American Dental Association Library May Be Set to Close

Article excerpt

Specialized health care libraries have been taking it on the chin. The American Hospital Association library budget has been repeatedly cut over the past few years. The American Medical Association's library quietly closed in March when the head librarian retired. In July, the American Dental Association's (ADA) library budget was slashed, and eight of 13 library staffers expect to lose their jobs January 1 if the board doesn't reverse course at its December 9-12, 2012, board meeting. [Editor's note: The ADA board meeting concerning the budget was held after the deadline for this issue. To learn the results of that meeting, please visit americanlibrariesmagazine.org.]

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Although there was criticism about the ADA library cuts when they were announced in July, a resolution to maintain the library budget and services at current levels failed in October. Chicago-area dentist and ADA member Spencer Bloom wrote in DrBicuspid.com, a dental website, that the defeat was due to members not understanding that the approved budget included a surplus of $1.1 million, of which there would still be a surplus of $500,000 even if they approved restoring $600,000 to the library. His comments were in response to a November 21 op-ed on DrBicuspid.com by ADA Executive Director Kathleen O'Loughlin, who had stated that the surplus was needed to build reserves.

The library cuts sparked a furor over the summer and at the ADA House of Delegates meeting in October, but the board's budget passed largely unchanged. The final budget also included a new expenditure line of $800,000 to hire a public relations firm.

In addition to the likely loss of staff jobs, the proposed budget would mean canceling subscriptions to as many as 25% of journals, as well as closing the library to walk-ins. The library stopped buying books in July and stopped lending books November 15.

The books and physical library space could also be moved out of ADA headquarters, O'Loughlin wrote in her DrBicuspid.com commentary: "Recognizing how unique the collection is, the ADA is working to find a partner to physically house these materials and is exploring potential partnership(s) with regional medical libraries." At this point, no money has been set aside to move the collection.

Bloom noted that the resources available through the ADA library--such as copies of online journal articles at cost and books loaned for four weeks for the cost of shipping charges--would be prohibitively expensive for a sole practitioner, as textbooks average $200 each and online journal articles average $40--$45 apiece. O'Loughlin wrote that "access to journal articles would stay the same as they are now." However, Bloom said reduced access or the lack of it altogether will discourage research and evidence-based practice, a key tenet of the ADA.

Library start members sent relevant information and alternative suggestions to the board after they heard about the cuts, but no action was taken. In addition, no needs assessment or membership poll was conducted. (A member survey to gauge reactions to various ADA services was sent in mid- September, after the board adopted its budget proposal, and survey results weren't scheduled to be in before the December holidays.) The main tool used to determine benefit priorities was Decision Lens, a software package that focuses on return on investment for government as well as companies in the aerospace and engineering, transportation, energy and utilities, consumer products, and pharmaceutical and life sciences industries. …