Health Sciences Library

Identity area

Type of entity

Corporate body

Authorized form of name

Health Sciences Library

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Other form(s) of name

  • HSL

Identifiers for corporate bodies

Description area

Dates of existence



The Health Sciences Library (HSL), originally called the Faculty of Medicine Library, was an integral component of the medical school at Memorial University of Newfoundland. It was set up initially in a small room in the Temporary Buildings on the Memorial University of Newfoundland campus. June Leath Huntley, consultant in residence, and Dr. K. B. Roberts, associate dean of medicine and head of physiology, were instrumental in the development of the library, ensuring that it met standards that led to its official recognition as a medical library in 1969. In 1971 the library was renamed Medical Library and moved to a space between Temporary Buildings 7 and 9.

There were several developments in the Medical Library in 1972. Richard Fredericksen was appointed as its first medical librarian. In January, the library published the first issue of the Faculty of Medicine Library Newsletter. Also in that month, the library began sending unbound journals to the bindery. The library was remodeled, and staffing increased to three professional and seven technical support staff positions.

In 1973, the Library Affairs Committee and the Faculty Council approved the medical librarian’s recommendation to change from the Library of Congress classification system to the National Library of Medicine system, which provided more categories, had a more logical arrangement, and was revised more frequently. In August, the library announced the establishment of MEDLINE (a computerized bibliographic retrieval system providing on-line access to citations contained in more than 1000 of the world’s biomedical serial titles), which had just become operational in mid June.

The library experienced a monumental change in 1975 when it moved from the main campus into its present location on the ground floor of the newly constructed Health Sciences Centre. The move took place during the week of February 3 and by Monday, February 10, the library opened in its new setting. The library originally had seating for 180 patrons and stacking for 60,000 volumes, which eventually expanded to accommodation for 395 patrons and 135,000 volumes. The library also acquired a core collection of dental material to support dentists practising in the province. On a less positive note the library also experienced its first flood on April 17 of that year and required 87 man hours to restore order to the chaos that ensued. By June 1975 the library’s collection had grown from 14,000 volumes to approximately 20,000. The staff had increased to one position in Administration, seven positions in Public Services, eleven positions in Technical Services, and 21 part-time staff.

The Medical Library increased its mandate when it assumed responsibility for library services to Memorial University School of Nursing in 1977. That summer, books and journals relating to nursing were moved from the main university library (named Henrietta Harvey Library in 1970, renamed Queen Elizabeth II Library in 1982), to the Medical Library. The Medical Library’s collection increased again that year when the General Hospital Medical Library moved its holdings to the library. Shortly after these changes the title Medical Library was replaced with Health Sciences Library in recognition of the library’s expanded role in providing library services to a broad range of health sciences disciplines. In keeping with the new library name, Mr. Fredericksen’s title was changed from medical librarian to health sciences librarian.

Meanwhile, Dr. K. B. Roberts had resigned as assistant dean of Basic Medical Sciences in 1974 in order to concentrate on the acquisition of a special history of medicine collection for the Faculty of Medicine. In October 1978, he was appointed the first John Clinch History of Medicine Professor. On Sept. 15, 1979, the Historical Collection Room of the Health Sciences Library was officially opened. The collection contained over 100 books and items about the history of medical science and practice, nursing and community health with special emphasis placed on the history of medicine in this province. In 1986, Shelagh Wotherspoon, head, Public Services, Health Sciences Library, and Isabel Hunter (former health sciences librarian), published, “A Bibliography of Health Care in Newfoundland,” Occasional Papers in Medical History: number six, editor: Dr. K. B. Roberts.

The position of head librarian has been filled by a number of librarians since 1972. The first head librarian, Mr. Fredericksen, resigned from his position as health sciences librarian on June 30, 1978. The position was temporarily filled by Ms. Catherine Sheehan until she was succeeded by Ms. Isabel Hunter in January 1979. Ms. Hunter spent five years as head of the Health Sciences Library before resigning on March 31, 1984. Ms. Shelagh Wotherspoon was appointed acting head of the library, effective April 1, 1984, while a search ensued to fill the position on a permanent basis. Ms. Catherine Quinlan was appointed as the new health sciences librarian on Jan. 15, 1985 and served for five years before she resigned on Aug. 31, 1990. At that time Ms. Linda Barnett was appointed Acting Health Sciences Librarian until Aug. 1, 1991, when the present head, Mr. George Beckett was appointed as the new health sciences librarian. Mr. Beckett has led the library though enormous changes over the past 16 years.

Under the guidance of its respective head librarians the library continued to expand and implement technology wherever it was beneficial. When the School of Pharmacy opened at Memorial in the Fall of 1986, the pharmacy programme of the College of Trades and Technology was phased out and its library pharmacy collection was transferred to the Health Sciences Library.

The years 1988-1989 encompassed great changes in renovations and computerization of the catalogue. On March 20, 1989, the library moved forward with its on-line catalogue allowing patrons to search the library’s entire holdings at micro workstations in the library. Ten years later, the Faculty of Medicine Founders’ Archive was established as a division of the library and was officially opened in 2000.

Today, the Health Sciences Library collection includes material on medicine, nursing, pharmacy, dentistry and allied health. In the health and allied disciplines, there are approximately 40,000 books (paper format); 20,000 electronic texts; 8,000 electronic journals; 350 current journals (paper format); and 1,800 audio-visual items. The library also provides access to approximately 30,000 non-health electronic journals and 220,000 electronic texts that are accessible through general Memorial University agreements. Currently, the library has a complement of seven librarians, a secretary, an administrative staff specialist II, a computer support person, an archivist, ten library assistants and one archival assistant (levels LA III to LA VIII), contractual employees, student assistants and MUCEP students.

In addition to students, staff and faculty in the Memorial University health sciences disciplines of medicine, nursing and pharmacy, the Health Sciences Library also acts as a resource centre for Eastern Health (Health Sciences Centre). The library also serves all health practitioners in the province with electronic resources provided through the Newfoundland and Labrador Health Knowledge Information Network (NLHKIN). The library is now preparing for a major change as the majority of its information resources are converted from paper to electronic format.

Located on the first floor of the Health Sciences Centre, the library provides services for many groups. They include: Faculty of Medicine, School of Nursing and School of Pharmacy (Memorial University of Newfoundland); General Hospital, Janeway Children’s Centre and Rehabilitation Centre (Health Care Corporation of St. John’s); Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Centre (Newfoundland Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation); and in addition, the library is a resource centre for all health practitioners in Newfoundland and Labrador.


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