A History of Medical Libraries and Librarianship in the United States: From John Shaw Billings to the Digital Era presents a history of the profession from the beginnings of the Army Surgeon General’s Library in 1836 to today’s era of the digital health sciences library. The purpose of this book is not only to make this history available to the profession’s practitioners, but also to provide context as medical librarians and libraries enter a new age in their history as the digital information environment has undercut the medical library’s previous role as the depository of the print based KBI/information base.
The book divides the profession’s history is divided into seven eras:
1. The Era of the Library of the Office of the Army Surgeon General and John Shaw Billings – 1836 – 1898
2. The Era of the Gentleman Physician Librarian – 1898 to 1945
3. The Era of the Development of the Clinical Research Infrastructure (NIH), the Rapid Expansion in Funded and Published Clinical Research and the Emergence of Medical Librarianship as a Profession – 1945 – 1962
4. The Era of the Development of the National Library of Medicine, Online digital Subject Searching (Medline) and the Creation of the National Health Science Library Infrastructure– 1962 – 1975
5. The Medline Era – A Golden Age for Medical Libraries – 1975 – 1995
6. The Era of Universal Access to Information and the Transition from Paper to Digitally Based Medical Libraries – 1995 – 2015
7. The Era of the Digital Health Sciences Library – 2015 –
Each era is reviewed through discussing the developments in the field and the factors which drove those developments. The book will provide current and future medical librarians and information specialists an understanding of the development of their profession and some insights into its future.
The authors of this book in fifty years of marriage have observed and been part of the evolution of medical libraries and librarianship, academia, and health related research and education. Having gotten married as undergraduates, they have made this professional journey together supporting and learning from each other’s experiences. This is the third book they have coauthored.
Michael Reed Kronenfeld, MLS, MBA, AHIP, FMLA is University Librarian Emeritus, A.T. Still University of the Health Sciences. Since receiving his MLS in 1975 he has worked as the archivist/processor of the papers of Senator Lister Hill, as the Director of the Library and the Educational Resources Center at a state health department, as the Library Director and web master for a public teaching hospital and, for his last 17 years before retirement, as the University Librarian for a medical university, retiring in March of 2019. He has been an active member of the Medical Library Association throughout his career. In his forty-four years in the profession, he has been interested in and published on the history of the medical library profession and on the impact of technology in driving this history.
Jennie Jacobs Kronenfeld, Ph.D., is Professor Emerita in Sociology, SSFD, Arizona State University. Her research areas are medical sociology and aging and the life course with special focus on health policy, health care utilization and health behavior. She serves as editor of the research annual, Research in the Sociology of Health Care, published by Emerald Press. She is coeditor of Health. She has served as Chair of the Medical Sociology Section, American Sociological Association (ASA). She is currently the secretary-treasurer of the Retirement Network, ASA. She is a past President of Sociologists for Women in Society.
Chapter 1 – The Era of the Library of the Office of the Army Surgeon General and John Shaw Billings – 1836 – 1898
Chapter 2 - The Era of the Gentleman Physician Librarian – 1898 to 1945
Chapter 3 - The Era of the Development of the Clinical Research Infrastructure (NIH), the Rapid Expansion in Funded and Published Clinical Research and the Emergence of Medical Librarianship as a Profession – 1945 – 1962
Chapter 4 - The Era of the Development of the National Library of Medicine, Online digital Subject Searching (Medline) and the Creation of the Health Science Library Infrastructure– 1962 – 1975
Chapter 5 - The Medline Era – A Golden Age for Medical Libraries – 1975 – 1995
Chapter 6 - The Era of Universal Access to Information and the Transition from Paper to Digitally Based Medical Libraries – 1995 – 2015
Chapter 7 - The Era of the Digital Health Sciences Library – 2015 –
A History of Medical Libraries and Medical Librarianship shows that decades of work, and substantial public investment, went into developing the information infrastructure we now use every day. The book is an excellent historical resource, though limited by its exclusive focus on the United States. A global history of medical libraries and librarianship would also be welcome.
A History of Medical Libraries and Librarianship in the United States: From John Shaw Billings to the Digital Era is a comprehensive survey of the intertwined history of the National Library of Medicine, the Medical Library Association and medical librarianship. From the 134 item catalog of the Surgeon General’s collection of 1840 to the expanded mission of the Network of the National Library of Medicine, NLM has consistently evolved to meet the needs of its users with innovative services and programs designed to promote and advance a national agenda for excellence in medical education and biomedical research.
Readers with an interest in the history of the National Library of Medicine, and the Medical Library Association, will find this an invaluable resource for understanding the relationships between these organizations, support for a national agenda on biomedical research and the profession of medical librarianship.
The Kronenfelds’ book documents the rich history and promising future of medical libraries and librarians. It was edifying to consider my own career in a broader context, and to be reminded of the impact of legislation and leadership at the national level on the development of the profession. Reading this book provides an opportunity to be proud of our origins; to get a little nostalgic for the pre-Internet, ‘Golden Age’, when medical librarians were the gateway of access to published biomedical information; and to look forward to a data driven health care future in which librarians skilled in data management will provide information solutions in a digital environment.
A thorough and well-researched look at the history of health sciences libraries and the evolution of health sciences librarianship. Obviously a labor of love by Michael and Jennie Kronenfeld!
With A History of Medical Libraries and Medical Librarianship: From John Shaw Billings to the Digital Era, Mike and Jennie Kronenfeld provide us with a spirited and enlightening journey through the history of health sciences Librarianship, from the 1830’s to the present time. With their keen intellects and deft observations, they take us on what, for the reader, feels likes a concise, almost “whirlwind” journey across time of the most meaningful and impactful milestones of medical librarianship history.
Starting with the work of Billings and the establishment of arguably the premier medical library in the world, the US National Library of Medicine, the Kronenfelds revisit the creation of the Medical Library Association and take us through a reflection on the eras of “Gentleman Physician Librarians” and the “Golden Age of Medical Libraries” to the current and pivotal digital moment. Revealed in their meticulous scholarship is that very American notion of constant re-reinvention to meet new challenges, new technologies, and new opportunities head on and with moral purpose.
In writing and presenting their comprehensive survey, the Kronenfelds leveraged access to an array of brilliant colleagues, refreshed our memories of key and transformative publications, brought to life essential leaders and luminaries, and scoured the resources of MLA and NLM’s History of Medicine Division, all to remind the reader that the goal for health sciences librarians has always been to improve the health of the nation through access to evidence.
Both Mike and Jennie have been active participants over the last forty-plus years in the history that they document, Mike across a career that has included service in the academic, public and hospital library arenas, and Jennie through a career focused on medical sociology with an emphasis on public policy and the development of our nation’s health care system. They are scholars, practitioners and advocates, and their passion and commitment to the transformative power of access to health information never wavers across the eras that they so adroitly document.
To read A History of Medical Libraries and Medical Librarianship: From John Shaw Billings to the Digital Era is ultimately to be encouraged in the future of health sciences librarianship and its seemingly endless potential to adapt, adopt and change, always extending the journey forward.
The Kronenfelds take us on a fascinating journey through the history of medical libraries, introducing us to the characters who carved out a place for shared and accessible medical information to the integration and adaptability of technologies to the evolution of the role of librarians. This is an enjoyable and enlightening read, made all the more impressive by the scope of the research and the beautiful art of storytelling. A recommended read for anyone who values access to information, medical libraries specifically, and librarianship in general. This is a much needed addition to understanding the history of medical libraries as well as the history of access to medical information.