Health Sciences Libraries of NH/VT




In the Fall of 1971 a group of hospital librarians in New Hampshire enthusiastically formed the New Hampshire Hospital Librarians Association (NHHLA). Membership was open to all persons interested in health science librarianship. Vermont hospital librarians participated in the Association’s activities from the beginning. In 1972 NHHLA became a member of the New Hampshire Library Council.

During the 1970s Hospital Library Development Service (HLDS), a program funded by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) and administered by Dana Medical Library, University of Vermont, helped to establish hospital libraries in Vermont and New Hampshire. Dana Medical Library staff visited hospital administrators to promote library development and held basic training sessions. Librarians from both states contributed to the Union List of Books and the Union List of Periodicals compiled by HLDS. HLDS’ ongoing support to these fledgling libraries included cataloging, reference and consultation services, and a bimonthly newsletter.

The late 1970s saw a marked increase in the number of health science libraries. Collections, services, and staff expanded as hospital administration supported library development. New copyright laws and cost sharing document delivery drew health science libraries closer as they assumed their role as basic unit health science libraries in the biomedical communications network. It is not surprising then, that librarians in New Hampshire and Vermont felt a need for a closer alliance. In the Spring of 1979 NHHLA members voted to become Health Science Libraries of New Hampshire and Vermont (HSL-NH/VT). HSL-NH/VT held its first meeting on October 31, 1979 at White River Junction, Vermont.

The 1980s were a decade of computerization in almost all libraries. The availability of online searching via MEDLARS, BRS, DIALOG; electronic mail for interlibrary loans via DOCLINE; and new formats and vendors for union lists of journals were major areas of change that enhanced rapid access to health information. HSL-NH/VT was actively involved in all these areas by providing a forum for the exchange of ideas and group decisions, and relevant educational programs. Health science libraries in both states joined their respective state library automated systems, New Hampshire Automated Information System (NHAIS) and Vermont Automated Library System (VALS). The New Hampshire libraries have contributed journal holdings to NHAIS.

HSL-NH/VT has grown to include librarians from approximately 35 libraries including: the resource libraries, Dana Medical Library and Dana Biomedical Library; community, government, and for-profit hospital libraries; and college and technical school libraries that support health science programs. The libraries work together to enhance resource sharing.

There are four informal consortia encompassing geographic areas: North Country, Seacoast, Merrimack Valley/Lakes Region, and Southern New Hampshire/Vermont. Another informal group, New Hampshire/Vermont Basic Health Science Libraries has joined with other consortia in Region 8 and is committed to expanding the area of free interlibrary loan reciprocity in an equitable manner. Members of HSL-NH/VT formed an online user group, NEWVON (New Hampshire and Vermont Online) which met quarterly until 1991, when members no longer felt a need for it.

HSL-NH/VT holds spring and fall programs, some of which are also continuing education courses. Every five years, the organization hosts the annual conference of North Atlantic Health Sciences Librarians. In 1982 the NAHSL conference was held at The Balsams in Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, in 1987 at The Equinox in Manchester, Vermont and in 1992 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In 1997 it will be at the Radisson Inn in Burlington, Vermont.

At the Fall meeting in 1989, HSL-NH/VT celebrated its 10th anniversary as a special event. The first president, Margie Dempsey was introduced and certificates and boutonnieres were given to original members still active in the organization. Recipients included: Marcia Allen, Roberta Donahue, Shirley Grainger, Norma Phillips, Ann Rolfe, Dorothy Noftle, Judy Reingold, Robert Sekerak, Stella Scheckter, Eleanor Simons, Elaine Bent, Ann Bousquet, Marty Fenn, Jane Rand, and Janet Miller.

In the 1990s electronic technology has impacted the health science libraries in New Hampshire and Vermont at ever increasing speed, with widespread use of CD-ROM, not just stand-alone systems in the libraries, but now with networks throughout their institutions; the Internet, scanners, and ever faster computers. We see many libraries becoming closer to, or part of Information Systems departments rather than being linked to the Education Department.

Downsizing and managed care, in the form of mergers, contracting for service, staff reduction, and reduced hours, have affected about half of our member libraries. To help members prepare themselves for such drastic changes the Task Force on Downsizing Strategies prepared a guide, The Case for Hospital Libraries: Strategies in a Downsizing Era, which was distributed at the Fall 1995 meeting. It will be constantly added to and revised. Managed care programs and revised JCAHO standards have lead to more hospital libraries adding consumer health information to their resources.

1995 also saw a revision to the Bylaws to make hospitals rather than their librarians responsible for HSL-NH/VT membership and maintenance of minimum standards.

As more and more change occurs, HSL-NH/VT members are learning to be creative and more flexible about the way they provide information.