- Literature Search Services in a Medical Library and Its Possible Limitation
- No.4, p.63-88
Literature search service is beginning to be regarded as one of the “mus” services in science libraries. But providing scientific researchers with this type of service effectively requires studies of what is called “users' needs” The forerunner of these were studies on use of literature. The Gross and Gross study in 1927 on “reference countin” is supposed to be the first one of all. At the Royal Society's Conference held in London in 1948, J. D. Bernal presented a paper on the use of scientific literature by scientists, and D. J. Urquhart, on the distribution and use of scientific information. Since then, many studies on the subject have been conducted but few in Japan. More studies on the information needs of Japanese scientists need to be made.
To maintain an effective information acquiring activity in this world of extraordinary increase of scientific publications, an individual scientist is forced to rely more or less on organized literature search services offered by libraries and information center.
To meet the needs of scientists in literature search, a library has to satisfy daily current and retrospective demands as Voigt grouped them.
When a library goes into literature search services, retrospective search is the one with which it usually starts. For current awareness type of services, a library often provides the following: Routing journals, distributing the contents sheets of important journals, or displaying some of the important current titles for a short period to enable users to browse through them. But these are passive services in which the scientists have to do their own screening of the publications they really need. To give the screening service itself is very effective, but this work requires a fairly large number of specially trained staff and a small library can not hope to do it on a large scale.
The information services for the scientists' daily needs can be divided into three sub-groups. The first one is for biographical or geographical reference questions which can be rather easily answered by using directories, maps, gazetteers and that kind of reference tool. The second one is so called “dat” or “fact findin” reference, in which the answer will be given by using data books, handbooks, dictionaries, statistics, etc. This one appears to be a simple, easy information service just like a quick reference in a public library, but in reality it often requires evaluation of information; therefore, a good subject knowledge is required. While both the retrospective and current awareness searches are merely “reference retrieva” searches, information itself is handled in the fact finding reference: The third group is the one which is called “specific recall” This is more like a retrospective search but what is sought here is not an exhaustive search on a subject but an article on a specific idea or method of which the requester often has some memory of having read or of having heard.
At the Medical Library of Keio University, all of these information search services are provided in the two sections of reference and of literature analysis. While the former does all types of searches, the emphasis is on the demand searches requested by the individual scientist. The latter's main job is the current awareness service to the group of scientists working on a departmental or an inter-departmental project. The Library is aiming to cover eventually all of the major research projects conducted in the School.
Though the scientists are being forced to rely more on the organized literature search services offered by libraries and information centers, because of the great increase in scientific publications, these services have many limitations. For instance, they can not handle the information conveyed by oral communication or by informal records such as private letters, though these sources are the ones most favored by advanced scientists in exchanging information with their colleagues. These organized literature search services for the most part can deal only with recorded information which tends to be too old to do any good.
Another frustration with these services is their inability to provide a systematic service for browsing where scientists are believed to get their “ide” and “inspiratio” that in turn furthers knowledge.
In spite of all its limitations, an organized literature search service must be provided by the medical library to relieve some of the burdens medical research workers and clinicians are carrying in their search for information.
（Keio University Medical Library）