Idaho Librarian


On My Mind...




Nancy Griffin
Idaho Health Sciences Library
Idaho State University

During the 1991-92 academic year, the Idaho Drug Information Service (IDIS) of the Idaho State University College of Pharmacy joined with Bannock Regional Medical Center (BRMC) and Pocatello Regional Medical Center (PRMC) to form the Idaho Health Sciences Information Center. This was the precursor to the Idaho Health Sciences Library (IHSL).  The university library assumed responsibility for offering specialized information services to the local medical community when the IHSL formally opened on September 1, 1992, under the direction of Terry Wiggins. Journal holdings of the two hospitals and the IDIS were integrated into the Idaho State University Library collection. Staff began visiting both BRMC and PRMC on a regular basis in order to meet with hospital staff and physicians. 

This partnership enabled the IHSL to offer the local and regional medical community benefits which none of the members alone could achieve. For example, a collection of over 500 current medical professional journals was on hand. ISU Library staff supplied prompt cataloging and processing of new acquisitions. The collection was supplemented by participation in cooperative resource lending and sharing arrangements with other libraries via the National Network of Libraries of Medicine. Trained, professional medical librarians were available to respond to information needs, including mediated literature searches for health professionals. The ISU Library building provided spacious areas for research and study, as well as space for classroom instruction and meetings.

An advisory committee was established to provide input from the collaborating partners, members of the ISU faculty, and the local medical community. This ensured the IHSL was responsive to its patrons’ needs.  By May 1993 a major renovation was completed which provided the IHSL with facilities on the ISU Library’s third floor.  The new arrangement had ample space and proximity to medical journals and the IDIS. It gave the IHSL a clear identity within the ISU Library and was an attractive and convenient facility.

On April 21, 1994, an IHSL mission statement was formally approved: To advance health education, research, and patient care by providing publication-based information to the university community, Idaho health care providers, and consumers. It should be noted that the last group of patrons was added only last year to reflect the IHSL’s increased outreach to the community.  The same year State Hospital South in Blackfoot was formally added to the partnership.  A collection development policy was written in 1995 and the IHSL established an e-mail account ([email protected]) for the convenience of patrons.

Since Then
The IHSL's history is intertwined with that of the ISU Library. During these years, and since, two major activities were pursued. First, database searching via electronic systems expanded, with increasing numbers of products being made available to our patrons. These included, in 1996, the Hospital Literature Collection from SilverPlatter in CD- ROM format. Access to this product soon became available from outside the library via campus computer accounts. Requests for interlibrary loans increased sharply as patrons were able to easily identify items not owned by this library.  

Second, the libraries’ instruction programs grew steadily, offering workshops for classes in the various health-related majors including those at distance learning centers. These classes were tailored to meet specific needs of individual courses. Staff members also prepared pathfinders designed to introduce patrons to some of the subject-specific literature available here. Now these are available on the Web at

ISHL as Resource Library
The ISU Library had been a member of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM) for years; in 1997 it formally became Idaho’s Resource Library within this network, with the IHSL as its active representative. As a Resource Library, the IHSL is responsible for participating in resource sharing. The IHSL enhanced its capabilities in this area by embarking upon an archiving project in the Fall of 2000. Journals, to which the library does not subscribe are accepted from Idaho hospital libraries when those agencies discard volumes due to space constraints. As a result, the journals stay within the state and remain available to library patrons.

As a Resource Library, the ISHL also participates in outreach to consumers and to all health professionals in the state. Outreach efforts have included exhibiting and presenting at numerous professional society annual meetings, and the annual Idaho Health Conference on Health Care, presenting at regional and statewide library association meetings, and hosting training workshops on campus. 

The IHSL began publishing a newsletter, the Liaison, in the Summer of 1993. For several years this was mailed to over 1000 individuals and agencies. It is now available to anyone on the Web at, beginning with volume 6, number 2 (Fall, 1999). Additionally, a consumer health resource guidewas developed. Its is available at More recently, two subcontracts from the National Library of Medicine have enabled us to extend our outreach efforts by partnering first with Community and Migrant Health Centers in medically underserved areas, and then with public libraries in southeast Idaho.

Facility and Materials Adapt to Times
A second renovation of the IHSL occurred during 1997 because of a perceived need to rearrange space on the third floor.   This resulted in a more open floor plan and a less distinct separation of the IHSL from other third-floor functions.  All journals had been cataloged during a three-year project and, as part of the remodeling, were then shelved by call numbers.

During the winter of 1997-98 ISHL staff surveyed physicians to determine their levels of satisfaction with its services.  They wanted to determine if the IHSL's provision of knowledge-based information resources had any impact on clinical decisions. Results were very favorable; a summary was published in the Winter 1998-99 issue of the Liaison.  (Printed copies are available from the IHSL.)

Meanwhile, on June 26, 1997, the National Library of Medicine announced that it was making MEDLINE, in a new format called PubMed, available free to anyone who has access to the Internet. This revolutionized usage, which increased enormously. Health professionals soon exhibited a much stronger tendency than they had previously to perform their own searches. Consumers began using the database in unprecedented numbers. 

In the library requests for mediated searches declined, but it became apparent that the need for special training was increasing. Soon librarians heard a predictable demand for full-text electronic resources. The IHSL established a web site in 1998, created and maintained by Marcia Francis. It includes an extensive list of health sciences e-journals available at the ISU Library ( Access to some is limited in one way or another because of restrictions imposed by the publishers.

Other Changes
As physical facilities and materials changed, so too did the leadership of the IHSL. Terry Wiggins resigned and Nancy Griffin was appointed Director of the IHSL, effective July 1, 1998.

In January 1999, BRMC notified the ISHL that it was withdrawing from the partnership. PRMC and State Hospital South chose to continue on a fee-for-service basis. This resulted in a change in staff work emphasis and allowed staff to devote more time to consumer health education efforts, to electronic journal issues, and to an increased demand on library instruction. The IHSL has supported the health programs on campus and at extended sites as they have grown both in numbers and in size.

The IHSL received a generous donation in December, 1999, for the purpose of establishing an endowment in memory of Bart Pulling. Dr. Pulling was a true friend of the library and is missed by library staff. The income generated by this fund will be used to enrich library holdings. Those wishing to make a contribution to ISU are invited to add to this endowment.  Interested donors may call the ISU Foundation office at 208-282-3470.

IHSL plans for the future include several strategies. First, IHSL staff is working with several other libraries in the Pacific Northwest Region on the Public Health Professionals document delivery project. The National Library of Medicine wants to know the information needs of this group
and what areas of service need strengthening. A small stipend has been provided to fund this study. At this point it has not been decided which subgroup, or whether or not all of them, should be studied: subgroups include epidemiologists, mental health workers, environmental health workers, nutritionists, social workers, health educators and public health nurses.

Second, given the demand for full-text electronic journals, librarians accept the fact that they must grapple with the associated issues and the extra work e-journals require. They are convenient for local patrons and are critical for distance students. But, as IHSL staff member, Kristi Austin, said, “You have to stumble across them in cyberspace --- and hope that they’ll be there tomorrow.” 

The ISU Library now houses a collection of about 830 current health sciences journals, some in paper only and some in both paper and electronic format. Access is provided to additional titles in electronic format only and the library will continue to make the transition. It is necessary to be cautious because is this an extremely volatile situation. The library will continue to archive paper journals because of the conviction that this is important to health professionals in Idaho.

Third, the IHSL will continue outreach to health consumers. In order to facilitate this, staff hopes to strengthen partnerships with public libraries, to participate in local health fairs and to work with various health organizations and support groups. Fourth, IHSL librarians are currently looking into the possibility of offering for-credit courses in health information on the Internet during the summer for Idaho teachers.