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At 08:38 AM 7/4/96 -0500, you wrote:
>Dear Medlibbers,
>I hope I will see a lot of response to the list on this one.  Essentially in
>Karen message of 7/3/96 she is asking for information on studies which have
>evaluated "free Medline sources" to traditional vendors for fees.  She says
>that her library committee (composed predominately of physicians), feels that
>the hospital complex she is employed at, no longer needs to support
>subscriptions as they are "free on the internet now."
>
>This message is very scary to me.  Many libraries have spent a lot of money
>putting in systems such as Ovid, which is expensive, to act as primary
>providers for the hospital.  I overheard a physicain at out instutution telling
>a new incoming resident, "yeah, I get physicians online with the full text of
>articles now.  It is practically free.  We can save a lot of money not haveing
>to waste our time going to the library anymore."!!!!!!
>
>We really need to get our act together and find out what is going on with all
>these so called free services now.  I really get so tired of this working in
>a hospital library.  We seem to be constantly having to justify our
>existence.  How do we compete with free?
>Larry Dormer
>Hackensack Medical Center
>[log in to unmask]
 
From the physicians point of view, it has always been free.  What appears to
be changing is the access point.  Nevertheless, the obstacles between the
question(s) that is/are the catalyst for the search and the "found"
information remain the same; how does one go about 1) composing the search
and 2) knowing where to look.  In my frame of reference (managing) the
dilemma is almost identical; what is the right question and how should it be
phrased?
 
Historically, composing the right question(s) and performing the task part
of the search , including knowing where to look, has always been bound
together.  Rather than thinking in terms of "competing with free", consider
thinking in terms of positioning your knowledge and experience as a resource
(to others) for composing effective searches.
 
I do a fair amount of searches on the internet for customers.  I am not
convinced that I do a highly effective job (even though each one is better
than the last), although my customers seem to think so.  In all honesty,
thought, they may not have anything to compare my results to.  I'd be
curious to see what would happen if the next time I received a search
request, I handed it over to a skilled, experienced librarian and we
"competed" for the best results in the "free" information environment.  I
suspect that the librarian would do a lot better.  The difference (between
the librarian's results and my results) is, in my opinion, where the value
(and the justification for existence) is to be found in the future.
 
If this general idea is expanded to include the management of information
throughout the entire organization, the effect that a librarian's skill and
knowledge could have on managers and the quality of their decisions could be
staggering.  Despite our protestations to the contrary, and all the hype we
spew about experience, we (managers) know little or nothing about collecting
data, converting it to information, and using it as a basis for formulating
responses (decisions) to strategic and operational issues in health care
organizations.  I see many rich opportunities for the skills librarians
have, although not necessarily in the same venues in which they have
traditionally been found.
 
Bill Braun
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