History of CAHSLA

  A little CAHSLA history by Jane Thompson, 2004

The organization known today as the Cincinnati Area Health  Sciences Libraries Association or CAHSLA, owes its origin to the Medical Library  Assistance Act of 1965, which funded the creation of a nation-wide system of  biomedical resource libraries to meet the needs of health professionals. The  system was named the Regional Medical Library Program. The 50 states plus Puerto  Rico were divided into 11 regions, with one library in each region designated as  the Regional Medical Library (RML).  Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan composed Region  5, called KOM or KOMRML. Each RML was responsible for 3 services: ILL, online  MEDLINE, and extramural services, headed by an Extramural Coordinator who worked  with all of the biomedical libraries in the region. Subsequently, in 1982, our  region was retitled Greater Midwest Regional Medical Library Network (GMRMLN)  and we became a 10-state region with 20 resources libraries.

The first documented organization of medical librarians in  Cincinnati was called the Medical and Nursing School Librarians of Greater  Cincinnati Area (MNSLGCA). This group, active in the 70’s, included some  hospital administrators as well as librarians. Members brought lists of book and  journal purchases for the year, missing issues lists, and problems: “Name your  problems, one of us will be able to come up with an answer”  promised a meeting  announcement.

In 1973,  federal funding for ILL was drastically reduced.  Local groups were encouraged to organize to provide the service that the RMLs  had been providing. The KOMRMLN (remember what that was?) “offered the privilege  of observer representatives to attend the Executive Board meetings” of KOMRML in  an effort to facilitate communications between the local groups and the KOM  office. On July 17, 1973 a meeting of the KOM Institutional Affiliates was held  to discuss the new Interlibrary Loan policies. Mary McClanahan, Penny Young, and  Naomi Adelman, Medical Center Libraries led the discussion.

Alma P. Forbes, Chief Librarian of the VA Hospital sent a  letter on July 25, 1973 to her “Fellow Librarians” in Cincinnati, stating that  “We feel that an organization of the health sciences and technical libraries  affiliated with the University of Cincinnati Medical Center libraries has become  necessary. Such an organization would enable us to designate a representative  who could serve as our liaison with the K.O.M. and voice our point of view.” An  undated letter from Kay Barkley, Jewish Hospital,  goes into the detail of what  the cut in funding meant for local libraries: UC would only be able to supply 75  free ILLs to area institutions, and some sort of system needed to be set up by  the hospitals to lend among themselves for no fee, in addition to the UC ILLs.

In response to these challenges, an ad hoc committee was  empanelled to come up with a organizational plan. Kay Barkley was elected chair  of the committee.  A meeting was held on August 23, 1973 at Jewish Hospital,  chaired by Kay to present the proposed organization. At this meeting an ad hoc  committee was formed, chaired by Don Smith, St. Elizabeth’s,  which was charged  to draft a Constitution and By-Laws for the Association of Greater Cincinnati  Health Science Libraries. Other members of the ad hoc committee were Kay  Barkley, Alma Forbes, Jan Schneider, Margaret Thomas, and Marjorie Shriner. By  September 12 the name used was Cincinnati Area Health Sciences Libraries  Association. The Association was officially formed at the September 20, 1973  meeting at the VA Hospital. The constitution was adopted and officers elected:  Janice Schneider, Chair, Don Smith, Vice-Chair, Anne Feduff, Secretary, and  Frances McCullough, Treasurer.

The first general meeting was held February 6, 1974 with a  presentation on Audiovisuals in the Health Science Library.

The top priorities at that time for medical libraries, and  particularly for small hospital libraries,  was to develop an efficient and  cost-effective method for interlibrary loans that allowed the small institution  to provide the same top service that the academic health centers supplied to  their users, and to gain efficient access to Medline. There was a need for local  training for online searchers, and for a forum for discussion of events  affecting Cincinnati libraries, as well as a place where policies of service  could be agreed upon.

Our group was not formed in a vacuum. Other nearby library  groups were also looking at effective ways to organize for ILL and Medline  delivery and other services via consortial arrangements. On October 20, 1975,  Janette Closurdo, Director of libraries at ST. Joseph Mercy Hospital, Pontiac  Michigan was invited to Cincinnati to present the work of HIRA (Health  Instructional Resources Associated) and the Metropolitan Detroit Medical Library  Group (MDMLG).

So what has happened during these 30+ years since that  September day? Well, the By Laws have been rewritten, revised and updated  multiple times to reflect changes in practice. On the local level, an  Interlibrary Loan plan was devised, a Mini-union list  of reference titles created, and a Medline consortium, COCLS,  was formed by  several CAHSLA members in order to provide online searching in an economically  efficient manner. “Each hospital in the consortium had a direct line to NLM, and  could provide bibliographies to docs within minutes.” As the regional library  network developed under the umbrella provided by the National Library of  Medicine, CAHSLA benefited from many federally-funded programs, including an  Extramural Coordinator, who functioned as a liaison between the network and the  basic units (that’s us, remember) offering coordination of ILL in the region and  encouraging formation of peer groups where they were needed. CAHSLA presented  many workshops on the new technologies, searching, cooperative collection  development, and the all-important ILL. The association made some forays into  library science CE  courses, hosted at least two regional MLA conferences, and  continued an effort to collaborate with the Dayton health sciences librarians  until the demise of that organization. On the regional  level, CAHSLA  participated in the various configurations of regional libraries devised by NLM:  KOMRLN, GMRMLN, MC/MLA, and finally, Midwest Chapter, MLA. And of course, many  sub organizations formed and unformed under the aegis of the RML: A veritable  Alphabet Soup of organizations.

One of the most enduring of  these organizations is COCLS, the Cincinnati Online Consortium for Life  Sciences—did you know (or remember) that the original name was (briefly) the  Cincinnati Life Sciences Consortium? The original original group was called  Cincinnati Medline Consortium, which recognized that the hospital libraries  needed to establish their own Medline accounts, and run their own searches  rather than relying on the UC Health Sciences Library to handle Medline  searching for all of Cincinnati.

When COCLS came into being in   1979, the objectives of the group were not only to purchase online access to  Medline from a service provider, but to train searchers, to explore other useful  databases, and to “investigate innovations in and nuances of online systems.”   For many years COCLS continued to provide its members with online access via  BRS, troubleshoot connection problems, share difficult searches and searching  tips, plus serve as a sounding board for librarians from the hospitals to talk  about their unique situations, and the latest bit of skullduggery issuing from  the Health Sciences Library. Just glancing at the minutes, some items caught my  eye: In 1991, at the time of the merger into CAHSLA,  Don Smith was the only  member of COCLS who was not also a member of CAHSLA. In 1990 it was noted that  NKU had received at least one bomb threat. In 1986 Barbarie Hill declared that  Open House was over and she would never do it again. In 1985 (we are going back  in time) Barb Lucas reported on the Medline update held at Miami Valley  Hospital, Dayton: “The setting was very comfortable, the food was good, the new  library elegant, but the update was boring and the Medis demonstration useless.  Her appraisal was corroborated by others who attended.” There is a certain  piquant quality to the COCLS minutes that we don’t always achieve in CAHSLA. And  from the moment that COCLS and CAHSLA were born, Dorothy Gilroy wrote letters to  organizations, posing questions, making suggestions, and generally staying on  top of things much better than any of the rest of us could hope to match.

In addition, members shared  lists of proposed journal cancelations and purchases, to build a broad base of  resources and to avoid duplication as much as possible. By 1990 COCLS had an  Education Committee, but the economic reason for the existence of COCLS had  ceased when BRS discontinued its previous discount to user groups. But, to quote  from a joint letter written in May 17, 1991, from Val Purvis as Coordinator of  COCLS and Beth White, President of CAHSLA, to their memberships: “COCLS members  are eager to maintain the educational and sharing aspects of the group.

Therefore, at its meeting on  April 9th, 1991, the COCLS membership agreed to dissolve as a  separate entity and respectfully request that these aspects of the consortium be  absorbed into the CAHSLA program and meeting structure.”

The letter goes on to suggest  that additional CAHSLA programs could be planned  devoted to computer-related  topics. And in effect, the “organization that refused to die and instead went to  lunch” was born.

Under the tutelage of Don Smith,  Barbarie Hill, Rose Zajac, Lisa McCormick and many others, COCLS continues today  to provide attendees lunch, plus an agenda that focuses   on technical aspects  of our librarian lives: PDAs, serials control systems, and updates on the latest  useful technology for hospital libraries.

Another outstanding product of  CAHSLA collaborative efforts has been the Chronicle, which when it debuted in  1977, with the stunningly original name of CAHSLA Newsletter, consisted of one  side of one page. It was edited by Rose Zajac and Susanne Gilliam. From these  small beginnings came the CAHSLA Chronicle which today provides readers with  useful notices, meeting reports, letters from our President, and a good laugh  from the cartoons. Our editors, Barbarie Hill and Beth White until 1992, and  Lisa McCormick and Barbarie since then, have cheerfully shouldered the burden of  turning out a class rag that is a proud representative of our organization.

Another great project that has  become a tradition for CAHSLA is our holiday book drive. We have been donating  children’s books to various Cincinnati organizations that help children since  1996. Penny Philpot had the original idea, which was quickly embraced by the  rest of us. Some of the organizations that we have given collections of books to  are Peaselee Daycare Center, Kids’ Café, Bethany House, GLAD House, and Vine St.  Elementary School. A total of over 200 new and gently used books have been  donated by our members, and we have many letters of gratitude and appreciation  in the archives.

As I waded through stacks of  minutes of various groups that CAHSLA has been involved with, several themes  emerged: The search for the best resources, the recognition of the need to  cooperate in order to make the best of scarce resources, the increasing  bureaucracy of library organization, from the national level to the state, and  the struggle for small libraries to be heard in this framework of increasingly  layered library structure. In spite of small staffs, small budgets, and little  time, though, the members of CAHSLA have managed to speak up and out, and to  make a difference. I would mention names, but fear to leave someone out who is  here tonight, so, I invite you to look to the person at your right or left, and  recognize their contributions. In the words of Kay Barkley, chair of the  original ad hoc committee that founded CAHSLA, and chairman (the title for  President) in 1978,  “Perhaps one of the most valuable advantages which CAHSLA  has to offer is the opportunity to get acquainted with each other on a one to  one basis and thereby exchanging ideas and services.” That certainly has not  changed in all this time. On September 20, 2008 CAHSLA will be 35 years  old, and we should plan an appropriate celebration! Please continue to check our  website, created and maintained by Barbarie Hill, located at for news about this  and many other developments.