hospital’s library provides abundance of medical info
It is estimated that 75 to 80 percent of users will search the Internet for health information this year, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. “E-patients” receive a barrage of information; for example, googling “common cold” yields over a million hits.
But can the average user sift through the heap of home remedies and advertisements to glean something useful? Matt Hoy, supervisor of Luther Midelfort’s library and AV services, believes, “A very small percentage know how to look at that and say, ‘Yes, this is current, this is reliable, this is from a decent source.’”
The public medical library opened in Luther Hospital in 1905. This small, second-floor room at the Whipple Street hospital contains a medical gold mine. Not only does the library subscribe to 150 print medical journals, but the system’s connection with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., provides unlimited access to world-class databases. It also conducts interlibrary loan with the National Library of Medicine. “We can reach out and touch pretty much anything we want,” Hoy states.
Hoy provides current, reliable health information to three main groups. The library’s Clairemont branch caters more to patients and the general public, providing information that is “very basic, tailored to the patient level rather than clinical,” says Hoy. There, pamphlets and articles are available on broad medical topics, and library specialist Jennifer Schram is available to locate more specific information.
Scholars and researchers also benefit from the medical library, where they can access databases and journals not provided by UW-Eau Claire. And resources aren’t just limited to nursing students, either. Graduate student Patty Greiner is working toward a Master of Arts in English, and says the library will help her to find data on her current study, a comparative analysis of research available for male factor infertility as compared to female factor infertility.
On a day-to-day basis, Hoy works with Luther Midelfort’s physicians and staff. Dr. Timothy Robertson, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Luther Hospital, counts himself lucky. “Other people that are in practice don’t have this available to them,” he explains. Databases available through the medical library keep Dr. Robertson abreast of the literature in his field. However, Robertson reveals that the most important resources for him are the librarians themselves.
The medical library keeps two Masters of Library Information Science on staff; “I’d say the most important resource we have for members of the community and patients is the expertise,” says Hoy. Over the past few years, budget cuts have forced some hospitals to eliminate their library space and staff in favor of subscriptions to online journals. Hoy explains, however, that without an expert to navigate the information, “it’s not much use.”
Why does Luther Midelfort offer its staff and resources to the community? Hoy believes it’s a contribution to improving health in general. He asserts, “People in medicine are starting to realize how valuable it is for patients to take an interest in their care. There’s no better way than for them to learn about it.”