Fourth International Congress on Medical Librarianship. Belgrade, Yugoslavia, 2-5 September 1980.

Fourth Congress: Health Information for a Developing World.

The Fourth Congress was divided into three major sub-topics: infrastructure for health services; new technology applied to health information services; and cooperation through health information systems. Ninety-one papers were given at Belgrade, and the vital involvement of Japanese librarians with international cooperation and automation was demonstrated by a number of papers given by a distinguished group of speakers, among them, Dr. Shunichi Yamamoto, and Messrs. Yoshio Amano, Toshinobu Suga, and Masaaki Tonosaki. The work and organization of SEAMIC (Southeast Asia Medical Information Centre) was outlined as were a number of automated systems.

A major concern of the delegates in Belgrade was the future planning of the congresses, as it had been a concern of each preceding congress. The period between the third and fourth meetings had been too long. At the very first congress, the attendees had hoped that the congresses would take place at five year intervals, but that goal had not yet been achieved by 1980. A major development between the third and fourth congresses had been the reorganization of IFLA and the founding of its Section of Biological and Medical Sciences Libraries in 1977. This organization now seemed to many delegates to offer the opportunity of having a permanent structure which was affiliated with a recognized international library organization which could offer support an continuity to the organization of the congress, a focus for international activities among medical libraries, and a formal "home." It had been the hope of the organizers of the First Congress that an international medical library association would be organized as an outgrowth of the Congress, but after much discussion, it appeared that more preparatory work was required before action could be taken. An interim meeting was held in Brussels in September 1955 to discuss this issue.

One hundred delegates at that meeting, held in conjunction with the International Congress of Libraries and Documentation Centres, agreed to work for national groupings of medical librarians, urged closer collaboration with the medical profession, called for more instruction for medical students in the use of libraries and the medical literature, and advocated an increase in the exchange of publications. With the establishment of the IFLA Section, it is hoped that libraries will take the opportunity to join it and that it may become, in fact, the international focus of medical librarianship.

The burgeoning development of the World Health Organization's Health Literature Service Programme, which is coordinated by its Office of Library and Health Literature Services in Geneva, was a second major factor on the international scene and one that offered strong links between libraries throughout the world. The WHO Library had been represented at all of the previous congresses with reports of its activities, but at the Fourth Congress a special program was held for the librarians in its various regional offices who were brought to Belgrade, and whose participation greatly strengthened the meeting. The planning and organization of the Fifth Congress was, therefore, entrusted by the delegates to the IFLA Section, and WHO was asked to become, with IFLA, a permanent co-sponsor of the future congresses.

Many delegates at the Fourth Congress were concerned about the use of the term "medical librarianship," which they felt was now too narrow to encompass the broad range of topics which are within the scope of this branch of the profession. The desire to change the name of the congress to reflect this by using the term "health sciences librarianship" was heatedly discussed and finally voted down, but it remains an issue of concern.

--excerpted from The International Congresses on Medical Librarianship Thirty Years of Evolutionary Change by Irwin Pizer.

Held in Belgrade, the fourth congress (1980) addressed the theme "Health Information For a Developing World." Saracevic reported that WHO had identified 588 medical schools in 79 developing countries, most of which were relatively new and did not have adequate resources, facilities, or trained personnel (13). Some 30 papers, from the Caribbean to Southeast Asia, were devoted to the need for cooperation and for the development of information networks. A general recommendation was for strengthening national networks, which would lead to regional networks for cooperation. Developments in Latin America (BIREME) and Southeast Asia (SEAMIC) were described, along with proposed networks for Africa and India. Corning cautioned that, given the focus on new information technology and the differences in needs and levels of development, the "selective principle" should apply, that is, information services should be tailored to meet needs of the ultimate user - the indigenous health professional.

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