Issue No. 5 (Spring 2001)

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Table of Contents

News Update
Spotlight On…DOCLINE in Canada
The Medical Librarian


Our Members

Shaila Mensinkai is on a one year leave of absence from her position at St. Clare’s Hospital library in St. John’s.  Prior to the restructuring in the Health Care Corporation of St. John’s, Shaila was the librarian at the Janeway Children’s Hospital.

Pat Rahal is now working full time at the St. Clare’s Hospital Library in St. John’s.

Pam Morgan is on leave from Memorial University of Newfoundland while working with the Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information on a major project involving access to electronic information resources.  Pam will be working out of the St. John’s CISTI branch so we are looking forward to hearing about what she is up to!

Heather Cooke of the Addictions Services Library- HCS- St. John’s, gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Alex, in September 2000. She will be returning to her position in May, 2001. Steve Nolan was her maternity leave replacement.

Katherine Donnelly is the new Library Technician at the Association of Registered Nurses of Newfoundland. She replaces Pat Rahal.

NLHLA Listserv

Reminder that the Association has a listserv so that members may communicate with one another without having to remember everyone’s email address. Please feel free to use the list for all your library related discussions. It will only be as good as you, the members, make it.

It is a members-only list, and all members were automatically subscribed when it was set up. To post a message, simply send your email to And remember to be particularly careful when replying to messages, to verify whether you are emailing an individual or posting to the group.


DOCLINE in Canada

(extracted with permission from the Canada Institute For Scientific & Technical Information (CISTI) web site)

An Overview

DOCLINE is an online interlibrary loan routing and messaging system for health sciences information. DOCLINE is meant to encourage resource sharing among libraries with  collections in the health sciences.

DOCLINE matches requests for journal articles to potential lenders who report holding them. DOCLINE then sends the request to each of those potential lenders in turn, starting with the lenders which are considered most desirable by the borrower and progressing down the list until all potential lenders have been exhausted or until the request is filled.

Each library develops a routing table which lists the other DOCLINE libraries that the library wants to consider as potential lenders. These lenders are grouped according to preference. When a library puts a request into DOCLINE, DOCLINE will only send the request to the libraries on the requesting institution’s routing table which report holding the required article; a potential lender of a request is a library which both appears in the requestor’s routing table and which holds a copy of the needed article.

A routing table can consist of as many as 180 libraries arranged into 9 groups, or cells. Within each cell, libraries are given equal priority, but DOCLINE will try all potential lenders in cell 1 before trying any potential lenders in cell 2, and so forth.

Using DOCLINE can increase both the rate and the speed with which your ILL requests get filled. DOCLINE can reduce the overall workload of your ILL activities while at the same time enabling you to both borrow and lend more.

DOCLINE is a product of the United States National Library of Medicine (NLM). NLM started DOCLINE in 1985 to encourage local resource sharing and to reduce the burden on its own document supply services. In 1993, libraries in British Columbia joined DOCLINE as a pilot project. By the late 1990s, libraries in all provinces across Canada were participating in DOCLINE. By 2000, nearly 200 Canadian libraries were using DOCLINE.

CISTI, in addition to being a DOCLINE participant, has assumed the role of DOCLINE coordinator within Canada. As the DOCLINE coordinator, CISTI coordintes participation and provides support and training for Canadian participants.

More information about DOCLINE is available from NLM’s Web site.

Related topics: Benefits of Using DOCLINE and Eligibility and Joining.

More about DOCLINE in Canada

Editor’s Note: If you would like to join DOCLINE contact Victoria Marshall or George Beckett at the Memorial University of Newfoundland Health Sciences Library.


The Medical Librarian by Stephen Nolan

There is enough written on topics such as integrated library systems, virtual books, databases, Internet access etc., etc., etc., to make any librarian’s head swirl. Most library professionals have read their fair share of essays on how to fix some aspect of their library in order to improve service for their clients. This is not that type of essay.

As a fairly recent graduate of the University of Western Ontario Masters of Library and Information Science program I feel that I can safely say I am knowledgeable on the latest trends in the information field. I have found it is simple to find the latest news on the nuts and bolts of our profession but it is a rare thing to find something on the soul of our profession. This is particularly true in the case of the medical librarian. What of the librarians themselves? How do they actually feel in their librarian skin? Do we truly matter or do we merely dispense trivia to a populace that could do without our services? What effect does their work have upon them? These are the kind of questions that are rarely asked or answered. These are the type of questions that need to be asked if our profession is to grow.

For the past three years I have been a medical librarian, working first in Ottawa with Health Canada: Division of Aging and Seniors, then on to the various hospital libraries in the St. John’s Health Care Corporation and most recently with the Health and Community Services Addictions Services Provincial Resource Library. All experiences were unique and yet there are common strands.

Looking through the lens of the present in order to examine the past I found that all these medical library experiences held one similar element that only now I can fully appreciate. While I was gaining experience, padding my resume in the hopes of gaining the next, more lucrative position, something was happening to me that I was entirely unaware of. I found that there was an emotional debt to pay for my work which I did not count on, something which happened so slowly that only cumulatively the effect could be measured.

In each library position I was subjected to the sights, sounds and emotions of unspeakable tragedy. Work took on a surreal aspect that assaulted my senses and afflicted my mind. Things that would normally revolt or disturb the normal person became for me commonplace. It became a daily routine to patiently catalogue in detail elder sexual abuse, it was a regular site to see corpses role through the hallways on their way to the waiting funeral home hearse. Stories of neglect, self-inflicted torture and all manners of hardship and abuse constantly passed their way from whispering, quivering lips and into my ear. All this and a great deal more I experienced as a medical librarian during my “normal” work day.

Yet, as I talked with other medical librarians, this constant wave of mental hardship was the norm for them all and not a perverse affliction that Loki or some other mythical trickster decided to burden me with. Their stories told a similar pattern. I found that a camaraderie existed between all medical librarians. Medical librarians understood. We knew. We were a special subset in the profession that only those who were a part could understand.

In trying to find if this common link between medical librarians extended to the various medical library entities I followed a suggestion made to me by George Beckett, Head of the Health Sciences Library, and looked up the ethical guidelines of the Medical Library Association and the Canadian Health Libraries Association. What I found were moral checklists that while well-meaning gave no insight for any particular emotional dilemma that a medical librarian would inevitably face. It seemed that when it came to the
particulars we were on our own.

And so with no true guidelines we adapt. Instead of dealing with troubling issues on an individual basis we explain them away to ourselves as being part of the job, part of being a medical professional, part of a team. Yet there is always in the back of our minds a little voice telling us that we have based our hopes on a false premise. Doctors and nurses who tell us that they didn’t know we existed, managers who slash our budgets because departments worthier need the money more, support staff who say that there is nothing to read in a room full of books all contribute to the feeling that we are somehow inadequate. That the horror that we file away in the recess of our memory, only to be brought back again in nightmares or a vague feeling of unease, does not count. Constantly uncertain of our status we run the risk that our role can become a perfuntory one and subsequently our value diminishes further.

All is not doom and glom however, in fact, we are fortunate. We take the satisfaction of the under-appreciated. The “thank yous” of each patron who say and mean it is savoured, for one arrogant clinical clerk there are two doctors who are grateful, for every dollar taken away comes a little more innovation that spreads the remaining ones further than imagined. For every horror there is the quiet knowledge that in some small way we are helping.

What is the soul of the medical librarian? In each of us is the same/different understanding of the position. We are much more than the overseers of a collection of dusty books or a mass of machinery. We do not distribute knowledge much as a pharmacist does not merely dispense pills. We help people, either directly or indirectly. We save lives. We are committed to the welfare of our patrons in a way that no other librarian in any other field can be. We are connected by the mutual understanding of the nature of our unique position. Knowing innately as we do all these things and a plethora more the one thing we
know for certain and which keeps us going is that we do the things we do not because of the sometimes laughable cheque, not the forthcoming praise which almost always is silent but for the certain knowledge that we are not alone. That is the true saving grace of being a medical librarian and in truth it is also our greatest strength.

Editor’s Note: Many thanks to Stephen for this article on an important aspect of health librarianship. While we do not often talk about it, the issues raised in this article are important ones for all health librarians and our view of ourselves and our profession as a “helping” profession! George


 The Newfoundland And Labrador Health Knowledge Information Network – 2001 Update by George Beckett

The pilot year for the Newfoundland and Labrador Health Knowledge Network was completed successfully and the project is continuing on in 2001.  There has been a slight name change to the Newfoundland and Labrador Health Knowledge Information Network.

There are now nine active corporate members in the project with three more planning to join soon in 2001.  There are one hundred and fourteen individuals registered – mainly under corporate memberships. Personal membership in the NLHKN is $100 per year pro-rated to the start of the membership. Corporate membership costs depend upon size of the organizaton. Memberships are only available to health professionals and organizations resident in Newfoundland & Labrador.

NLHKIN Resources Available

As of April, 2001 the NLHKIN offers the following resources to its personal
and corporate members:





Nursing and allied health bibliographic index

1982 – date

Cochrane Library

Evidence based medicine and health care bibliographic index and full

Complete to date


Medicine, health and related topics.  Soon to
include Healthstar and other NLM information sources

1966 – date

STAT!REF Electronic texts

Thirty full text textbooks and reference publications available to network members

Harrison’s Online

Harrison’s Online website including added resources 

Document Delivery

Direct document delivery service from the Health Sciences Library and ordering facilitation for other

Discussion Forum

Web based forum for discussion of member information needs

Electronic Journals/Texts

A list of electronic journals and full text sources available to network members

Clinical practice guidelines

Links to major clinical practice guideline sites

Member training and technical support

Provided by arrangement by the Health Sciences Library

In addition to these resources we are looking at options for providing access to
additional full text of basic health textbooks and journals.

Recently a steering committee was formed for NLHKIN composed of the following members:


George Beckett – NLHKIN Project Co-ordinator and Associate University Librarian (Health Sciences)


Kim Osmond – Primary Health Enhancement Project – Twillingate
Kim Hancock – Western Health Care Corporation – Corner Brook
Barbara Reid – Peninsulas Health Care Corporation – Clarenville
Katherine Walters – Grenfell Regional Health Services – St. Anthony
Dr. Joshua Becerra. – Grenfell Regional Health Services – St. Anthony
Victoria Marshall – Health Sciences Library – St. John’s

In the next few months we plan to introduce a simplified proxy server system which will simplify member access to NLHKIN licensed resources.

For More Information

Visit the NLHKIN web site or contact George Beckett at the Health Sciences Library, phone: 777-6670, e-mail


  • Ideas for workshops.
  • Authors for future articles for the next NLHLA newsletter (Fall 2001).

Contact any member of the executive.

featherThis Issue was compiled by Heather Roberts, Annette Anthony
and George Beckett, and was edited by George Beckett.

This page was last updated on April 19, 2001.