The library and the future

Reposted from the THL blog.

This is the first in a series of posts exploring the changing landscape of the Taubman Health Sciences Library.

For some time it has been evident that the preferred format for health sciences information is digital. The pace of the transition to electronic resources in medical literature has outstripped the broader library move to digital formats. This is in part due to the nature of the material—journals and periodicals with timely content are ideally suited to rapid electronic dissemination.

It’s also true that the finances of health care today put a greater premium than ever on physician time, which must be used efficiently to ensure both the quality of patient care and the viability of the health care institution. In addition, limitations on residents’ work hours require that their patient care and learning activities be efficient and focused. Students and researchers, too, must have ready access to library resources within the labs, classrooms, and offices where they work.

All of these pressures combine to create a demand for streamlined delivery of information to clinicians, residents, faculty, researchers, and students.

At Taubman Library, our circulation statistics reflect these changes in real time. Our colleagues in the health sciences schools and colleges and in the hospital no longer come to the library building for research and reading. To maintain our relationship with these colleagues so that health sciences research, education, and patient care continue to benefit from our information expertise, we must work where they work, and respond to their information needs in their environment.

What does this mean in practical terms? First, that physical books and journals are less important than they once were, though the information they contain remains valuable. Content, not container, commands a premium.

Second, that librarians today have richer interactions, better relationships, and more understanding of our colleagues’ priorities when they reside within the education, research, and patient care environments rather than in a dedicated library space. The more fully our liaisons and informationists immerse themselves in these environments, the more they are able to bring knowledge solutions to bear on academic, clinical, and research goals.

Third, that a combined focus on information and integrated services permits the library to better manage its resources by focusing on knowledge and skills rather than building maintenance. It enables librarians to teach in the curricula of the health sciences education programs, contributing their knowledge of evidence-based resources and their expertise in finding, managing, and applying information. They can attend lab meetings, work on grant proposals, sit on major committees, and contribute as authors to systematic reviews. They can attend grand rounds, journal clubs, and morning reports. They can work with physicians, nurses, allied health professionals, administrators, faculty, staff, and students across all the health sciences disciplines.

In short, these outside-the-library librarians are on the cutting edge of a burgeoning learning and teaching environment, one that here at Taubman Library we will continue to foster as we adapt to, and indeed anticipate, the changing needs of our colleagues in the health sciences.

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