Tuesday, March 10, 2009

AAHM and the Future of Medical History Libraries

The February 2009 issue of the AAHM Newsletter published by American Association for the History of Medicine is now available online, and contains the president's message ("The AAHM and the Future of Medical History Libraries"); AAHM news, including the upcoming conference in Cleveland; notices on members, fellowships & grants, meetings & calls for papers, lectures & symposia, and archives, libraries, and museums (including a brief notice on Special Collections at HSL; see page 21). Earlier issues of the AAHM Newsletter are also archived online.

In the above-noted president's message, W. Bruce Fye quoted a presentation he made in 1982 to the Archivists and Librarians in the History of the Health Sciences organization; given the current economic situation across the state and country, his observations seem especially relevant still today:

“In a given institution,” I argued, “there may be one or two faculty members or administrators who are sensitive to the needs of the history of medicine collection and those individuals charged with its care. This is obviously a precarious situation. Should the supportive dean or faculty person retire, move to another institution or expire, the history of medicine collection may lose a vital friend or patron.” I concluded, “The unique institutional resource you administer must be preserved and its value acknowledged. Administrators within your library or institution may question the relevance of historical materials in this age of financial uncertainty. By forming a coalition among interested individuals of diverse backgrounds and by heightening the awareness of those within your institution and community to the contents of your collection you can most likely survive and perhaps even thrive in this challenging decade.”

In response to such concerns, Fye created the Ad Hoc Committee on the Future of Medical History Libraries to address the following questions, among others:

1) How important is it that the few remaining major medical history libraries be preserved for the benefit of future scholarship in the history of medicine?
2) What research opportunities are lost when comprehensive collections are dispersed?
3) What types of printed materials are not being captured electronically?

Committee members will work to generate a report to the AAHM Council by September 1, 2009.

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