Thursday, December 10, 2009

Role of health & medical library associations - Marguerite Nel

The role of health and medical library associations in the facilitation and sharing of information and knowledge by Marguerite Nel (HICSA, 24 November 2009)

Never before have there been so many opportunities for involvement in an information-based society as we are experiencing today. New challenges in electronic and multi-media publishing, local, national and global networking opportunities, new developments and tools for accessing, sharing and creation of knowledge and the increasing array of computers, communication and technology networks emerge to create new options for information capturing, storage, retrieval and delivery. Then there is a new focus on open source information and more and more databases with free access to medical information appear constantly. Even with Google – information is only a click away.
All these factors play a role when assessing the need for a heath information interest group. One may ask the question, with all this information and opportunities, is there still a need for us to getting involved in social networking (as we did this afternoon)? Is face to face meetings still important? What about the challenges for collaboration on the interactive web? Maybe a facebook group – or discussions on Twitter?
These are the questions I want to address this afternoon. And at the end of my presentation I want us to discuss the future of HICSA.

When looking at this definition for social networking, as discussed in an OCLC membership report, we can say that the main functions of a group, like HICSA, are to establish and enhance relationships based on our common interest in health information as well as the sharing of ideas, skills and interest. The Internet made this communication more effective without boundaries of time or geographic location.

Interactive communication through social networking tools on the Internet are now possible. Just think how easy, quick and cost effective meetings through Facebook, Twitter or even on our Blog will be. It may be necessary to investigate all the possibilities of these social networking tools for the sharing of information and knowledge in an interest group, such as HICSA. The opportunities are countless, but are we willing to interact only through these means of communication?

My intention, however this afternoon, is not really to discuss the challenges and maybe threats of a virtual health association. I rather want to focus on the need for such an association in South Africa. But first, I think it is important to look at other health library associations around the globe - their functions in the profession and what they are able to deliver to their members.
One of the interest groups of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in the United Kingdom, is the Health Libraries Group. It has 1500 members.
A very well known, well-organised group in Europe, is the European Association for Health Information and Libraries. I was fortunate to attend their 9th annual conference in Santander, Spain, during September 2004. Their next conference will be next year, in June in Lisbon, Portugal.
Still in Europe, is the Health Sciences Libraries group, a section of the Library Association of Ireland. Like HICSA, this group also has only one annual meeting and they focus a lot on professional development and training through the presentation of workshops.
As you know, everything is better and bigger in the USA. The MLA is one of the largest medical library associations in the world. One of the many functions of the MLA is to assist medical librarians in continuing education.
Back on the African continent, is the Association for Health Information and Libraries in Africa, AHILA. This group is very active – especially on the sharing of information and knowledge through the listserve. They publish several information products, such as the African Index Medicus and has a conference every year. Some of us attended an AHILA conference in Swaziland, a few years ago and found it very interesting and informative.
In conclusion on what we just learned from what other associations are doing, we may suggest the following functions or objectives of a health information or library association:
One of the main objectives is to share information and expertise. In HICSA’s case, this is done through our regular meetings, such as this one as well as through communication on the listserve. Our conference every four years also contribute to the exchange of experiences and knowledge. HICSA also tries to present regular workshops. There were, for example our workshops on Blogging, creativity, Web 2.0 tools and Gaming – to mention only a few. At this stage, HICSA doesn’t really play a role in advocacy, recruitment or leadership in the profession.

Most of the discussed associations offer a rich array of benefits for people in all stages of their careers and in many fields relating to health sciences information. These benefits are promoted to their members. At this stage, HICSA only provides a platform for information and knowledge sharing through networking.

Currently HICSA has a well functioning listserve. We also use Web 2.0 technology, such as our Blog (created and maintained by Erica) and we also used a Wiki for our previous conference. We have an annual meeting, a conference every fourth year and we presented a few successful workshops.

I think the main problem with HICSA is, that it isn’t promoted to all role players in the field of health information and librarianship. Time is one of the biggest constraints and people feel that HICSA doesn’t contribute anything to their career or profession. This is just my opinion – but it will be interesting to further investigate or discuss this issue.

The question now is, do you think HICSA has a role to play? Do you think we must continue – and maybe put in more effort, developing it into a new direction where it can play a more important national role. What about the opportunities of the interactive web? Maybe a Facebook group? Or must we continue the way it is. The other option is to just discontinue any efforts to make it work.
The floor is now open for your opinions.

New Secretary and Treasurer : HICSA 2010 - 2012

Kabelo Nzima of the Basic Medical Sciences and Dentistry Library, University of Pretoria is the new Hon. Secretary (on photo left). Neil Heslip (next on photo) is the outgoing Hon. Treasurer. Marguerite Nel of the Jotello F. Soga Library, UP is the new Chair. She is 3rd from the left on the photo. Tertia Coetsee appears next to her.

Photos, HICSA meeting 24 November 2009 continue

Various medical and veterinary librarians of South Africa attended the HICSA meeting held on 24 November 2009.

Susan Marsh (Jotello F. Soga Library, formerly head of the Basic Medical Sciences and Dentistry Library, UP) and Neil Heslip (formerly of the MEDUNSA Library, now retired, and former Hon. Treasurer, HICSA) appear on the photo right.

Sue Dickinson of Abbott Laboratories Library and Information Centre and Tertia Coetsee (Jotello F. Soga Library, UP), who gave a reportback on the conference in Australia appear top left.

Photos, HICSA meeting 24 November 2009

Prof Ina Fourie of the Dept of Information Science, University of Pretoria gave an interesting overview of the 10 ICML (International Congress of Medical Librarians) held in September in Brisbane, Australia.

Marguerite Nel and Tertia Coetsee gave a reportback on the 6th International Conference of Animal Health Information Specialists (ICAHIS) which was held jointly with 10 ICML.

Marguerite then presented a paper on the important role of medical library interest groups or associations, asking whether HICSA should continue and what role it could play in future. It was agreed that HICSA should look at opportunities to become part of larger associations such as LIASA (Library and Information Association of South Africa - and AHILA (Association for Health Information and Libraries in Africa -

A survey will be undertaken next year on the current situation regarding medical and related health libraries in South Africa.

The photo above shows Prof Ina Fourie addressing the meeting. David Swanepoel (OVI library), John van Niekerk (MEDUNSA Library), Vimbai Hungwe (President AHILA) and Prof Ina Fourie appear on the top photo.

HICSA Committee 2010 - 2012

At the HICSA meeting held on 24 November 2009 the new committee was elected.

CHAIR : Marguerite Nel (Jotello F. Soga Library, University of Pretoria)

Hon. SECRETARY : Kabelo Nzima (Basic Medical Sciences Library, University of Pretoria)

Hon. TREASURER : Susan Marsh (Jotello F. Soga Library, University of Pretoria)

Past Chair : Sue Dickinson (Library Abbott Laboratories)

Liason/Blog/News : Erica van der Westhuizen (retired)

Member : Vimbai Hungwe (current President of AHILA)

Monday, November 16, 2009

HICSA Gauteng meeting, 24 November 2009

The next HICSA meeting will be held on 24 November 2009 at Burgundy's, (Acacia Room) Hatfield Campus of the University of Pretoria. Lunch will first be served (13:00 - 13:45) and then the meeting will start.

13:50 -14:10 Report back on 10th ICML (International Congress of Medical Librarianship), 31 August - 4 September 2009, Brisbane, Australia - Prof Ina Fourie.

14:10 - 14:30 Report back on 6th ICAHIS (International Conference of Animal Health Information Specialists), 3-4 September 2009, Brisbane.
Visits to libraries in Brisbane and Sydney - Tertia Coetsee and Marguerite Nel.

14:30 - 14:50 The role of health and medical library associations in the facilitation and sharing of information and knowledge - Marguerite Nel.

14:50 - 15:00 Discussion
15:00 - 15:20 Tea / coffee
15:20 - 16:00 Business meeting and election of 2010 - 2012 Management Committee.

Marguerite Nel, Hon. Secretary - tel.012-5298474

Monday, July 6, 2009

Networking for human and animal health: MEDLIG and HICSA reminiscences


Erica van der Westhuizen
Veterinary Science Library
University of Pretoria

3rd HICSA conference, 24 November 2008, Onderstepoort

An association of medical librarians in South Africa was formed in the 1980’s, called MEDLIG.
I remember those early meetings, with Maureen Brassell as secretary and Elizabeth Robinson, Lily Battaglia and later Glenda Myers, as Chairs. Maureen was from the medical Library of UP, and Elizabeth was the Head of the Wits Medical Library.
I can still recall the meeting at the Wits med library where Elizabeth told us of her frustrations when the new medical library was designed and built, with architects following their own ideas instead of listening to the wise librarians. I had exactly the same experience a few years later when our new veterinary library was built.

After Elizabeth, Glenda became chair and inspired us in those years with all her overseas visits to libraries and medical librarians conferences. When SAILIS became LIASA and little interest groups were encouraged to join the mother organization MEDLIG kept a low profile, the idea of paying membership fees and following rules of other controlling bodies seemed not very attractive to such a small group.
To this day, like SAOUG, MEDLIG/HICSA has maintained this independence.

 MEDLIG 1980’s

MEDLIG started in 1981.

 The Regulations 3 September 1981
The files show documents regarding Regulations adopted on 3 September 1981, where members agreed to only share information of a strictly non-confidential nature.

 Fees – R8.00 1980’s, 1990’s
 - R30.00 2000-2006
 - free – 2007, 2008
By 1991 there were 31 paid-up members. The fees were R8.00 per annum.
The membership list includes members who are still with us today;
Magriet Lee, David Swanepoel, Maureen Brassell, Lily Battaglia, Neil Heslip, John van Niekerk, and Erica vdWesthuizen.
Louise Temkin, a well known librarian / KM expert today, was the treasurer.

 Elizabeth Robinson
 Glenda Myers
 Lily Battaglia
 Maureen Brassel
 Berry Pflugler (HICSA)

 Yvette Gory
 Louise Temkin
 Neil Heslip (Treasurer)
Judith Shopley


Some fascinating topics were covered in those early days
 AIDS (1988) (Surely a rather unknown subject for library meetings at the time? But with what foresight, arranged by Elizabeth Robinson.
 Betrayers of the Truth (1988) a review of a book with this title, by Magiet Lee. It dealt with fraud in medical literature and medicine.
 Forensic odontology (1991) This was a fascinating lecture by an expert, Prof Ligthelm, at the Premedical library, UP
 Eating disorders (TARA) (1992)
 Edblo Sleep Clinic (1993)

 Roodeplaat Research Lab (1993)
 Human Genetics Lab, SAIMR (1993)
 Intellectual property, Glaxo-Wellcome(1999)
 MLA (USA) reportback, Myleen Oosthuizen and Annamarie Young, UPMed (1999)

 The change from SAILIS to LIASA
 16 April 1998 meeting at Wits Health Sciences Library. MEDLIG quo vadis?
 23 Feb 2000 last MEDLIG meeting

 24 – 25 November 1999 –
1st National Meeting, Bloemfontein
 HICSA national body with 2 branches:
Gauteng and KZNatal


 Berry Pflugler (Chair)
 Neil Heslip (Treasurer)
 Erica vd Westhuizen
 David Swanepoel
 Norma Russell (KZN)
 Eugenie Sohnge (Cape)
 Huibre Lombard (Free State)

Designed by Margaret Crampton’s artist daughter.Margaret is director of NISC, Grahamstown. The 3 figures are linked, to show they are a community. The open book represents information/knowledge. Their African look places them in context. And if you look closely you will see the 2 outer figures are female, with a male in the middle.


 2 meetings held in 2000
 2001 – 2nd National Meeting, Sept
 Gauteng meeting at Intervet, Spartan

THE DECLINE OF HICSA MEETINGS (decline in number held)
 2002
 2003 Nov, UPVet library (Human/animal bond)
 2004 2nd Conference
 2005 April at ARC Irene
November at Abbott Lab. (COPs)
2006 CSIR (Conservation medicine)
2007 Abbott Lab. (on being a researcher)
2008 May at UPVet (Camel anatomy atlas)
(plus workshop – on Flickr)


 All agree it should continue
 Not more than 2 meetings per year
 Workshops are popular
 Annual conference


 Bloemfontein (1st national meeting) 24/25 November1999
 Bloem again (2nd national conference) 8/9 November 2004
 Pretoria (Onderstepoort) (3rd national
conference) 24/25 November 2008

8-9 November 2004

 Caring and sharing:
 information support for a healthy nation

 The second National Conference of the Health Information Community(HICSA) is an opportunity for Health Information workers from all over South Africa to meet and share knowledge and expertise.
 This conference will be held at the Main Library of the University of the Free State.

 24 & 25 November 2008
 Onderstepoort, Pretoria, Gauteng
 THEME: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: Towards a new future for health libraries.



 Editor: John van Niekerk
HICSA also had a newsletter , first edited by Judith Shopley. When she retired from SANCA the newsletter stopped. It needs to be resuscitated!
The HICSA blog serves as a newsletter in the meantime.

 Listserv (Hosted by UP)


 by Marguerite Nel
 a blog you can visit to read about previous conferences –
Run by Erica van der Westhuizen


 For some background on HICSA please visit the web page at
 By Marguerite Nel, University of Pretoria
 (originally hosted by the UOFS)


This is the Association of Health information and Libraries in Africa. You will hear more about it in a later presentation by the new president, Vimbai Hwange later during this conference.

 MEDLIG / HICSA members’ participation
At conferences of the Association of Health Information

Some HICSA members were able to attend AHILA conferences. They are held in African countries every 2 years. E.g. 1996, Brazzaville, Congo, 1998 Lusaka, Zambia, 2000 Swaziland.

South Africa has not yet hosted one – maybe the time is approaching when we should also participate in such an event in our own country! Showing our involvement with health information beyond our borders.

 MEDLIG / HICSA members’ participation
 conferences of the Association of Health Information


To end, I would like to point out the link between human and animal health issues. Overseas, especially in the USA, there is now a shift to the concept of ONE MEDICINE, or ONE HEALTH to focus on the inter-relationship between the various species and also the environment..
This is why we veterinary librarians have always tried to play a role within HICSA, formerly MEDLIG. Without healthy animals, there cannot be healthy humans!

Thank you.