Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

Estelle Brodman: Educator Extraordinaire

Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

Estelle Brodman: Educator Extraordinaire

Article excerpt

Objective: The purpose of this article is to describe the educational contributions of Estelle Brodman PhD, to medical librarianship.

Methods: The article is based on a comprehensive search of Dr. Brodman's articles, a review of her two Medical Library Association oral history interviews, and personal recollections.

Findings: This article documents the educational contributions of Dr. Brodman, a librarian, researcher, and educator who had a significant and lasting impact on the education of medical librarians through more than fifty years of concentrated effort.


Education was the major cornerstone in the life of Estelle Brodman, PhD. Her life was compelled and directed by education, both her own growth as well as her drive to better understand education in order to teach others.

The purpose of this article is to inform the reader about Dr. Brodman's personal education as well as her educational contributions to medical librarianship. There are multiple ways to introduce a new generation of medical librarians to the greatness of Dr. Brodman: this paper will employ her own words, gathered from her writings and interviews, to convey her commitment, intellect, and spirit.


Dr. Brodman's family instilled and encouraged education. She adopted their educational drive, and this led her to continuously studying and excelling. Dr. Brodman received her undergraduate degree in histology and embryology from Cornell University in 1935. During her undergraduate days, she applied for admission to medical schools. However, she was not accepted. During one of the Medical Library Association's (MLA's) oral history interviews, the interviewer asked about her desire to attend medical school. She responded:

I applied to several places, including Cornell where my family came from. My father and brother were both Cornell Medical School graduates. I applied at the Women's Medical College of Philadelphia and a few other places, but they all unanimously turned me down, and I think they were very right because my background course work in the biomedical field was not as good as it should have been. I liked histology and embryology, but I didn't really do very well in biochemistry or in physics or in some of the other more esoteric zoological courses. [1]

When she was not accepted into medical school immediately after graduation, she entered Columbia University to study librarianship. In 1936, she received a bachelor's degree in library science. When asked by the MLA interviewer about the choice of library science, she responded:

When I didn't get into medical school I had to decide what else I wanted to do. Librarianship sounded interesting because I'd been interested in libraries before and I must admit, embarrassedly, that I had an argument with my mother, who wanted me to be a social worker and mess with other people's lives. I said I'd rather be a librarian. And that's how I got into library school. [1]

At Columbia, she demonstrated her interest in medical librarianship. For example, she indicated that during the special libraries course focusing on reference works, she used medical library examples. Dr. Brodman stayed in New York, after graduation and obtained a second degree in library science from Columbia, this time a master's in 1943. When asked why a second library science degree, she responded, "I was on the committee which changed the program so that it was more theoretical, and therefore I had to show why it was a good idea" [1].

Dr. Brodman also received a doctoral degree in the history of medicine from Columbia University in 1954, with a dissertation focused on the development of medical librarianship and medical bibliography. This dissertation was converted into a book and became MLA's first publication [2]. When asked why she selected history of medicine rather than an advanced degree in librarianship, she responded with a typical Dr. …

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