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Collection Building in Medical Libraries

J.Jeba Joselin.M.A.,M.L.I.S., &  M.Siva Subramaniam. M.L.I.S.,


A health or medical library is designed to assist physicians, health professionals, students, patients, consumers and medical researchers in finding health and scientific information to improve, update, assess or evaluate health care. Medical libraries are typically found in hospitals, medical schools, private industry and in medical or health associations

The collection building policies of the libraries determines the efficiency of the libraries. It changes from traditional documents to digital resources in the present IT era.

What is collection Development?

 Harrod's Librarians Glossary (6th edition) defines collection development as " the process of planning a stock acquisition programme not simply to cater for immediate needs but to build a regular and reliable collection over a number of years to meet the objectives of the services".

Purpose of Collection Development in Medical Libraries:

  • To fulfill the library's obligation to the user community to provide relevant information.
  • To find out the users information/document needs.
  • To select and acquire documents that are really useful to the users.
  • To participate in resource sharing and networking activities.
  • Periodically review of the collection and weeding out the unwanted documents.
Collection Development Policy

  Collection development policy is a guide to the librarian. A collection development is a guide to the librarian . It should be adopted according to the needs of the users , size of the library and the availability of funds.

Pre requisities of a Collection Development Policy

  • The quality and quality of the existing collection.  
  • The number of students enrolled. 
  • The number of teachers engaged.
  • The nature of teaching methods.
  • The availability of funds.

 Sources for the Collection building

 The collection development in the medical college library depends on a number of sources. These sources can be broadly categorized in to two as follows,

 1. Human Sources :

 These sources will include the Librarian himself , the library staff, the members of the library committee and other subject experts, heads of the departments, research scholars,students and other library users.

2.Documentary Sources:

Documentary sources are the important sources for framing the collection development policy. Documentary sources include Subject Bibliographies, National Bibliographies, Universal bibliographies, Union Catalogues, periodicals , Newspapers and the publishers' catalogues etc.

Steps in Collection Building in a Medical Library

 The collection Building in a Medical Library involves in the following steps,

1.Analysis of information needs of the users.

2.Formulation and Implementation of Collection Development policy to suit the objectives of the library.

3.Acquisition programmes to build-up a balanced collection.

4.Collection Evaluation.

5.Weeding out programmes to weed out the un related and the unwanted documents.

Collections in a Medical Library

A Medical Library contains the variety of collections.

1 . Circulating Books:

 These are the important collections in a medical library. Usually the library has to contain books related to the branches of medicine depending up on the courses provided by bthe institution.

  2 Electronic Textbooks

 Electronic textbooks can be accessed remotely via the Web, or searched from computers located on the library itself.

Eg: Scientific American Medicine online

  3.History of Medicine

This collection is comprised of older, historically relevant texts as well as current texts on the history of medicine and healthcare. Many of the textbooks in the History of Medicine collection circulate outside the library. These are designated as "Medical History" in the Library Catalog. Those texts that are extremely fragile or valuable are part of the archival collection.

4. Reference Books

 These are identified by the "Medical Reference" designation in the Library Catalog, and by the green tape on the spine of each book. The reference area consists primarily of directories, indexes, encyclopedias, dictionaries, bibliographies, and other resources used frequently by library staff. Reference books do not normally circulate outside the library,

5.Electronic Journals

  Electronic journals are available via two methods:

1.) electronic subscription on the Web, or

2.) as part of the MEDLINE Plus system.

  6.Print Journals

  All printed journals are shelved alphabetically by title, and can be identified in the Library Catalog by doing a "title" search for the journal title. They are identified by the "Medical Library Journal" designation in the Library Catalog. Journal collections include professional, health-related titles only.

  7. Archives

Included in the archival collection are rare, valuable or fragile historical texts; and memorabilia such as photographs, graduation records, school catalogs, department newsletters, annual reports, medical instrumentation.

8. Audiovisuals

 This collection includes audiotapes, videotapes, and slides on a variety of subject areas including histology, pathology, and physiology. All audiovisuals can be identified by using the Library Catalog to search for the author, title, or subject.

  9. Electronic Indexes and Knowledge Databases

  The MEDLINE Plus provides access to several biomedical databases: MEDLINE, Evidence Based Medicine (EBM) databases. In addition, Free-of-charge Web access to a variety of databases such as BIOSIS, ERIC, PSYCLIT, SOCIOFILE also can be accessed.

10. Print Indexes

  The library owns a number of print indexes like Index Medicus and others.

Other Collections

 Other collections includes the Medical Charts ,Skeleton models for teaching demonstrations.

Services of a Medical Library

Usually a Medical Library provides the following services.

· Lending Service

· Inter Library Loan

· Internet Accession

· Reprography Service

· Electronic Resource Service

· Current Awareness Service

· Online Medical Database Access(Eg:Pubmed)

· Medical library Publication

Problems in Medical Library Collection Building

1 . Emergence of many new branches in Medical Science.

Availability of same information in Different formats.

Proliferation of information.

Declining Budget and growing cost of documents/information.

Space and manpower problem.



1. Krutartha Chandra Mishra,21st Century Library Management,Ess Ess Publication,New Delhi,2004

2. Husde,James H, Library Collection Management,Dominant Publishers, New Delhi,2003

3. Sava Singh, Handbook of College Libraries ,Beccan Books,1995

4. Camel, Michael, Medical Librarianship, The Library Association, London, 1981


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