Does Canada need a national library of science & health?

The Canadian Health Libraries Association (CHLA/ABSC) is conducting a survey about the future of library and information support for Canadian science and health in the 21st century. This is important initiative and one that comes on the heels of major cutbacks to CISTI’s services. Whatever happens, it is essential that the bureaucrats and other administrators involved in re-purposing CISTI and its mission, listen to professional librarians – and do so closely

Question 1 – What is the role of a Canadian national science and health library in the 21st century?

Dean: First and foremost, any National Library of Health or Science in Canada in the 21st century should be a traditional library and organized as such. Second, a Library of this kind should take a leadership role as a node of innovation in digital initiatives; digitization projects of national importance, access to the historic record of science and medicine in Canada, and close collaborative ties with other science and health libraries across the country.

Question 2 – From your perspective:

  • Who would be the new CISTI’s key clients?
  • What are the target services/offerings/solutions for these key clients?

Dean: CISTI’s key clients are science, technical and medical libraries across Canada who support and provide an information infrastructure for knowledge-based organizations and workers. This mandate could be extended to include information agencies beyond traditional libraries including archives, museums and informationclearinghouses within the Canadian government such as PHAC. The services that are needed for the future are undoubtedly print-based collections, journals, monographs as well as access to new digital forms of information. National site licensing should be considered where possible or necessary such as what we see with the Cochrane Library.

Question 3 – What top 3 needs do you see a Canadian national science and health library filling?


  1. Providing timely, low-cost and reliable access to scientific, scholarly and research materials and information stakeholders in academic institutions, organizations and government across country
  2. Forging partnerships and collaborative relationships with stakeholders across Canada
  3. Taking a leadership role in generating new scientific research generally but also into new models of scholarly publishing that account for Canada’s rich historical record but also its future leadership potential

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