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"Bluegrass Medical Libraries: Rooted in the Past, Planning for the Future"

by Emily Saderholm, President 1997-98

(Note:  this article was originally published in Marquee: Newsletter of the KLA Special Library Section 3(3):1-3, January 21, 1998.  Reprinted with permission of the author and Marquee editors.)

History and Purpose.  The Bluegrass Medical Librarians organization was started informally in 1985.  Medical librarians, medical secretaries, and others involved with health-related information joined together to form a small group which could provide a supportive community for their profession.  Charter members include Janet Stith of the University of Kentucky Medical Center, Jerri Trimble of Saint Joseph Hospital, and Kathy Moberly of Central Baptist (a position now filled by Lonnie Wright), among others.   

Meetings were designed to convene around the lunch hour, a tradition which continues to this day. This meeting time provided a casual atmosphere in which to share information, and yet offer professional support and development. As membership grew, Bluegrass Medical Librarians saw a need to clarify its purpose and intentions, and official bylaws were drawn up in 1987.

The purpose of this organization is to serve as a channel of communication among members. Specific objectives used for this purpose are: 1) to foster professional growth and provide a forum for exchange of ideas; 2) to share resources of collections; and 3) to actively promote quality health care in Kentucky through access to health sciences information.

Membership.  Membership is open to individuals actively engaged in library and information sciences work in a health science setting in Kentucky.  Other individuals outside this area may request membership.  Holding an MLS or MSLS is not a requirement of membership, as many hospitals and other organizations do not have medical libraries per se.  Instead, they rely upon secretaries or education department staff to provide information services.   By opening membership to anyone actively engaged in health information services, BML follows through on its third objective stated above; that of actively promoting quality health care in Kentucky through access to health sciences information.  Through allowing non-library based personnel the opportunity to participate, BML hopes to encourage development of quality library and information services across the state.

Currently there are about 40 active members from all areas of Kentucky. Members represent various types of institutions including hospital libraries, state-sponsored area health education centers, academic libraries, consumer health resource centers, and even public libraries. Dues are currently $10.00 for individual membership and $25.00 for institutional membership beginning in 1998. Historically dues for BML were $5.00 annually regardless of whether the individual represented a large medical library, or only worked part-time providing library services to a small hospital. In 1997 the group decided to create two membership classes in order to accommodate the differences evident in its members positions.

Activities.  Meetings take place bi-monthly, six times a year.  An informal poll is taken at the beginning of each year to collect ideas for programs for upcoming meetings.  From this list, programs are developed for each meeting so that members may participate in continuing education and resource sharing.  The attempt is made each year to include a certified C.E. class.  Recent programs include: 1) "Positioning Yourself for Success" teleconference, March 20, 1997 (C.E. credit); 2) Coordinating Consumer Health Information Resources; 3) Update on Kentucky Union List of Serials and Serhold; 4) OCLC's FirstSearch Service; 5) Writing Web Pages with Easy to Use Software. 

Union List.  A union list of serials held by the group is updated and compiled annually by one of the members (William De Bord of the Eastern Kentucky Health Sciences Information Network in Morehead, KY). This list has been provided in paper format to members at cost of production. Recently, however, the list’s coordinator has gained the ability to provide on-line access to this list via the Internet. He is currently in the process of uploading the union list to his parent institution’s (Morehead University) web page. Once completed, this union list will be available at no cost to members with Internet access. Many members without advanced computer support or DOCLINE access rely upon the paper list for making interlibrary loan requests. With changing times and advancing technology, it is hoped that eventually BML members will rely solely upon the on-line record for holdings information. Maintaining and distributing the paper record is time consuming and costly.

Officers.  Officers are elected after being selected by the nominating committee at the end of each calendar year.   Elected officers are responsible for arranging meetings for the group, representing the group to the public and outside organizations, and maintaining the group's treasury.

Bluegrass Medical Libraries was started informally over 10 years ago, to provide a casual, supportive gathering for medical information professionals who felt isolated due to their remote locations in eastern and central Kentucky. Over time, the group has developed into one of the larger special library organizations in the state. Although BML attempts to fulfill its original purpose, that of providing informal get-togethers for fellow librarians, new services such as accommodating institutional memberships, providing on-line access to group holdings, and an organizational web page, all help the Bluegrass Medical Libraries prepare for future change and growth.