National Library of Medicine & The National Institutes of Health Library

Today’s two medical libraries, offered a new perspective on federal libraries. Further, the differences between the two libraries reflected different library trends and practices based on their core patron groups.

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) is the nation’s public medical library. However, while they provide traditional library services, their activities are far from traditional. Their web strategies include hosting challenges to see how individuals and private industry are using NLM data and datasets (trend 7). The “challenges.gov” site and initiative is one worth learning more about, particuarly as it relates to knowledge transfer and information sharing.  While holding fast to the principles of librarianship, the NLM not only makes publicly-funded data freely available, but they are encouraging innovation and discoveries through the an online and mobile environment (trend 4).  

Perhaps one of the most cutting-edge initiatives comes in the form of the Visible Human Project. At its core, this project is an image collection that can be used by students of anatomy and practitioners in informatics (and everything in between). While some may see this project as not part of the library domain, it is essentially collecting information (scanned images of the human body) and making them learning easier and available to more users. In many ways, this and other digitization projects are likely to be what more and more library projects and initiatives will look like.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Library is primarily a research library for NIH researchers, scientists, and the larger NIH community. While I initially thought that NIH would certainly seem to be doing cutting edge library initiatives, they actually provide quite a bit of traditional library services. For example, their use of LibGuides to disseminate customized information (trend 6) is used throughout academic libraries and is a library-based program (it is worth noting that their application of Google Analytics is one worth investigating for your own library). As another example, their documents delivery and training are in many – if not all – ways the same as other libraries.

However their informatists and bioinformatics services is two of the most interesting and established library initiatives I have encountered. Regarding the former, informationists act as embedded librarians among various institutes and centers and are usually dual-degreed librarians (trend 3). In an even more direct way, the library’s bioinformatics services truly presents an opportunity for librarians to move into the analyst realm, as the begin to provide high value-added services to raw data research. It is of particular interest to me to understand and compare these two initiatives with other library and information environments.

This is a revised post of a daily report prepared for a Federal Library Resources Institute course and is part of a series of posts on federal libraries.