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CISTI-HSI letter to Dr. Coulombe

Posted with the permission of Ada Ducas:
March 23, 2009
Dr. Pierre Coulombe
National Research Council
1200 Montreal Road, Bldg M-58
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada, K1A 0R6

Dear Dr. Coulombe,

We, the undersigned, are members of the Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (CISTI’s) Committee on Health Sciences Information. We are writing to let you know that we view the outcome of the NRC strategic review with grave concern. The HSI Committee has representation from academic, hospital, and industry libraries. Representatives from Association pour l'Avancement des Sciences et Techniques de la Documentation (ASTED) and the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada, Medical Libraries Section (AFMC) are also members of the HSI Committee. We understand that the NRC was forced to cut its budget as part of the Strategic Review Process and acknowledge that all institutions must change and adapt to changing times and changing financial support in order to survive. We also understand the difficulty that the NRC faced when deciding which program it had to cut. The decision to reduce the NRC contribution to CISTI by 50% and contract out the revenue services in effect leaves CISTI to manage with only 30% of its previous budget. We feel that the cuts to CISTI are disproportionate and will have a negative impact on the health care of Canadians.

CISTI has a legislated mandate to serve as Canada’s national science library. CISTI has also functioned as the national library supporting the health sciences in Canada since 1976 when the Firstbrook report recommended that “A Health Sciences Resource Centre” (HSRC) be created to provide reference and bibliographic services in the medical and health sciences, to coordinate and support the acquisition and use of publications in these areas, and to provide leadership in medical library practice”. It further recommended that the Centre be established and reside in the National Science Library, the precursor to CISTI. Since that time CISTI has functioned as the national library of medicine for Canada, and in fact CISTI is the national liaison with the U.S. National Library of Medicine. The decision to cut CISTI’s budget so substantially puts at serious peril CISTI’s ability to support the health sciences libraries in hospitals, universities, private and public research centres, and by extension the health care practitioners and researches who serve all Canadians. Currently the health care community is a priority for CISTI, but there is great concern about the scope of the collection and the level of service that can be provided in a much diminished CISTI.

CISTI is world renowned and has played a leadership role in providing information and in supporting research. Science, technology and medicine libraries across Canada look to CISTI to provide this leadership and utilize CISTI’s new technologies, resources and services. At a time when libraries and information are going through a transformational change, the reductions in the CISTI budget and staff will have negative ripple effects on research and clinical health care across the country.

As members of CISTI’s Committee on Health Sciences Information we represent the different health care libraries and we are connected to the health sciences research and clinical communities in Canada. We would like to help the NRC and CISTI maintain a national role, especially as it pertains to health initiatives and endeavours. We urge you to reconsider the magnitude of the cuts to CISTI and allow it to maintain its health collection and its document delivery function which is a vital service for health libraries in Canada and abroad. We understand the economic situation, since all of us are also adapting to a new fiscal reality, but the impact on CISTI is far-reaching. As CISTI evolves over the next year we advocate a broad consultation process with researchers, librarians and other government agencies to guide the evolution of the necessary role that CISTI plays for all Canadians.


Ada M. Ducas
Chair, CISTI- Committee on Health Sciences Information
Head, Health Sciences Libraries, University of Manitoba

Suzanne Maranda
Head, Bracken Health Sciences Library, Queen's University
Representing the Association of the Faculties of Medicine of Canada – Libraries

Francis Farley-Chevrier
Directeur général, ASTED inc.

Josee Schepper
Manager, Knowledge Discovery /Knowledge Management - Merck Research Laboratories
Industrial Library Representative

Marlene Dorgan
Head, John W. Scott Health Sciences Library, University of Alberta
Representing the Canadian Health Libraries Association/Association des bibliotheques de la santé du Canada

Ruth Rochlin
Librarian, Interior Health Library, B.C.
Representing the Canadian Health Libraries Association/Association des bibliotheques de la santé du Canada (Hospital Libraries)

CC: Pam Bjornson, Director General, NRC-CISTI
Leona Agluukkaq, Minister of Health
Gary Goodyear, Minister of Science and Technology
Marc Garneau, Liberal Critic for Industry, Science and Technology
Carolyn Bennett, Liberal Critic for Health