First International Congress on Medical Librarianship.
London, U. K., 20-25 July 1953.

First Congress: To Survey the Current Position and Activity of Medical Libraries Throughout the World, in the light of their different origins and varying advances.

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 reference, etc.

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.

The first congress (1953) was initiated by leaders of the medical library profession shortly after World War II and held in London. Some 300 persons attended with 37 countries represented. In this pre-computer age, library education, administration, and operations, the high cost of journals, and the history of medicine were among the concerns. An international exchange of publications in medical libraries had been set up by UNESCO, which was helping war-torn countries.

The difficult state of libraries in Asia, Africa, Australia, and Latin America was of great concern. At this time, the Congress Committee decided that discussion of international cooperation "should be exploratory and informal and consequently, no agenda was prepared." The proposal that an international medical library association be formed was referred to a special committee for consideration.

--excerpted from The International Congress on Medical Librarianship, 1953-1995: Goals and Achievements by Susan Crawford.