The various Royal Colleges have overall objectives such as advancing  science and practice, further public education and promote study and research,  and disseminate the results in their specialty.

Being in a reflective mode I have wondered what the role and function of a medical library is. The traditional view of the library is having access to information and content but I would say it should be an environment for “innovation, productivity, collaboration, and knowledge”. (Mathews 2012). But the majority of the population, me included, do not use libraries to get information.  Google, Google  Scholar and Wikipedia are often the first places individuals go to for information. Attention is scarce whilst e-resources are abundant so there are opportunities and challenges for any library. Libraries continue to be dominated by print collections with books, journals and even manuscripts.

But who owns the library collection. It is not owned solely by the library but by the institution, society and culture that has collected it. We as a society own that collection as a culture. As someone who has a passing interest in medical history I believe the preservation of this cultural record should not only honor the past but also to be part of the creation of the new cultural record. For those involved in libraries, collections or museums this responsibility must be to preserve and maintain the archiving of the collections. Now we must include a greater range of documents – images , audio and other data items.

For those who create and manage space devoted to the various collections they will mitigate how the library provides access to and ensures the use of this cultural record to the users. In the current state of flux in libraries this will be a challenge. There is a need to make  better use of spaces which will most likely result in devoting a smaller footprint to the less used print collections. There will be a focus of attention on a smaller number of  library spaces.  On the other hand if libraries are successful they may need to accommodate growth in the physical collection, on line collection and patron use.

I have a personal long standing view of the use and value of the library with regard to curating.  Curating, producing, and facilitating the use of the cultural record in all its numerous forms could make the library a hub of intellectual life whether it be a NHS Trust, University Campus or Post Graduate Faculty. Essentially we must involve the user. Assisting users in the creation, evaluation, and production of the content we would ensure participation and give added value. There are certainly opportunities for shared efforts around digital curation. The selection and curation of collections requires curatorial discussions and a need for a wide consultation which takes time and effort. I certainly think networked curation is key to our library’s  survival. So libraries need to cut across institutions through a variety of alliances that may be geographic, institutional or peer.

 Increasingly librarians serve as instructional designers, collaborating in delivering online learning environments, and as collaborators in the classroom. We need to create repositories for content and support more effective engagement with users both in research and learning.  This is an area of library work in which we should invest not only to engage but also motivate researchers and learners alike and the next generation.

Libraries are not brick and stone anymore.  They serve members in terms of non-traditional library service irrespective of space and time. Traditionally libraries have been most concerned with access to information and content. However accessing information is no longer an issue. We are now in the “Social Age” which aids the dissemination of information. Mitchell Kapor said, “Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant.” The introduction of digital technologies has not changed the essential nature of the library but it has created a path for increased vitality and long- term viability. Digital promises to make the cultural work of libraries easier and more sustainable.

The shift of resources from print to digital is one of the greatest challenges. Social Media is a growing organism with various tools and applications being introduced every day. We must respect all the forms by which knowledge is communicated. The aim should be to use technology intelligently to enhance our service.

For Libraries at whatever level publishing is an area to be explored, ranging from the most modest reproduction and dissemination of materials to full- blown editorial processes with peer review. It is just as important that we get the print problem right as it is for other types of communication. There is an opportunity to work at scale but we need a shared publishing platform. Technology is there to make coordinated library efforts more cost-effective and sustainable to support this publishing.

At whatever level we must assert leadership and engage in creating economic models and strategies that will support the long- term viability of the Library in all its format.

This necessitates Including the strategy with other endeavours, at local national and international level with the functions of the library,  wherever you are. Develop partnerships with the individuals and organisations  who create, collect, and analyze data.

Other organisations should not be seen as competitors but partners and collaborators, (though don’t allow the collaboration to get overly complex). Work with users and develop relationships with them to create services specifically geared to their needs.

But today resources are flat or declining, whilst both needs and costs are increasing.

We all know we face a rapidly changing set of environmental circumstances.  If your library is spending 1% of the expenditure it is doing well. But libraries cannot succeed with flat or diminishing resources without also adapting or changing the way they do their work. Adequate budgets need to be sourced. The library members must see that the costs are “off value” and “added value”.

Libraries  will audit the levels of internet access , print borrowing, and “gate counts”. But the flip side of this  we need to find out what the membership wants.

The library must have a commitment to sustaining culture and to preserve and provide access to the cultural record. They record the past and the future and are part of the creation. But they must be relevant to the greater good.

I end by stating one of the five laws the of the library by Ranganathan

“The library is a growing organism”.

I add to this  – that the library of the future needs to be constantly changing or it will not survive

 

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