For a library with shelf space for only 2,000 books, a staff of three professional librarians might seem unusual. But the value of the Regional Academic Health Center's Medical Library is measured less by its essential book collection and more by the access and guidance the librarians provide to crucial medical information. As The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio's Medical School branch opens in Harlingen in July, its medical library is slated to become an invaluable community resource for RAHC medical students and residents, physician faculty members and area residents.
"The library's impact on the Valley is going to extend far beyond its physical boundaries in the south tower wing of the RAHC," said Dr. Leonel Vela, regional dean in the School of Medicine. "What a difference the library is to going to make in people's lives." In fact, Dr. Vela envisions the RAHC library as a community asset, a magnet for young people considering medicine as a career and, of course, a focal point for medical students and professionals.
"The library will be open to the public," said Debi Warner, RAHC library director. "From the very beginning, part of the mission that Dr. Vela has assigned to the library is to make health information accessible to any person seeking it." Warner holds two master of library science degrees and has managed libraries in Maine and North Carolina.
The new library is subscribing to more than 100 medical journals, said Warner, who has been waiting since October to move into the nearly completed RAHC building. An additional 2,000 or so medical and health care journals will be electronically available, along with e-books from the Health Science Center in San Antonio. The RAHC library already has its own Web pages, which are linked to the National Library of Medicine's Medline Plus and other sites with valuable and verifiable information.
Selecting books and journals for the library was only the beginning of Warner's work. She has been formalizing a network of librarians at regional universities, colleges and Med High. She has taught classes for Med High students, faculty and librarians on how to access medical literature. Warner is working on beta testing an all-Spanish version of Medline Plus at Su Clinica Familiar in Raymondville.
Warner's enthusiasm abounds as she demonstrates the capabilities of the RAHC's Web site. By using the search engine, a student or doctor can learn which books cover a specific topic without checking each book index.
Additionally, the library will house a data center of Valley health surveys and reports along with a bibliography of border health resources.