In the latest twist in the American Hospital Association's ongoing library saga, the AHA has hired an outside consultant to develop a business plan for a new health services library that could replace the AHA's existing resource center in Chicago.
The new library, dubbed a "collaborative national resource center," would be a jointly operated library funded by as many as 11 healthcare trade associations.
Christine McEntee, the AHA's executive vice president and chief operating officer, said the consultant, Dan Tonkery, is scheduled to complete the business plan for the new library as well as a budget to implement the plan by the end of September.
The actions are the results of a July 30 meeting that the AHA convened in Chicago with eight other healthcare groups to discuss the idea of a jointly operated health services library. The other groups represented at the meeting were the American College of Healthcare Executives, the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Association of University Programs in Health Administration, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, the Healthcare Financial Management Association, and the Medical Library Association. Representatives from the American Association of Health Plans and the Medical Group Management Association were invited but didn't attend.
At the meeting, according to McEntee, the organizations agreed to four objectives regarding their respective interests in maintaining a health services library: improved access to information, economies of scale from collaborative library activities, enhanced value to members, and preservation of historical documents. They also agreed to pursue development of the business plan and budget, an expense that the AHA is covering on its own, McEntee said.
It's the second library confab convened by the AHA following the disclosure of its controversial decision last year to essentially close its historic resource center, known as the Asa S. Bacon Library and the American Hospital Association Resource Center. Under the original plan, the AHA would convert the resource center into basically an electronic document and book retrieval service. It had planned to give away its books ad periodicals and limit access to the resource center to AHA members only rather than keeping it open to the public.
But, after word leaked out of the AHA's plans, members of the health services research community mounted a public relations campaign to keep the AHA library open. Pressure from health services researchers and hospital executives who hadn't known about the AHA's plans prompted the AHA to put its plans on hold in January, and instead the association sponsored a conference on the future of health services libraries. Last month's meeting in Chicago was a follow-up to the meeting held in Washington.
At present, the AHA resource center is operating as it has in the past, according to McEntee. The center is open to members and nonmembers, and some of the books that had been stored away as part of the initial plan are being moved to the center, she said.
Whether the envisioned jointly operated library will ultimately replace the AHA library is an open question, McEntee said. The goal is to avoid duplication, and whatever services and materials the joint library offers may be eliminated at the AHA library, she said. However, the AHA has decided to maintain public access to whatever services and materials its library offers in the future.