- A Medical Information Network and the Japan Medical Library Association
- No.9, p.343-359
Today, it is recognized that the development of a national medical information network is necessary for better medical information services.
In the United States, besides the ill-fated Herner's network plan, there is a National Library of Medicine (NLM) plan which is now being implemented with its regional medical libraries and the MEDLARS searching centers.
We, in Japan, have the NIST (National Information System for Science and Technology) plan which is, however, for science in general and not specifically for medicine.
In spite of the fact that various network plans developed in the United States were examined while the NIST plan was worked out, the latter lacks the former's basic concept of constructing a network by using the presently existing library and information system as its basic foundation. Therefore, the NIST plan is unrealistic enough to propose having a central control unit and a number of regional service centers which are supposed to cover all the fields of science including medicine.
Another weak point of the NIST plan is in its placing of too much emphasis on the handling of information and too little on the documents themselves, though the information it talks about is mainly literature information.
When one plans a medical information network in Japan, care should be taken not to leave the Japan Medical Library Association out or its institutional members. The Association has the most active, nationwide interlibrary loan network in this country.
However, this network lacks a central reservoir as the country does not have a national central medical library. It also lacks clearly established regional centers, even though it has a number of large medical libraries with strong resources scattered all over the country. Therefore, its network structure is more like a “totally decentralized network” according to Davis' definition.
There is no doubt in the desirability of having a national central medical library, but the possibility of the government establishing it in near future is infinitesimal. This leaves us no alternative but to concentrate our efforts on building up from some of the larger medical libraries full-fledged regional centers to strengthen the document handling network.
As to information services such as literature search service, translation, indexing and abstracting, etc., the member libraries of the Association have not been very active with the exception of a few libraries such as the Keio University Medical Information Center. However, the Association's library network would be the best one for the sort of medical information services if the Association establishes such a network using these information conscious libraries as its centers. Then, the network structure would be a “totally centralize” one or a near variation.