MEDLARS - Medline

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MEDLARS (MEDical Literature Analysis and Retrieval Service) is an off-line, current and retrospective information service retrieving citations from the printed Index Medicus.


MEDLINE is MEDlars on LINE: retrieving citations from Index Medicus. As at December 1974 it is not yet available in Australia but is in the USA, UK and Europe.

Original documents are stored in ALIA House, Canberra.

'The Australian Medline Network commenced in August 1976. It is considered one of the most exciting developments in medical librarianship over the past decade' (letter dated 23rd February 1979 from Fay Baker to Pam Trier).

Article published in HLA News Spring 2016, pp. 7-17.'Medline's Australian evolution from 1976 to 1993' by Veronica Delafosse: File:Delafosse-Medlines Australian evolution-HLA News-2016.pdf

A summary of the content of the archives is outlined in the table below.



Key points in the correspondence
1972.05.22 Letter from Paul Hodgson, Australian MEDLARS Service, National Library of Australia, to Fay Baker, Monash University Library, Monash Medical School, Alfred Hospital (Melbourne) on the willingness of Mr John Vaughan and Mr Richardson to give a talk on MEDLARS to the Medical Librarians' Group (Victorian Branch) but the difficulties in confirming a date. Both are currently at a meeting in Washington which will probably result in "changes in our indexing commitment or perhaps (rather more remotely) in the establishment of an on-line MEDLINE system".

The remainder of the letter queries the proposed content of the talk and bemoans a paucity of feedback on the impact of the service eg only one in four search appraisal forms are returned.

Fay's reply is not dated but lists the schedule of meetings and suggests a few dates and time. She also details the professional experience of the Group, stating the largest proportion are hospital librarians, some of whom would not have had an initial briefing on the work of MEDLARS. Therefore she requests a general overview followed by formulation of searches, and lists questions which could be answered directly. These include: will the MEDLARS service continue to be free? What is the future? What about the establishment of an on-line MEDLINE system? Is Australian material being entered? Are searches requested by libraries better expressed than those from individuals? Do they give clearer instructions in the request statement? Are citations older than three years useful? Do you want to know if we have to request more inter-library loans from overseas because of MEDLARS searches? Fay was briefed via a letter (8th June 1972) from Jacqueline Baillie, Biomedical Librarian, Monash University to Enid Meldrum, Alfred Hospital.
1972 The speaker for the evening was Paul Hodgson. He gave a most interesting and informative talk on MEDLARS with a brief outline of the history and establishment followed by future plans. A search is needed if one or more of the following requirements is met:
1. if the information is difficult to locate manually
2. if a comprehensive search is necessary
3. if up to date references are required
Paul maintains that a machine search is far superior to a manual search as MEDLARS can use up to 30 to 30 tags. He also mentioned a new facility: Current Awareness Service whereby once the initial retrospective search has been compiled a research worker may request a regular output of references. This would be matched monthly against each new MEDLARS citation tape and routinely mailed to the research worker. Interest in Paul's talk was indicated by the variety of questions put to him after the conclusion.
1972.05.16 Anne Harrison presented slides from the NLA on the formation and work of MEDLARS at the MLG (Vic Branch) meeting: MEDLARS: What it is and what it does
1974 Brief account of an investigation of medical information needs and usage carried out by Carmel Maguire and Eugenia Lovelace, School of Librarianship, New South Wales. Results from two questionnaires which were distributed in July 1974. One went to 150 medical practitioners in NSW who were not users of MEDLARS and the slightly longer one went to users of the Australian MEDLARS Service.
General conclusions:
- extensive non-use and lack of awareness of information services available to users of medical information
- local library services are inadequate at both community and hospital levels
- the interlibrary loan network is inadequate even for university medical libraries
- there is considerable ignorance about the capabilities of MEDLARS
- there are few suitable informed librarians available
- interlibrary loans need to be speeded up
- hospital library collections need upgrading - minimum core collection needs to be compiled and adopted by the Australian Council on Hospital Standards (ACHS)
- short-term training for librarians
1974.12.02 Submission on behalf of the Medical Librarians' Group by George Franki, Biomedical Librarian, University of New South Wales, to ALBIS (Australian Library Based Information Systems). This summarises the aims of the Australian Medical Librarians' Group which is affiliated with the Library Association of Australia and was formed in 1971. It notes that the major bibliographic aids include Index Medicus and that the National Library of Australia provides offline access to MEDLARS.
Future needs will require the introduction of on-line information retrieval systems and up-to-date comprehensive national and regional catalogues especially for serial holdings.
The problems noted in this submission are identical to those in the 1950's and 1906's in the USA and Canada. These latter countries have had success with national co-ordination of medical information services and the establishment of co-operative regional services.
GF also includes the contents of Jacqueline Baillie's letter to the Medical Journal of Australia (24th Aug, 1974) which drew attention to the current problems of medical libraries in Australia. It reinforces this submission.
Key points include:
- submissions made by medical librarians to inquiries and committees have been ignored
the Karmel Report on medical education (1974) does not mention the word "library"
- there is an underlying assumption that the introduction of MEDLARS will solve medical education problems
- as access to MEDLARS increases the problems for the libraries increase regarding document delivery
1950's graduates relied on 2 year old textbooks whereas those in 1974 rely on periodicals
- the prospect of intellectual rather than geographical isolation that sways young doctors against country practices
- the great strain on university libraries regarding document delivery
- the need for increased support for hospital libraries for stock, staff, and staff training
- a subsidy for the Victorian Central Medical Library Organization and investigation as to whether similar services should be set up in other places
- the need for regional librarians for the country hospital libraries
- the need for online MEDLARS ie MEDLINE
1976.08 Biomedical Library, Monash University, Medline commenced in August 1976. The staff have become quite proficient and the service is functioning very effectively. Charges from April 1977: $10 per search to cover communication line charges between Canberra and Melbourne. Searches for citations prior to 1971 have to be sent directly to the NLA.
1976.07.10 Brochure for the Australian MEDLARS Service (a co-operative venture between the National Library of Australia and the Australian Department of Health) with list of charges effective 1st January 1977.
It gives details of the development of MEDLARS in the USA and the centres in Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, Sweden and the United Kingdom. It also explains how to request searches, the Medline database, the format and quality of searches and document delivery issues.
1978.03.23 Letter from Elizabeth Morrison, LAA Information Science Section, Victorian Group, to Jane Oliver to arrange a joint meeting.
1978.06.07 Advertising flyer for a collaboration between the LAA Information Science Section, Victorian Group, and the Medical Librarians' Group (Victoria). A joint meeting entitled "Using Medline" held at the Baillieu Library, University of Melbourne.
Speakers: Paul Hodgson (Australian MEDLARS Service), Sandra Russell (Biomedical Library, Monash University), Anne Harrison (Brownless Medical Library, University of Melbourne).
Students, information services personnel, hospital librarians, all interested persons welcome.
Attached to the front of the flyer: Hospital librarians - please note - Paul Hodgson will be speaking about Medline in hospitals. This will be an excellent opportunity for hospital librarians to ask questions and to offer comments about Medline, so make an effort to attend.
1978.07.27 Letter from Paul Hodgson, Australian MEDLARS Service, National Library of Australia, to Anne Harrison with a copy of a letter from the National Library of Medicine (USA) inviting suggestions about the coverage of Abridged Index Medicus. He wondered if Anne would consult with the Medical Librarians' Group as there were discrepancies between the MLG List of Basic Journals for Hospital Libraries and the AIM list. He suggested excluding letters in favour of adding 30-40 more journals instead.
1978 Hodgson, Paul. Australian Medline Network in Medical Journal of Australia, 2, 1978, p.623
Letter explaining the "on-line" version of MEDLARS called MEDLINE which commenced in Australia in 1976 and inviting organizations which might be interested in providing, from computer terminals on their own premises, MEDLARS literature searches to their own staff members or to external users.
A large metropolitan teaching hospital can expect to pay about $2,000 per annum to run Medline.
1979.01.19 Letter from Jane Oliver, Secretary, MLG (Vic) to Pam Trier, Treasurer, LAA Vic Branch, requesting funds for a seminar on Medline.
1979.02.12 Letter from Jane Oliver, Secretary, MLG (Vic) to the Australian MEDLARS Service, NLA, requesting help for running a workshop in Melbourne based on the training seminars advertised for data base users (Information Sheet No. 168, 15th November 1978).
1978.02.23 Fay Baker writes to Pam Trier with submissions for two projects: a talk by Bert Pribac and training for Medline.
1979.03.27 Pam Trier replies and increases the amount requested for Mr Bert Pribac's expenses from $120 to $190 as it was felt that $50 is a more realistic figure for one night's accommodation in Melbourne. Pam also approves the $200 requested for running the workshop as a recoupable grant.
1979.03.28 Letter from Jane Oliver to Paul Hodgson regarding his letter to the Medical Journal of Australia, 2, 1978, p. 623 protesting that he ignored libraries and the importance of librarians in operating Medline. MLG feel strongly that Medline is an extension of information and reference services and experienced librarians are best able to evaluate search requests and retrieve information effectively. They are also concerned that they may be overlooked by their organizations if a decision on Medline provision is made without their knowledge.
1979.04.11 Letter from Paul Hodgson to Jane Oliver stating that his letter in the MJA aimed to advertise the existence of the application kit. The kit itself emphasises the importance of libraries and librarians.
1979.04.20 Letter from Paul Hodgson to Jane Oliver enclosing the section from the network application kit about computer terminals. It states that any 30 cps teletype-compatible computer terminal can be used to communicate with MEDLINE and gives a list of models and prices for < $3,000 (as at end 1978). Visual display terminals are not recommended. The only advantage for VDU's for information retrieval purposes is for demonstrations to several people. "I do not believe that this facility is worth the $1,000 or $1,500 that it costs for organisations that will use it regularly".
Telecommunications charges: $260 installation fee and $360 annual rental for the datelphone and modem.
It is essential to keep a printed record of a MEDLINE search. A keyboard-printer terminal is preferable to a VDU-printer combination.
1979.04.30 Letter from Jennifer Dowel, Librarian, Burnet Library, Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, Parkville, Victoria to Jane Oliver, Secretary, MLG (Vic) pointing out some of the recommendations relevant to libraries in the Australian Science and Technology Council Report. Volume 1A, Canberra: AGPS, 1978. CPP 240/1978. p. 61-9.
4.4.1 - recorded knowledge and the costs of storing and retrieving knowledge are increasing rapidly
4.4.2 - computer-based information services are increasing in importance overseas and being developed in Australia
- the NLA has establised AUSINET (AUStralian INformation NEtwork) to provide access to several databases from the same terminal but it is espensive
4.4.3 - data bases can be used in multiple ways:
- search for new information (SDI - Selective Dissemination of Information)
- retrospective search
- citations and/or abstracts
- produce current awareness bulletins on a topic - macroprofiles- eg in Medical Sciences there are 35 bulletins in association with the Department of Health and these are very expensive
4.4.4 - OTC(A) Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia) is developing MIDAS (Multi-Mode International Data Acquisition Service) - Australia's connection to international high speed data communication (called TYMNET)
4.4.5 - increasing demand for Australian data banks - earn income from selling access to these overseas; selection needs to be peer reviewed
4.4.6 - a good library is essential; costs of books and journals in science and technology are 2-3 times the inflation rate; need to share resources efficiently
4.4.7 - the twelve largest Australian "research" libraries are open to all
4.4.8 - interlibrary loans rely on voluntary co-operation
- union catalogues eg SSAL (Scientific Serials in Australian Libraries) maintained by CSIRO since 1930
- NUCOM (National Union Catalogue Of Monographs) is available on microfilm
- NLA hopes to develop a national shared cataloguing system
- CAVAL (Co-operative Action by Victorian Academic Libraries) and CLANN (College Libraries Activity Network in New South Wales) all aim to achieve more effective use of library resources
4.4.9 - NLA has three subject libraries:
- ANSTEL - Australian National Scientific and Technological Library
- ANSOL - Australian National Social Sciences Library
- ANHUL - Australian National Humanities and Arts Library
Should these be used as "first resort" for interlibrary loans or should they be used as "last resort"?
major research libraries should collaborate to avoid unnecessary overlap and to ensure geographic accessibility
1983.04.04 Sandra Russell's report on a one day visit to the National Library of Medicine including meeting staff responsible for Medical Subject Headings, Indexing, Training, and International Programs. She searched the public online catalogue, accessed by VDU-printer terminals. The menu driven system leads the search from natural language , free text input, to a choise of MeSH headings using ranking of suggested headings and "find like" options to achieve greater recall or specificity. Sandra was able to keep a printout of her interaction and the results.
1983.04.12 Sandra Russell's report on a three day National Onine Meeting in New York:
- microcomputers are "IN" technology
- can be used as online terminals - search, store, download, process search results (rearrange references, eliminate duplicates)
- vendors are reconsidering their pricing structures as more downloads enable the users to manipulate data offline
- library patrons can quickly learn to use keyword input when searching online catalogues and prefer this to menu access
- vendors are developing microcomputer software and menu interfaces
- end users who can search still go to librarians/expert searchers for help with complex searching, especially as it is expensive
- end-user searching is inevitable
- librarians should be moving towards educating, advising and consulting on information retrieval matters
1983.05.27 Sandra Russell's report on "The pursuit of excellence", Medical Library Association Annual Meeting, Houston, 27th May - 2nd June.
Topics included charging for online searches, creative library financing to help recover costs eg interlibrary loans, photocopying, overdue fines, and microcomputers. The speaker found the Apple microcomputer best suited for a small library. It is easy for novices, there are many local support groups, and it is readily available. Support from management was gained by testing it in the library for a month and allowing other departments to use it. Small tasks included: statistics, file management, reports, serials control, interlibrary loans records, online searching, word processing, collection analysis. It is best to avoid using it for major integrated systems or purposes requiring continual access eg online catalogue.
1983.06.10 Correspondence between Alex Byrne, Library, James Cook University, Townsville and Aina Zalitis, Secretary, MLS, Vic Group, regarding compiling the first Directory of Online Search Services in Australia (to be published jointly by the Footscray Institute of Technology Library and the Australian Database Development Association). Alex enclosed a detailed questionnaire but the Group's response was that some of the questions were too personal (eg Age, Qualifications, Total experience in librarianship) and that they were not prepared to bear the distribution costs of duplicating and postage. Alex's reply was an attempt to construct a profile of the "typical" online searcher (if there is such a beast) and that the private details would not be published in the directory.
1983 Paul Hodgson's summary of Anne Harrison's vast contribution to the development of the Medline Network in Australia. This was appended to the Fellowship application. Key points include:
- Anne's contribution to the development of Medline has been greater than of any other individual not directly employed in its operation
- Brownless Medical Library was one of the founding members of Medline and supported information services with farsightedness in the face of economic contstraints
- Brownless insisted on equal access for students and faculty, recognising that future doctors exposed to information services will keep using them after they graduate
- Anne's inaugural convening on the Life Sciences Consultative Committee formed the most effective representation (more than other states)
- Anne, with Jacqueline Baillie, organised the first national conference of medical librarians
- Anne made outstanding personal contributions on hospital library standards and medical audiovisuals
- Anne was instrumental in establishing the Medical Libraries Section of LAA and, in the face of considerable scepticism and hostility, persuading medical librarians to align themselves with the LAA
- Anne established the Central Medical Library Organization, produced core lists of medical journals for small hospital libraries and fought successfully for the professional status of hospital librarians in Victoria
- Anne is unquestionably the doyenne of Australia's medical librarians
1984.05 Report from Paul Hodgson, Principal Librarian, Life Sciences, National Library of Australia.
- National University of Singapore dials in to the Australian Medline Network for the first time in May, the 200th to join the Network (along with the World Health Organization Regional Offices in Manila, Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong and Malaysia)
- Data from Singapore to Australia travels via London (the speed is imperceptible)
- Medline moves to Telecom's new packet switching service, AUSTPAC, offering nationwide access at a uniform tariff
- Medline moves to the Department of Health's new IBM 3083 computers,four times the capacity of the previous IBMs. The new computers are faster and have additional storage to add more databases. They also allow individual doctors with microcomputers to sign up.
- Australian Medical Librarians' Group (ACT Branch) is hosting a seminar 4-5 October "Health information - the next five years" to discuss new and emerging technology for the effective dissemination of information for health and medical education, practice and research. Examples are personal computers, microcomputers, videodisks, user-friendly systems for searching the literature, and electronic publishing.
1985.01 Australian Medical Index commenced January 1985
1986.10.01 Sections from the Workshop on the regional biomedical information programme convened by the Regional Office for the Western Pacific of the World Health Organization, Manila, Phillipines, 25-29 November 1985. Published March 1986. Sent to Kathy Hutton, Secretary, MLS Vic Group from Sandra Henderson, Acting Principal Librarian, Life Sciences Section, National Library of Australia in response to a letter asking why an Australian library was not included in a list of focal points for national health library services. Sandra's reply noted that thay have been involved because developments in the regional programme rely heavily on the provision of MEDLARS services from Australia.

Annex 5 contains a Background report from Australia prepared by Bert Pribac and Paul Hodgson. It covers biomedical information planning, the Australasian Medical Index, the Australia-WHO MEDLARS agreement, structure and resources of biomedical libraries, online access to databases, health libraries manpower, literature collections, Current Australian Health Serials (2nd ed, 1984), Directory of Life Sciences Libraries in Ausrtaliana and New Zealand, 1985 edition, networking at present and in the near future.

-Australasian Medical Index
AMI was launched in January 1985. It is a database of Australasian (Australian and New Zealand) publications in human health and medicine which are not covered by the large international databases. The National Library of Australia believes that AMI is unique internationally for creating a single source of standardised bibliographic and reference data that is both compatible with Medline and available to a wide audience through the Australian Medline Network.
- in Australia there are about 240 strictly medical and health libraries, of these 130 are hospital and nursing libraries
- most of the public health, hospital, nursing and research institution libraries are government funded
- academic biomedical libraries are usually part of universities and colleges
- in 1980 21 hospitals had in-house access to Medline, in 1986 62 have access but 54 hospitals and 48 societal libraries do not
- while those without access are in the minority, usually in the country hospitals, information needs are just as relevant
- 113 libraries (about 40%) have no access to any data base
- in general there are more libraries in 1986 compared to 1980 but they are stffed at the same evel as they were five years ago. There are about 380 qualified biomedical librarians, and the 286 libraries employ about 1,000 staff (30 % work part-time). There are about 30 hospital libraries without professional staff.
- there has been very little growth in the size of the book and journals collections in the last five years. This resulted from scarce funds plus the work of coperative schemes like the Central Medical Library Organization in Vic, GRATIS in NSW, GRATISSA in SA, and collection sharing in ACT and WA.
1986.10.01 Other resources:
- Current Australian Health Serials, compiled by V T An, S-F Phang and V Ora. 2nd ed. Canberra: AGPS, 1984, comprised 760 titles and is used as a finding tool for the location and ordering of Australian health literature.
1986.10.01 - Directory of Life Sciences Libraries in Australia and New Zealand compiled by B Pribac, M Price and M Weir. 2nd ed. Canberra: Australian Medical Libraries Group (ACT Branch), 1985.
1986.10.01 Networking:
- networking among biomedical libraries is embryonic despite a high level of informal cooperation and sharing
- HEMLOC (Health & Medical Libraries Onine Catalogue) re-named HEALTHNET now contains the holdings of fifteen federal health libraries as well as some health authorities in the Northern territory and South Australia
- within HEALTHNET exists a list of serials in ACT medical libraries (plus 25 other participating libraries). It is as yet unnamed but has the potential to become a national union list of biomedical periodicals.
- WA Department of Health installed integrated library software that is being shared with most of the hospital and health libraries
- Victoria and NSW are considering regional networks based on major hospital and health libraries; these could cooperate with existing networks - ABN or HEALTHNET
- all possibilites rely on consistency, standardisation (eg MARC), adequate funding and good will amongst libraries.
1991.02.13 Letter from Enid Meldrum, Correspondence Secretary, HLS Vic Group, to Sandra Henderson, Principal Librarian, Online Information Networks, National Library of Australia, querying the guidelines and methods adopted for a review of Medline and requesting that Victoria have an opportunity to comment.
1991.03.20 Sandra Henderson and Warwick Cathro, Director, ABN Networks Services Branch, spoke at a Medline Meeting at Fairfield Hospital, Melbourne. Main points include:
- continue to supply Australian information to the National Library of Medicine via tape or direct line - pros/cons of each
- AMI: NLM reluctant to mount AMI as is does not host any other overseas databases
- costs of using Medline via a direct link to the USA could be cheaper bu the communication costs would be higher. Currently $35 per hour.
1991.03.21 Enid Meldrum wrote to Sandra Henderson to thank her and Warick Cathro for their interesting talk on the future of the Medline network.
1992.01.30 Flyer for ALIA Health Libraries Section - Victorian Group - General Meeting: With losing the Australian National Library's Medline in '93, it is time to consider the alternatives! This showed an online demonstration of Medline and other biomedical databases using the BRS platform.
1992.11.25 Notice from the National Library of Australia regarding SDI Searches. This is the last set of SDI results you will receive from the Australian MEDLINE Network. If you are planning to move your SDIs to another inline service you have very little time to make that change. The NLM will run MEDLARS SDIs on 5th December. A table on SDI services from NLM, BRS, and DIALOG is appended with the costs and contact details. The exchange rate is A$1.00 - SUS 0.69.
1993.06.30 The Australian Medline Network ceased 30th June 1993. This had been a twenty year collaboration between the National Library of Australia and the Department of Health. AMI commenced 1st July 1993 from the NLA's own computer. [National Newsletter, No. 26, July 1993, p. 4]. Libraries seek alternatives via commercial database services.

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