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Hello colleagues,
Below is the summary from my question, starting with the original message sent to Medlib and the responses, in order of their receipt.  I have tried to strip out identifying information - only one sender specifically requested this, but I thought it was safer to do it for all of them.  So, when you see X, that replaces a proper name.

We are ordering a storage box with foam in the bottom and top, in which we will cut out the appropriate shapes to safely store the skull bones.  Once safely stored, the skull will be available to our library users for as an in-house reserve item.  

Thanks so much to everyone who responded. As always, the collective wisdom and generosity of the group is a thing of wonder and beauty!

-- Lisa

Lisa K. Traditi, MLS, AHIP
Head of Education and Assistant Professor
[log in to unmask]  ▪ 303-724-2141  ▪  http://hslibrary.ucdenver.edu 
Health Sciences Library  ▪  Anschutz Medical Campus  ▪  University of Colorado Denver
12950 E. Montview Blvd., MS A003  ▪  Aurora, CO 80045




-----Original Message-----
From: Medical Libraries Discussion List [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Traditi, Lisa
Sent: Monday, November 22, 2010 11:11 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Does your library have real human bones?

Hi Medlibbers,
Our library is considering accepting a donation of a human skull.  We only wish to accept it if we can use it to educate our students.  If you have real human real human bones in your collection that are available to your patrons – I would appreciate your time in answering the following questions.

Please note:  I’m only interested in responses if you allow your patrons to view/study the bones.

1.      If so, do you allow them to circulate in house?
1a. On general reserve?
1b. On special reserve (in an archives, for instance)?

2.      What, if anything, happens if bones are damaged?

3.      Is there anything done to the bones to preserve them?

4.      Do you have any notes in the catalog record about the ethical use of human remains?

I’ll happily compile for the list if there is interest.
Thanks!
Lisa


-----Original Message-----
Sent: Monday, November 22, 2010 9:18 AM

We no longer provide bones for study and viewing.  Something to consider is that we  had some bones donated to the library and later we needed to dispose of them.  I had to consult with our Pathologist in the Lab and that department was involved in disposing of them.  Apparently you cannot just get rid of bones - there are legal and health issues.
....

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Monday, November 22, 2010 9:21 AM

We have the hospital's museum/archive attached to the library.  The museum has a collection of human specimens including bones and other organs and tissues previously used for medical education, prior to the digital age.  Organs and tissues are preserved in formaldehyde.  None of these circulate, although one physician did borrow a few items for a research open house recently.  Haven't had any damage in 10 years since I've been here.  Had to have tissue specimens resealed in new formaldehyde a few years ago as some were leaking and posing a health hazard.  Local university anatomy department took care of that.  All items are available for patron viewing in the museum by appointment.  None are in OPAC.
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-----Original Message-----
Sent: Monday, November 22, 2010 10:05 AM

You probably already thought of this but you might contact 

Anna Dhody
Curator, Mütter Museum
215-399-2302
[log in to unmask]

They might have a good policy.  

Also you might put a note into the people at 

ALHHS
http://unitproj.library.ucla.edu/biomed/his/alhhs/
....


-----Original Message-----
Sent: Monday, November 22, 2010 11:55 AM

Hi.  We have human bones in our library for student use.  My answers are below.  I would be interested in seeing your results.  Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.  Thank you,

1.	If so, do you allow them to circulate in house? 
Yes, we allow them to circulate in house only.  An I.D. is held while bones are in use.  During exam times, we institute one hour time limits. 
 
1a. On general reserve? 
Our general reserve is overnight checkout, so we don’t do this.
  
1b. On special reserve (in an archives, for instance)?   
n/a

2.      What, if anything, happens if bones are damaged?  
They do get damaged, as they are fragile, but it is minimal.  Unless there is suspected malicious damage, we would not do anything.  Bones can be repaired, but I have not looked into the cost of this service.  

3.      Is there anything done to the bones to preserve them?  
We don’t do anything special to preserve them.  Our bones are used as they were received from either a donation or the anatomy company.

4.      Do you have any notes in the catalog record about the ethical use of human remains?  
Our students are taught this the first week of anatomy class; we do not have any notes in the library reinforcing this information.

Some additional information:  Our bones are “packaged” in wood boxes or plastic containers (upper extremity, lower extremity, thorax/spine, feet).  The skulls are in plastic, padded skull boxes.  Other bones are wrapped with bubble wrap or thick felt to prevent movement that would promote chipping or damage.  Students are given a protective mat to put on the table to protect the bones from hitting a hard surface.  (I purchased foam yoga mats and cut them a little larger than placemat size.)  We also have plastic bones, which hold up much better, but are not as defined and varied as human bones are.  Students appreciate having real bones to study outside of the smelly anatomy lab.

....

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Monday, November 22, 2010 12:04 PM

1.      If so, do you allow them to circulate in house?
1a. On general reserve?		
1b. On special reserve (in an archives, for instance)?

	We have 4 wooden boxes which contain parts of human skeletons.  They are on general reserve for XU students and must be looked at in house.

2.      What, if anything, happens if bones are damaged?

	The Faculty member which donated them sometimes sends someone to check the boxes.  That assistant takes out damaged bones.  However, to my knowledge, they don't get replaced.  Therefore, there are missing pieces--and still, broken pieces.  

3.      Is there anything done to the bones to preserve them?

	As far as I know, there is nothing special we've done to preserve them.

4.      Do you have any notes in the catalog record about the ethical use of human remains?
	There are no notes in the catalog record to this effect.

....

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Monday, November 22, 2010 12:55 PM

Your message to the Medlib was forwarded to me by one of our librarians.  At the X Health Sciences Library at The X University we have real human bones in our collection.  They were acquired through purchases and donations.  We have several skulls that are housed in padded boxes.  We also have individual bones that are kept in hanging plastic bags.  Finally, we have two “bone boxes”- padded boxes that each contain bones from one side of the body.
The real bones, especially the skulls, are very popular with the students.  Usually they prefer a real skull over plastic.  

1.If so, do you allow them to circulate in house?

The bones are kept on closed reserve behind the circulation desk.  They circulate for two hours and have to remain in the library.  We allow students to check out two individual bones, or one bone box or one skull at a time.

1a. On general reserve? 

Yes.  The real bones circulate for two hours like all our reserve items and have the same late fines.

1b. On special reserve (in an archives, for instance)? 

No.     

2.      What, if anything, happens if bones are damaged?

The damage to the skulls all seems to be from normal usage.  When this happens, we put a note in the item record so staff know the skull was already damaged.  If it is something we can fix, such as a loose or bent wire, we fix it.  If someone caused extensive damage, outside of normal wear and tear, we would enter a manual fine on their record for the replacement cost.  At least one skull has been withdrawn due to extensive wear.  The individual bones and bone boxes have held up well.  

3.      Is there anything done to the bones to preserve them?

I don’t know if anything was done to preserve the bones before they arrived at the library.  The skulls are stored in cases that are completely padded.  The bone boxes have some padding.  Within the last two years one of our staff cleaned a few of the bones following instructions that came from anatomy faculty.  I think this was the first time any were cleaned.    


4.      Do you have any notes in the catalog record about the ethical use of human remains? 

No

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-----Original Message-----
Sent: Monday, November 29, 2010 8:57 PM

Ours is a relatively small private History of Medicine library. In addition to printed materials, we hold artifacts which illustrate them.  
 
Persons who would likely find anatomical material useful are tactfully, in conversation, made aware of its availability for on-site examination/study. 

Most of the anatomical material is stored in a secure area near the microscopes and slides in the HMA (hist. of med. artifacts) section of our stacks.
 
The artifacts are not recorded in the main library database (6 vols of bound accession listings, largely updated with an economy-dictated combination of 3x5 cards and dedicated computer. Detailed identification of the artifacts is ongoing. Users generally do not personally consult our finding aids. 
 
Bones don't really need treatment to store them, just good care. 
    A cardinal rule in my medical office was that "The opportunity for embarrassment should never occur".
    With bones in a library, museum, or other collection, the opportunity for damage should never occur. 
 
Any instance of damage would call for serious thought. 
 
Careful secure packing is warranted. (Initially wrap in a layer of glassine or acid-free tissue paper, then in cotton, and store in sturdy, labelled box).  
 
Our users are all well aware of ethical issues involved, believe me..
 
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