hope to have the complete survey plus a number of other articles
about hospital libraries published in a JMLA symposium in 2009.

Below is a paragraph that I developed based upon MLA's hospital library
survey activities in 2004-2006.  It talks about the number of hospital
libraries and not librarians.  In the survey (we received 611 usable
responses) we found that about 73% of the libraries were staffed by a
professional librarian.  I hope this helps you a little.

"It is estimated that there were between 5,795 (AHA) and 6,224
(Directory) hospitals in the U.S. in 2004/2005 based on AHA data and
information in the Directory of Hospital Personnel, 2005 edition.
According to the AHA, there were 6,853 registered hospitals in the U.S.
in January 1990, a decline of 15.5% from the 2004 figure. It is further
estimated that there were between 1,950 (NN/LM) and 2,513 hospital
libraries (Directory of Hospital Personnel) in 2004/2005.  According to
the AHA, it is estimated that there were 3,030 hospital libraries in
1990.  Therefore, comparing this figure to the 2004/2005 data, it is
estimated that the number of hospital libraries has declined between
17.1% and 35.7% between 1990 and 2004/2005." 

I did a study like this once just for our NNLM region using the AHA
guide.  I don't remember what I used to find the hospital libraries.  My
count was just for hospitals with libraries.  I don't know what the
"librarians'" qualifications were at every library.  In my region, there
was a considerable difference in the library/hospital of each state.

I have been trying to track this information for the past 19 years with
absolutely no credible success.  You might think this odd, since unnamed
vendor has a multitude of personnel making personal visits to hospitals
and calling on the phone.  The problem is that it's difficult to get a
consistent definition of what constitutes a "medical library", much less
whether or not the warm body who might staff the library two days a week
is an MLS or equivalent librarian.

About the closest I can get is my unverifiable and empirical sense that
out of the 6000+ hospitals in the US, maybe 1000+ of them employ what
you and I would call a medical librarian.  The largest hospitals employ
more than one librarian.   Another 1000 or so hospitals have a room they
call the library, and someone without a library degree oversees it (this
number has grown in the past decade).  Another 500, probably more, claim
to have a library, but it is totally unstaffed (this number has also
grown).  This is a place where the docs can drop off old issues of
medical journals they get at home.  There might be a computer in the
room, too.

What I hear over and over again from hospital staff (those without
libraries and/or librarians) is that they are perfectly comfortable
relying on the information in the free journals every doctor gets, and
what information is freely available on the Web.  It scares the dickens
out of me.

I just checked on the total membership count of the Hospital Library
Section, but I also know that there are lots of HLS members who, like
me, do not actually work in a hospital.  But to my delight, found this
juicy tidbit in the Hospital Library Section's most recent annual report
(4/08) - "The membership list was reviewed for non-hospital library or
health system members. Of our Section's 1043 members, 143, or 13.7%,
were identified as not being in a hospital or health system setting."
So that tells us that 900 MLA members work in a hospital.  Given that
some very large hospitals (usually those affiliated with a medical
school) employ two or three librarians, maybe 800 hospital librarians
are solo?  And not every qualified librarian belongs to MLA (although
they should), so I might raise my estimate to 1200 hospitals with a
qualified medical librarian...but it's anybody's guess. 


Heidi Sue Adams, MS, AHIP     Medical Librarian
Kalispell Regional Medical Center - Medical Library
310 Sunnyview Lane   Kalispell MT  59901
406-752-1739 (voice)  406-752-8771 (fax)
[log in to unmask]  (DOCLINE: MTUKRH)