Closure of the College Library: A proposal

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 66, No. 4, May 2024, Page 106 Letters

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC announced the closure of the College Library (as of 15 March 2024) in an email sent on 1 March. I have reflected on the loss of this service since writing to the registrar of the College to express my concerns on 4 March.

I propose that urgent consideration be given to Doctors of BC taking over the operation of the College Library. I recall another valuable service kept running by Doctors of BC (then known as the BC Medical Association or BCMA). At that time, the Physician Health Program was in danger; the College decided it no longer wanted to share the operating costs of the program with the BCMA and withdrew from involvement. Thankfully, additional funding was obtained through negotiations between Doctors of BC, and the provincial government and this important program was maintained.

Please consider whether there might be a win-win solution here for the physicians of BC, and the patients we serve, to maintain continuity of the College Library.

The Library staff consists of four librarians and four library technicians. Since COVID-19, much of their work has been done virtually, so there would be little need in the way of space at the office at 1665 West Broadway in Vancouver. Proximity to the BC Medical Journal and Communications Department staff would be a bonus.

I am sure many of our members would like to see a continuation of the service and a valuable new membership benefit. The limited number of free pages of reference articles could be continued for Doctors of BC members, and a service charge introduced for others who access the Library.

Doctors of BC members have been invited to give input to the upcoming negotiations for the next Physician Master Agreement, and we could submit this proposal for consideration in the negotiations—something that the government might be asked to support and take some credit for.

There is an opportunity for Doctors of BC and the College to announce a process for the College Library to continue while still enabling the College’s strategic planning that led to this decision.

Dr Bill Clifford, a pioneer in developing digital technology for physicians, has joined me in supporting this request. He incorporated a link to the College Library in the MOIS EMR.

The reason I ask for urgent action is to preserve the valuable experience of the current Library employees. Thank you very much for your consideration of this proposal.


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Ian Gillespie, MD. Closure of the College Library: A proposal. BCMJ, Vol. 66, No. 4, May, 2024, Page(s) 106 - Letters.

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Jim Henderson says: reply

I was Director of the Library 1991-2002 so know the history and importance of the Library. I know how effective it was in supporting clinicians across BC, saving their time while linking them to the literature to inform their practice. I would welcome the opportunity to be involved in moving this proposal forward. It is important to realize that the Library operated as a network, providing support to physicians not just directly but also by supporting local resources whether they be libraries with professional staff in larger centres or support for doctor lounge info centres in smaller hospitals, not to mention supporting gatekeeper physicians to whom non-Library users directed clinical questions. Work with eHLBC and building on UpToDate access via the Divisions of Family Practice is essential to the success of this proposal. Physicians have less time and are faced with information overload, as well as more commercial information and mis-information. As a centre for skill and innovation, the College was unique, a great support to higher standards of care in BC. Its closure is a great loss.

Sharon K> Summe... says: reply

I was saddened to learn that there is conversation to close to the library at the BC College of Physicians and Surgeons. This was a library my grandfather Dr. Elliott Harrison was instrumental in creating. In the 1970s several reading rooms at the College were named in his honour. Please find a way to keep this library open that is a resource to many.

John McQueen says: reply

So unexpectedly set back regarding the closure of the College Library,, it is an undoubtedly important source of relevant information to the medical community, please keep it own !
Thank you

Rosemary Nairn ... says: reply

I too was chagrined at the announcement of the closure of the College Library and of the very short notice given for the closure. For years I have relied on the Library to inform my specialist practice. Knowing the time challenges of being a practising physician and the current misinformation widely available online, in the absence of an ongoing Library service I can foresee doctors hurriedly consulting unreliable sources such as Wikepedia instead of peer-reviewed medical journals in the future. In an already struggling medical system, this is just one more nail in the coffin.

Jon Slater says: reply

I was a regular user of the library and willingly paid the membership fee to support it. For specialist and retired members of the DOBC, there are no academic libraries to provide full text articles as needed. This is a vacuum that should be filled, and the Doctors of BC is well placed to do this. And if there is resistance to this at the Board level, perhaps a subscription service could be considered.

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