When I started volunteering at St. Vincent’s Hospital here in Birmingham back when I was in high school, I had no idea that hospitals had libraries. And I had no idea what a hospital library would do or who they would serve.
This post from Michelle over at the KraftyLibrarian just goes to show that I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know what hospital libraries were for.
Public libraries are for the public and are, obviously, in public.
School libraries are for the students and faculty of schools so they’re, you know, in schools.
Academic libraries are for the students and faculty of colleges and universities…so guess where they are. (I’ll give you a hint: they’re on the campuses of colleges and universities.)
So it stands to reason that hospital libraries, being in hospitals, would be for those who work in hospitals. And because there are public libraries out there for members of the public, I don’t see any reason why hospital libraries should market themselves to them, even if they are present or future patients. Whoever wrote the articles that Michelle cites in her post probably hadn’t ever thought about his/her argument from all of the angles, so I won’t give him/her too much flak. They just saw that hospital libraries aren’t always linked on the main pages of hospital websites and didn’t understand why that would be. Wouldn’t the hospital want the public to know that they have a library?
I think this argument comes from the idea that doctors know everything. They went to medical school and memorized everything. After all, Dr. House doesn’t look stuff up very often. He sees an enlarged pore on the third rib on the right side and knows exactly what the problem is. That’s what doctors do…right? Doctors don’t need libraries! They have it all filed away in their heads, fully indexed. So if a hospital has a library, it simply must be for the public because…well…who else would it be for?
Obviously, as library students (and in some cases, as current librarians), we know that most people think of a library as a library, regardless of what kind of library it is, and that they think of library employees as librarians, regardless of their education level or their title. So it makes sense that there would be so many common misconceptions surrounding hospital and other medical libraries. Which brings me to the point of this post…
How much do you think hospital libraries should market themselves to the public? Do you think it’s important for the public to know that hospitals have libraries, even if their collections aren’t really suitable for or open to the public? It’s not like hospital libraries have story time on Tuesdays or new fiction sections. What do you guys think about this?