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62nd IFLA General Conference - Conference Proceedings - August 25-31, 1996

Developing medicaol Library and Information Science Education in China

Liu Xiao Chun


Fang Ping

The Library and, the Faculty of Medical and Information science
Hunan medical University


The medical library and information science education in China which was started in the 80's this century can be seen as a historical exploration. It is a unique and fully new trial even in the world. It is,therefore, an enterprise full of exploration and hope.


1.History and Present Situation

In 1887,Melvil Dewey ,the American library Scientist established the first library school-the Library School in Columbia University.From then, on the educational scale of library and information science in European and American has been expanding gradually. Since the 60's of this century, with the development on each passing day of modern science and technology, especially the application of new achievements centred on aplying computers into the library,the library and information education has gotten to the peak of its rapid developments.

At resent, some 500 among 4000 universities in America have library and information schools or programs,and 64 of them have been approved by American Library Association. <1>Even though, the educational model of library and information science in America and Europe is still the style for training "all-ound persons". There is no school of libtaty and information science in specific s ubject fields. It is a problem some of the insight in American libtaty and information field often mentioned. Early in 1923, the University of Minnesota promoted a program of 5-year medical library education <2> The narrower the specialized field is, however, the less opportunity of employment the trainer has.It is hard for the students to compete with all -round personnel .At a result,the source of student was limited. The program ended in failure.So far,even in America which has the most developed education on library and information science, there is still no specific medical library and information shool.

Education on library and information science in China can be devided into three stages;The first stage (1920-1976)was the time of traditional librarianship education. The courses stipulated were focused on the procedure of library work. The content took experience description as its main body. The library education was basically a closed introversed system. The second stage ( 1976-1986)is an integrative education of library and information science and computer technology. Both of courses and contents had a great change,and promised obviously the trend of informalization and rdernization. The scientific trends had become unreversable.

In the third stage(from 1986 till now) , the education of Library and information science has come into the specialized period. In this stage, although many new theories and methods have been introduced into library and information science to perfect its theoretical system, the fact that libratianshap and information service is an extroversed academic job has been ignore d and information education with other specialized knowledge will open a wider space for library and information service. Since 70's of this century,the schools of library and information science in Wuhan University and Beijing University have been gradually oriented into science and humanity that took the first step to specialized education. But the ranges of the desciplines ar e still too wide to carry out complete special orientated education. The important symbol of the trend of specialized education on library and information science is the birth of the program of medical liarary and information science, which was proved by the experts organized by the State Commission of Education(SCE).From then on, the educational model of library and inform ation science has been transfered from training "all-round person"model to a new way of specialized"flood-diversion". In May to July in 1986, the related organizations entrusted by the State Commission of Education made a wide and detailed investigation into the profession of medical library and information in China and formally confirmed that establishing a program of medical libra ry and information science was the demond of medical scientific development."The investigation report on profession of medical library and information science ( 1986) " pointed out:

There was aging of the personel and the degrading of their professional training of medical libraries in China. According to sample investigation,55% memebers in 44 medical libraries had been or over the age for retirement. Among 341 members in 31 medical libraries, 59(more than 17%) only had the education level of junior middle school. This condition couldn't catch up with the medical library's academic position. According to the latest report in 1988, <3> those with professors' and associate professors'academic title covered only 7. 9% of all members in 56 medical libraries. In 8 medical universities affiliated to the Ministry of Public Health,all professors and 60% of associated professors would retire in five years,and 40% of those who were still w orking would be over 50 years old, On orher hand, the members graduated from TV universities, correspondence or evening universities and the members of three- year college undergraduates graduated in 70's were increased in a great number.The average age was decreased sharply and the educational level obvioushy went up.Till now, more than 70% members have three-year college educati on background.But, most of them only have common knowledge about library and information science and lack of systematic knowledge about medecine and foreign languages needed.It is difficult for them to take on jobs with high level.Now, there exsits a crisis that we could not easily train academic heads in a short time.

More than 15000 medical library and information science undergraduates are urgently needed in China now, according to personnel forecast for medical libraries (see Table One) Table not available, please contact the Author.

The modernization of medical library and information service demonds that all the personel should master not only knowledge about library and information science but also knlwledge baout medecine. The only effective way was to establish medical library and information educational system.

The combination of library and information specialized education and medical education in some scentifically developed countries,shch as U.S.A and U.K,provided us experience relating to develop our medical library and information education. For example, there was no specific medical library and information school, but the courses about medical library and information science had been taken into the program of most library and information schools. <4> Now, 52 library and information schools among 64 admmitted by American Library Association have provided coures such as "Health Science Librarianship", "Health Science Literature","Medical L ibrary Administration", "Sources of Information for the Medical and Health Science","Online Retrieval of Medical and Health Sci ence information","Bibliography of the Health and Life Sciences", "Management of Medical and Health Sciences Libraries and Information Centres","Practice".At the same time, they have provided postgraduate expert certificate training and postgraduate practice training to train super medical library and information personnel.The American Medical library Association also o ften offered short time advanced training courses.

Table 1. Number of undergraduates needed by medical libraries

Not Available, please contact Author

In this table,the average nember of personnel in a library of higher educational medical and pharmacological university or college is supposed to be 40.So at least 12 specialized personnel should be distributed to each library to get the ratio of 30-40% and at least 2 teachers for user education provided. To meet all of the demands listed above would spent at least 90 years,under the bas is of four faculties of medical library and information science in China and 40 students enrolled in each faculty annually. In addition,this statistics doesn't include the demand of medical information units.

Considering all of the above reasons,it is necessary to develop medical library and information education. In fact,the exploration of medical library and information education in China began in early 70's.Some libraries with relatively high professional level held early or later various kinds of on-the-job training courses to improve the professional quality of medical librarians.In late 70's and early 80's, some programs of library and information scieace established in a few medical universities.Entrusted by the National Higher Education library Working Committee,Hunan Medical University offered 1-year certificate program to train medical librarans in nation-wide medical universities who graduated from medical school with undergraduate backgrounds continously 4 years . Aproved by the Ministry of Public Health and the State Commision of Education, faculties of medical library and information science were set in Bethune Medical Universety amd Chinese Medical University after 1985. Up to now,there are four faculties of medical library amd information science in all of the country and 300 students enrolled. The length of schooling is 5 years.Since 1989, more than 400 students have graduated from the four facutties.They have been distributed to medical libraries and medical information institutes all over the country.They have been actively showing their abilities for the development of medical library and information science in China. They and the students who will graduate are all transcentury personnel.From then,we can see the ho pe of China's library and nformation facility step into the world,the modernization and the future.

2.Mission,goals and courses

The undergraduate program directory of national general higher education issued in August, 1987,exactly pointed out the Missiow of library and information program(medcine , pharmacology) is to train higher level specialized personnel in medical library and information service.The program prepares its students with basic theoretical knowledge about medicine and pharmacology, lib rary and information science,skills on library and information sciense, and can take up medical and pharmacological library and information services after their undergraduation.The students should obtain the following.

The train goal is the same as the trends of medical library and information education in America and Japanese etc.<5>.<6>. The medical library and information science is a marginal intersected discipline and it is a new subject.

The faculty of medical library and information science in Hunan Medical University keeps the way of combining library and information science with medical science.The setting of its medical specialized courses takes the methods of "the same in early stage and different in late stages" That is, the students have preclinical medical courses with medical school students together,and have specific courses on clinical medicine after medical undergraduates going for clinical teaching. Practice of basic and clinical medicine is changed to be on probation,because the students in the faculty of medical library and information science will be librarian rather than doctors. In the set of specialized courses of library and information science, the combination with medic ine and medical knowledge is emphasized to merge library and information science education and medical education as one to make the courses system of the library and information science rich of medical characters and to make a great effort to meet the need of medical library and information work.So,we must pay much attention to set these intersected courses such as Medical Heading Index ing, Medicalliterature Retnevalmedical information analysis and research medical literature introduction and Chinese traditional medicial literature introduction All of these tries have produced good effects. The graduates are commonly praised by units which received them.

3.Future and Development

After 10 years' teaching practice,medical library and information science education in China has made great progress and has learned much good experience.However there do exist some weak points. Then, how to develop China's medical library and information science education after entering the 21st century? Our opinion is as follows:

1. Constructing and Perfecting a medical Library and Information Science Educational System with Chinese Characters.

So called "Chinese Characters" should fit China's present condition, and consider that China's medical library and information work is still very backword and the professional team is still weak to give the play of advantage of mergency of China's medical education and ibrary and information education,and take various measures to train medical library and information professiona l personnel with various educational levels,especially super personnl.

China's medical library and information educational system should be a tri-element structure consisting of formal education on-the-job training and user education(Table 2)

Table unavailable, please contact Author

(1) Formal Education is the main way to train supper junior and primary specialized personnel needed in China,s medical library and informarion facility .At present ,medical libraries in China are not lack of primary librarains. There are have many members who graduted from library and information science of TV universities evening or corespondence universsities and have been continuousl y replenished.So, formal education mentioned here is the education for undergraduates and postgraduates who are the most needed personnel in nowdays medical library and information enterprise in China.

Education for undergrduates will still be the main routine to culture super personnel of medical library and information field in China in a relatively long time.Education for postgraduates and bi-bachelor degrees indicate the education for Doctor master and bi-bachelor degrees.It mainly cultivates teachers and researchers with individual research ability in medical library and information science, and super presonnel to carry out collection processing storage retrieval report transmission and management of medical Information and super personnel in information research and forecast in reviewing in practical research of information systen and technology in theoretical and method research of information science and in management. The curricul um and content centres on"medical information-computer-communication techmology" <7>To catch up with the trend of modern develpoment of scientific technology and medicine.

Now,the postundergraduate and bi-degrees education on medical library and information science is basically a blank space. The training of academic heads has become an urgent task. Considering the situation,There three ways:

(2) On-the-Job Training

On- the- job training mainly includes educational background education and work training.It's goal is to promote the personnel structure and knowledge structure of medical librarian members and to improve professional and work qualification as a whole .In on-the-job training ,the training of all-round personnel used to be paid more attention rather than specialized training .And meanwhile, there is no high level on-the-job training system. So on-the-job training must be improved to absorb and stabilize medical undergraduates to do library and information work .Further more,on-the-job training must be emphatically provided to teachers of user education and professional personnal of the secondary literature work.

(3) User Education The goal of user eduction is to popularize library and infomation knowledge. It's object is to present users and potent users.The curriculum and teaching content mainly focus on the popularization of knowledge and methods about literature retrieval and utilization. To present users, various instruion activities with rich content are provided for young teachers,such as lectures display close d closed circuit TV and report of new technology new equipment and new service in library and information field. To potent users ,that is students in colleges, user education courses in most of medicine and pharmacology colleges or universities have stepped into formal developmemt since the issue of the document "on user edueation course" by the State Commission of Ed ucation in 1984. Now ,user education for researchers teachers and physicians is also actively developed,which improve to a great degree their information absorbing ablities and benefit their scientific research teaching and clinical practice. The rapid developmemt of medical information user education has made special contribution to the construction of medical library an d information educational system with "Chinese characters".

2. Stregthening the Sense of Information and Emphasizing the Computer-orientated Information Technological Courses.

With the arrival of information time , J. H. Shera, a famous American librarain scientist,pointed out sharply that"Library has entered into the world of information from the world of books" . Especially in recent 20 years ,with the birth and development of modern technologies such as technology of micro electronic computer laser optical fiber communication and word processing, new information mediums and transmission means have greatly broken the old tradition of library. Libraries can not lonely occupy the whole information field any more.The birth of series of new technologies and industries led by information technology (especially multi-medium-technology has been changing the world. As the not enough preparation for libraries to the challenge of inf ormation industry,the first to be affected is the library and information education. For example,12 famous library and information schools in America,such as the library and Information school in Columbia University and in Chicago University, have been closed earier or later.Although the close of American library and information schools has many causes in economy and society,the h it of rapid development in information industry to libraries which defends tenaciously"the world of books"is another important cause. We can foretell that,if still defending tenaciously"the world of books", the library and information education is difficult to fit the demand of rapidly developing information industry and information technology. So, medical library and information ed ucation should closely follow the rapid development of"Information Highway"under the basis of combination of medical science with library and information science, and emphasize the teaching of information technologies which takes computer knowledge and technolopy as its main content to prepare personnel for China's medical libraries to step into"the world of infomat ion"from"the world of books."

3. Aiming at the foreward position of medical scientific development to educate high level specialized medical information researchers.

Qian Xuesen,a China's famous scientist,said "we have come into the information society. The information is one of the new characteristics of the new industrial revolution! And information research is the core of information industry and the progress of activating knowledge and information. So information research is a core job of today's industrial revelution".<8>Now,the model of medical library and information education in China,however,is focused on the training of the secondary literature personnel. The education of information research personnel is still being brewed. At present, medical information research has been done by the high level medical experts or academic heads. For example, the review about infectious diseases in"Chinese In ternal medicine yearbook 1985" was written by the famous infectious disease expert Lou Fangcen.In this review, 1402 references were cited.If the author were not an expert in infectious diseases, he would have not completed such a review. In the "Bibliography of Medical Reviews in Index Medicus,"the authors of the reviews all have good qualification in medical fields.So, this kind of high level information research work can only is mainly done made by medical experts at home or abroad.

But China is a developing country. The development in economy and scientific technology is still limited.It is impossble for her to let high level medical experts or physicians to specifically do medical information research for a long time. Then, specialized medical information personnel must be cultured. To follow up the foreward position of medical scientific developmen t. such super specialized personnel can only be admmitted from medical undergraduates as master degree or from medical postumdergraduates as medical information research postundergraduates with double degrees. If they can be trained by medical subjects, that will be much better. The authors believe that,if we can pay much attention to the progress of medical library and information education and fully think highly of the three points mentioned above,the medical libraly and information education in China will be improved to a better condition and will have a more beautiful tonmorrow.


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