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December 11, 1987

Medical Libraries Undergoing Dramatic Changes

JAMA. 1987;258(22):3216-3217. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03400220014004

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A FEW YEARS AGO, a physician searching for information would begin with the card catalog and journal indexes at the local medical library. Now, that physician consults a computer terminal in the library, office, or laboratory.

The medical library has changed dramatically, acquiring not only new technology but new functions as well. As Arthur W. Hafner, PhD, director of the Division of Library and Information Management at the American Medical Association (AMA), Chicago, says, "The library has shifted from being a repository of materials to providing more direct information services to professionals."

Computers were initially used to facilitate librarians' time-consuming, manual tasks, such as cataloging and circulation. But their uses rapidly expanded to provide clinicians and researchers with improved access to biomedical literature.

The use of computers to manage medical information dates back to 1960, when the National Library of Medicine began to transfer selected portions of Index Medicus, the