The news media have offered abundant headlines about health care. The debate is robust with commentary on access, affordability and costs, and control over choices and decisions. As with any politically charged topic, we’ve been barraged with information as well as misinformation. Issues surrounding our health are at the very core of our everyday lives.
This issue of continuum explores the programs of our health sciences libraries and their critical role as part of both health education and health care delivery. We also continue the health theme with an exploration of the health and well-being of our University’s libraries through a “year in review” of accomplishments and recognition of our friends and donors.
Over the past several years, the roles of our libraries have been evolving with greater emphasis on integration of resources and expertise into campus curriculum and research. The programs of our health science libraries reflect these outward-directed trends. Whether it is in helping medical students learn how to mine research and clinical data to inform diagnosis or in assisting faculty who wish to make their research publications more accessible, the expertise of our information professionals is essential to the University’s health science programs and many other related disciplines.
The Libraries also are reaching out to the broader community and the state to ensure we are all good consumers of health information. Our HeLP Minnesota Seniors project is working with an assisted living facility to equip seniors with skills to find current information about health issues and engage in productive dialogue with their physicians. The combination of accurate information and communication techniques can be incredibly empowering to individuals trying to understand and make choices about their health care.
Our University Libraries received a special recognition of its contributions this past spring, as the winner of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Excellence in Academic Libraries award. While the award was a testament to the excellent services and programs we offer, our staff was particularly commended for the innovative and strategic approaches developed to support our users’ information needs whenever, wherever, and however they are presented.
Such creativity and agility will serve us well as we face—similar to health care reform—challenges of cost, access, and strategic choices. The cost of publications continues to rise, with an annual inflation rate of 7 to 8% (not far off from the rise in health care costs). Specialized expertise is increasingly important to our profession, and technology is pervasive within our organization. In addition to the rapid rise of digital publishing and new tools for information discovery and use, technology also allows us to share some of our unique and rare collections, such as the Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “the first wealth is health.” We in the Libraries are confident in our ability to support the health of the University and our community.
Stay healthy, stay informed.
Wendy Pradt Lougee
McKnight Presidential Professor