The Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries Annual Statistics: A Thematic History

By Shedlock, James; Byrd, Gary D. | Journal of the Medical Library Association, April 2003 | Go to article overview
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The Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries Annual Statistics: A Thematic History


Shedlock, James, Byrd, Gary D., Journal of the Medical Library Association


The Annual Statistics of Medical School Libraries in the United States and Canada (Annual Statistics) is the most recognizable achievement of the Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries in its history to date. This article gives a thematic history of the Annual Statistics, emphasizing the leadership role of editors and Editorial Boards, the need for cooperation and membership support to produce comparable data useful for everyday management of academic medical center libraries and the use of technology as a tool for data gathering and publication. The Annual Statistics' origin is recalled, and survey features and content are related to the overall themes. The success of the Annual Statistics is evident in the leadership skills of the first editor, Richard Lyders, executive director of the Houston Academy of Medicine-Texas Medical Center Library. The history shows the development of a survey instrument that strives to produce reliable and valid data for a diverse group of libraries while reflecting the many complex changes in the library environment. The future of the Annual Statistics is assured by the anticipated changes facing academic health sciences libraries, namely the need to reflect the transition from a physical environment to an electronic operation.

INTRODUCTION

The Annual Statistics of Medical School Libraries in the United States and Canada, the Annual Statistics for short, is probably the most recognizable achievement of the Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries (AAHSL) in its first twenty-five years as an organization. Starting with a need for library management data, the Annual Statistics developed as a useful tool in measuring collections and service growth in academic medical center libraries. The leadership skills and professional interests of AAHSL as an organization are reflected in the Annual Statistics' development and history. In a review of the publication's history, several general themes emerge. These themes include the leadership role of individual editors, the ongoing need for cooperation and support of the Annual Statistics' purpose among AAHSL membership, and the role of technology in the production of the Annual Statistics. These themes also provide a basis for discussing the future directions of the Annual Statistics.

ORIGINS

The idea for the Annual Statistics began with a 1974/ 75 national survey conducted by Donald D. Hendricks, director of the University of Texas Health Science Center Library at Dallas (later to become the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center). Hendricks repeated the survey the following year. Because different libraries responded to the 1974/75 and 1975/76 surveys, the very brief introduction to the 1975/76 Medical Library Statistics suggested a need for "a comparable database [to] be established so that trends can be determined from year to year" [I]. With this statement, two major issues emerge that can be traced throughout the history of the Annual Statistics: the need for comparable data useful in creating benchmarks among peers and the need to see the ways data about library operations can reveal trends useful in academic medical library management.

The next significant factor about the Annual Statistics' origins was the early succession in the survey's leadership. Hendricks left the Dallas position sometime after the second survey's results were published. Richard Lyders, executive director of the Houston Academy of Medicine-Texas Medical Center Library, in an interview with the authors, said his own professional interest in the survey led him to contact Jean Miller, who succeeded Hendricks as the director of the Dallas library. Lyders asked Miller if she planned to continue the survey. When she said she did not, Lyders stepped in to fill the leadership gap. Like Hendricks, Lyders was motivated to manage the survey process out of both personal and professional interests. The Houston library served seven separate health care institutions in the Texas Medical Center including two medical schools, the academy, scientific institutes, and many more organizations.

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