9º World Congress on Health Information and Libraries

Salvador, Bahia - Brazil, September, 20 to 23 - 2005


4th Regional Coordination Meeting of the VHL

September, 19 to 20 - 2005

Hospital virtual libraries in Latin America and the Caribbean: a webometric analysis


Introduction. Information regarding hospital libraries in the United States, Canada and the European Union abounds. Little information however exists in the literature regarding hospital libraries in Latin America and the Caribbean. While new information and communication technologies (ict) are being transferred from developed to less developed countries and major emphasis is being placed worldwide on quality of health care, evidence based-medicine, and the use of information on the decision process mechanisms in the delivery of health care, little is known about the capability and empowerment of hospitals in less developed countries to respond to such needs.
Purpose. The purpose of this work is to present the preliminary results of a research in progress on the existing virtual positioning of electronic libraries among hospitals in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Method. A webometric analysis was conducted through the electronic search of those Latin American and Caribbean hospital websit es hosting a virtual/electronic library available to their user community via the Internet. The study was limited to a search in Google, HotBot and Yahoo, in 2005. BIREME’s Virtual Health Libraries were excluded from the study, considering the available information on the development of this project.
Results. A total of 2,381 hospitals were identified, as reported by 34 Latin American and Caribbean countries. However, only 435 (18.3%) hospitals reported an institutional website; 53 (2.2%) stated to have a library; and only 13 (0.5%) owned a virtual/electronic library. These countries were the following in descending order: Mexico, Argentina, and Venezuela.
Discussion. These preliminary results reflect the need to continue this work of research in order to establish a diagnosis of the existing situation in terms of infrastructure and ict developments so as to improve the access and use of scientific and technical information among hospitals. The paper discusses both, (1) the important role of BI REME’s effort in developing virtual accesses to health libraries in the region and (2) the different implications of this type of research to information providers; end-users; managers and librarians, among others in the health sector.