Guidelines for Libraries Serving Dental Education Programs
The Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA) is recognized by the public, the profession, the Council on Postsecondary Accreditation, and the United States Department of Education as the specialized accrediting agency in dentistry. The primary aim of the Commission is to maintain and improve the quality of dental education.
Dental educational programs participate voluntarily in accreditation and are expected to comply with standards established by the CDA. The Commission publishes standards or requirements for each of the programs in dentistry and its allied disciplines. The requirements for each program represent minimum standards; they are broad and focus on seven areasadministration, financial resources and facilities, faculty and staff, students, curriculum, patient care and clinical management, and research. Standards for libraries are included in the section, "Facilities and Resources."
At the 1988 annual meeting of the Medical Library Association (MLA), the Dental Section called for the revision of the Commission on Dental Accreditation standards for dental libraries. An ad hoc committee was established and charged with the following:
The Dental Section Ad Hoc Standards Committee requested formal endorsement of its status and charge by the Medical Library Association. A motion to revise the guidelines under the auspices of MLA was approved by the MLA Board in December 1988.
There have been several attempts in the past to establish standards and/or guidelines for dental collections maintained in either separate libraries or in integrated health sciences libraries which serve many schools and teaching affiliates (hospitals and clinics). In 1964, the librarians attending the American Association of Dental Schools (AADS) annual session urged the AADS Executive Committee to endorse the need for guidelines for dental school libraries. The intention was to establish a committee, similar to the one formed by the Medical Library Association and the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) earlier in the year. During the following year, MLA/AAMC published a joint report, Guidelines for Medical School Libraries (1) While the MLA/AAMC Guidelines was extremely useful, the report lacked specific application to the needs of dental libraries (2).
It should also be noted that at that time important studies on library needs were being funded by the federal government, by several states, and by certain professional organizations (3). In addition, the bill which was to become the Medical Library Assistance Act (MLAA) was before Congress. Both the ADA and AADS urged the Senate and the House of Representatives to approve the bill which was to provide substantial grants-in-aid programs for non-federal libraries serving the health professions. The Medical Library Assistance Act (Public Law 89-291) was passed and became effective in 1965.
"On July 28, 1965, the Executive Committee of the AADS approved the recommendation emanating from the Conference Session on Dental Libraries to conduct a study which would provide data on the administration, resources, services, personnel, finances, and facilities of dental school libraries and dental collections in health sciences libraries. An assessment of these data would be of significant value to the accrediting program...." A joint committee of librarians and dental educators was formed. It was the opinion of the committee that financial assistance and a project director would be necessary to conduct the study. The problem was thus to get the funds to conduct the study. Even though the AADS approved the idea and "the ADA Council on Dental Education considered the library vital to education and research programs and an important factor in accreditation," neither was willing to financially support the efforts involved to survey the institutions and develop the standards (2).
In 1968, the AAMC issued a second library study committee report, The Health Sciences Library: Its Role in Education for the Health Professional (4). This report was based on a survey conducted throughout all medical schools in the country under a MLAA grant funded through the National Library of Medicine (NLM). The dental librarians hoped to submit a similar grant application to NLM. A preliminary proposal was written but never submitted to the national library.
In the early seventies, the Canadian Fund for Dental Education funded a study and solicited support for the survey from the Canadian dental school libraries (5). The published study recommended that the Association of Canadian Faculties of Dentistry develop and recommend to the Canadian Dental Association Board of Governors standards for dental libraries which, when adopted, would be reviewed every five years.
More recently, the Joint Task Force of the Association of Academic Health Sciences Library Directors (AAHSLD) and the Medical Library Association conducted a two year study which resulted in the publication in 1987 of the document, Challenge to Action: Planning and Evaluation Guidelines for Academic Health Sciences Libraries. These guidelines are "non-prescriptive" and are meant to be used in conjunction with the 1965 MLA/AAMC guidelines and other associations’ standards for academic libraries (6).
In light of this background information, the dental librarians once again decided to renew their efforts to revise the standards for dental libraries. The reasons for the imperative are four-fold:
Firstly, separate dental school libraries are shrinking in number; and, many are being incorporated into larger health science libraries.
Secondly, libraries in general are going through a time of transition in a rapidly changing environment. The electronic revolution is here and libraries are being inundated with a proliferation of information sources, products, and services (6). Libraries, like their parent institutions, are being driven by a combination of technical and economic forces which must be balanced against the realities of today’s budgetary constraints and the mission, goals, and objectives of the institution. The present Commission on Dental Accreditation standards (or requirements) do not reflect the present trends in information science and technology nor do they mention the staff requirements needed to deliver the diverse sources of information and library services.
Thirdly, with the publication of qualitative guidelines for dental libraries, library administrators, and librarians responsible for the dental collections will have a self-assessment tool by which to evaluate their resources, staff, budget, facilities, and administration and determine the strengths and deficiencies of their libraries.
And finally, librarians and top administrators will be able to use the guidelines as a basis for reassessing their libraries’ resources, services, and needs in light of the present and future educational, research, and clinical programs of their institutions.
In 1989, the Dental Section /MLA Ad Hoc Standards Committee became a standing committee with the charge of reviewing the guidelines for dental libraries on a regular basis. The Standards Committee prepared two documents (one for dental education programs, and the other for dental hygiene education programs) which were reviewed by the Dental Librarians Special Interest Group of the American Association of Dental Schools and the Dental Section of the Medical Library Association. The documents were in similar format and based on other associations standards, most notably the 1986 American College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Standards for College Libraries and the 1987 AAHSLD/MLA guidelines for health sciences libraries (6,7). The documents underwent many revisions but reached final approval at the AADS and MLA meetings in 1990. Subsequently, the document, the text of which follows, was approved by the MLA Section Council representatives and the MLA Board of Directors in 1990. In December 1991, the Executive Committee of the American Association of Dental Schools endorsed the Guidelines for Libraries Serving Dental Hygiene Education Programs and the Guidelines for Libraries Serving Dental Education Programs, both developed by the AADS Special Interest Group of Dental Librarians and the Dental Section of the Medical Library Association.
The Guidelines are being distributed to all dental schools, advanced dental education institutions, as well as to colleges and universities with dental hygiene programs. They are meant to be an additional resource available for institutions to assess or monitor the quality of their library services.
June Glaser, Co-Chair,
Medical Library Association
Last Updated: 2007 May 22