The First Congress, coming so soon as it did after the close of the second World War,
might have been expected to consider the problems which had been created by that conflict
and the damage wrought to the world's medical libraries, and how to resolve them. Except
for one case study, it did not do so. The congress viewpoint was present and prospect, not
the past (except in the consideration of various historical topics).
The mood of the congress was an optimistic one, and the delegates looked forward to a
future of exciting changes which were beginning to take place. An important topic was the
bibliographic control of the world's medical literature, and the Current List of Medical
Literature had only recently been reorganized to replace the Index Catalogue of the
Library of the Surgeon General's Office. The Armed Forces Medical Library (U. S. A.) was
in a state of organizational metamorphosis which would end with its designation as the
National Library of Medicine in 1956.
The congress was viewed as a clear sign that the profession had come of age; that there
was a critical mass of medical librarians in the world who had proven their value to the
medical profession in many lands; that medical librarianship was a specialty without which
the medical profession could no longer function effectively; and that much could be
usefully accomplished by international discussion of problems and practices. It is
interesting that this meeting took place 100 years after the world's first convention of
librarians, which had occurred in New York City in 1853.
The congress sessions were divided into a series of topical symposia - on the role of
the medical librarian in the world today; historical development of libraries and books;
medical libraries in different countries; education and training for medical
librarianship; centralization of medical library resources; and finally, an open forum
which touched on a wide variety of topics, such as indexing the literature, the costs of
resources, administration of medical libraries, standardization of bibliographic
The congress concluded with a discussion on international cooperation. In all, some 64
papers were presented.
--excerpted from The International Congresses on
Medical Librarianship Thirty Years of Evolutionary Change by Irwin Pizer.