Contributed Paper Abstract
MLA's Sister Library Initiative: Focus on Basic Services
Janet S. Fisher, Library Director for Development & Outreach, Quillen College of Medicine Library, Johnson City, TN; Eve-Marie Lacroix, Public Services Division, National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, MD; Donna Flake, Director, Robert M. Fales Health Science Library, Coastal AHEC, Wilmington, NC.
Purpose: To assess the feasibility and effectiveness of offering direct assistance to two libraries in developing countries for a period of two years to produce a defined level of self-sufficiency at the end of the project. Improvement in delivery of health care is anticipated as a final outcome.
Setting/Participants/Resources: With the approval of the MLA Board and under the guidance of the MLA International Cooperation Section's Sister Library Initiative (SLI), the Medical Research Library of Latvia in Riga, Latvia, and the Medical Library of Holberton Hospital, St. Johns, Antigua, West Indies were chosen as pilot libraries. MLA members provided books, journals, library supplies and free interlibrary loans. At the request of the SLI committee members, vendors donated either products or funding to assist the libraries. Citizen groups in the U.S. with Latvian interests joined the project to provide funding to ship materials to Latvia. One Antiguan citizen began a campaign to arrange shipment of boxes to the Holberton Hospital.
Brief Description: The Medical Research Library of Latvia had the infrastructure for providing basic library services, but their collections were outdated and receipt of interlibrary loans was very slow. To address the interlibrary loan turnaround time, staff at the NLM assisted the library with installing DOCLINE and placing U.S. donor libraries in the routing system. A donated copy of Ariel was installed and training was accomplished via email. Library collections, solicited from U.S. libraries, were shipped. Vendors provided donations of electronic databases. The Medical Library at Holberton Hospital in Antigua lacked the infrastructure and the collections to provide basic services. After a computer and Internet service were donated, NLM installed DOCLINE and created a routing list of donor libraries in the U.S. When a recently donated copy of the Ariel software is installed, U.S. libraries that volunteered to provide free interlibrary loans will begin to deliver documents. Vendors donated books and electronic databases. Shipping of library collections and materials to the library in Antigua proved to be problematic.
Results/Outcome: The MLA board extended the pilot project for an additional year at the request of the SLI committee. Experience has shown that three years is the minimum time period to assist a library sufficiently so that the improvements in infrastructure and service will be sustained once the project has ended. The Medical Library of Latvia has excellent results transmitting interlibrary loans electronically, training their staff and patrons to use new databases, and acquiring recently published materials to add to their collections. The project has resulted in grateful users, increased visibility and respect from the institutional administration, and enthusiastic support from U.S. citizens of Latvian heritage. Building the infrastructure for the Medical Library of the Holberton Hospital has taken much longer than anticipated. The two library staff members have quickly integrated donated electronic databases into their library services. DOCLINE is used for requesting interlibrary loans. The shipping challenge still exists although the SLI committee anticipates that a solution will be identified. Interlibrary loan service has improved and new books and journal volumes have been added to the collection. The library has experienced renewed support and interest among hospital staff and students.
Evaluation Method: The SLI committee drafted a list of measures of self-sufficiency and will apply them to each library at the end of the projectís three year term. Quarterly reports were submitted to the MLA board during the first two years of the project. The value of in kind and monetary donations was recorded. True success will only be measured in the coming years, when true sustainability can be assessed.
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