As the Health Sciences Library prepares to move, staff has been diligently sifting through historical volumes
The medical books are like testaments to a bygone age: Tomes with leather-bound covers, pages of finely-drawn anatomy illustrations, and evocative titles from the pre-internet era.
The Health Sciences Library at the Jewish General Hospital has amassed a rich and diverse collection of books since its inception in 1941, symbols of an institution’s devotion to learning. Now, as the library prepares to move to new quarters, the librarians of CIUSSS West-Central Montreal have been diligently poring over these artifacts to find them new homes.
The library is scheduled to relocate this fall from its current premises in Pavilion A—a space it has occupied since 1977—to the Institute of Community and Family Psychiatry. The move, coupled with the ongoing shift to digital information, has meant paring down the library’s collections.
“It’s the end of an era,” says Julia Kleinberg, Medical Librarian in our CIUSSS. “Our librarians are conscientiously doing their best to ensure the books find good homes.”
“We’re preserving the legacy of the library.”Julia Kleinberg
A half-dozen titles from the historical medical collection are being donated to the Osler Library of the History of Medicine at McGill University. One of the books, 20th Century Family Physician, by Henry Lyman, dates to 1900.
Another 200 titles are heading to the university’s Maude Abbott Medical Museum. These includes The Genuine Works of Hippocrates, 1939; A Way of life: an address to Yale students, April 20th, 1913, by eminent physician William Osler; The Romance of Proctology, 1978, by Charles Blanchard; and the first edition of Stress, the seminal work by Montreal medical researcher Hans Selye, published in 1950.
New homes are also in the process of being found for the Drazin collection of Judaica, which was founded in 1986 and covers a range of topics including the history of the Holocaust and the Jewish history of Montreal. Some of the books will be kept in the JGH chapel.
Meanwhile, hundreds of recent editions of medical textbooks have gone on sale in the JGH Health Sciences Library, Pavilion A, room 200.
The JGH Health Science Library collection has deep roots. The hospital established a medical library soon after opening in 1934, supported by donations from medical staff. In 1941, the Women’s Auxiliary established the Medical Library Committee, which solicited further donations.
Arlene Greenberg, Chief Librarian of the Health Sciences Library from 1978 to 2016, says many books were donated over the years from the private collections of doctors and other professionals. They became an enduring source of pride.
“The library held a very special place in the hearts and minds of our hospital staff, she says. “These books reflected our dedication to learning and education.”
The new location will still hold large parts of the library’s existing collection of medical and nursing reference books, along with the small number of books touching on the history of the JGH.
The mission of the library also remains unchanged. Even as it shifts away from stacks of books to the virtual realm, the library will remain a place to learn and access to information for all members of staff throughout the CIUSSS.
“The mission of the library hasn’t changed. Libraries have always been about connecting people with the knowledge they need,” says Ms. Kleinberg, Medical Librarian since 2017.
“Our mission endures: To provide the access that allows people to learn.”Julia Kleinberg
To Nhu Nguyen, Director of Academic Affairs and Research Ethics, which includes Library Services, agrees. These services remain an important building block of the CIUSSS’s mission to provide quality care and improve practices that enhance people’s lives, she says.
“In a world where we seem to have too much information, more than ever before, the library is an essential way of providing access to curated knowledge,” Ms. Nguyen says. “Our library and librarians will continue to be of service in the digital era.”