Tremors at Rapid City Medical Library

A story today in the Rapid City Journal (South Dakota) deserves notice. I copy it here, to preserve access to this sad event.

Hospital library closes to public, goes electronic

By Mary Garrigan, Journal staff

Medical librarian Pat Hamilton is out of a job on Friday as Rapid City Regional Hospital transitions to a self-help electronic medical library for internal use only.

For the past 24 years, Hamilton and her staff of volunteers offered medical library resources to doctors, hospital employees and medical, nursing and pharmacy students. The library’s consumer health section also was available to the general public to do research on their medical conditions. Those materials have been donated to the Rapid City Public Library. The electronic library will no longer be available for public use.

Dr. Robert Allen, RCRH’s vice president of medical affairs, said the library and its computer access will remain open for internal use, but it will be staffed partially by volunteers and by medical staff services personnel.

“With electronic advancements, health care facilities are increasingly moving to this type of library,” Allen said in a statement. “Rapid City Regional Hospital will maintain some books and journals in its library.”

The amount of money saved by the move is not known at this time, he said.

Library volunteer Joyce Herbst, who works her last shift in the medical library today, called the transition a closure that she doesn’t understand or agree with.

“They can put whatever spin they want on it, but brass tacks is that they’re closing the library,” she said. “I guess I just don’t understand how you can take that resource away from a teaching hospital. How can it be a teaching hospital, without a resource library and someone to run it? I just think it’s not a very smart thing to do.”

Herbst said the library was always well utilized by students and doctors looking for medical articles or just some quiet space.

“Most of the time, there’s somebody in there doing research,” she said. “I have never had a day when I wasn’t busy.”

After two and a half years as a weekly volunteer in the hospital’s library, Herbst, who is moving to Sioux Falls, said her last day will be difficult, knowing that Hamilton’s job is ending, too.

“This is particularly hard because Pat is such a wonderful person to work for. … But leaving knowing that she’s going to be without a job is horrible,” she said.

Rapid City Regional is a teaching hospital for the University of South Dakota. Pat Hamilton, a most excellent professional medical librarian has assisted residents in their research as well as the public who used the hospital library for medical information. After this coming Friday, the library will be a self-help electronic library for internal use only. According to the article, print materials are now at Rapid City Public Library, although according to one commenter, only some of the print materials.

I am sorry for Pat, who is now unemployed. We were colleagues through the BHUG (Black Hills Users Group) when I worked in South Dakota. I worry for the doctors and residents (and the care they provide), who no longer have the services of a librarian to assist in research. I am sorry for the patients of Rapid City Regional Hospital, who no longer have a medical library to find information about their medical conditions. What is even worse is that many of them do not have access to a public library, since South Dakota does not provide for public library services for all residents, much less the reciprocal borrowing arrangements we enjoy in Minnesota. Already this evening 22 comments have been left on the news article, all critical of the ill-advised act of the changes made in the medical library.

This is the sort of thinking many of us are hearing as threats against our libraries — that if everything is electronic, why fund libraries or professional librarians. I fear that this rash act by the administrators of Rapid City Regional Hospital is a detriment to the medical care and support they provide and a harbinger of things that could come.