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Cancer Librarians Section History

Developed by the section for the MLA Centennial, 1998.

The Cancer Librarians Section dates back to a discussion in 1974 between Marie Harvin, Director of the Research Medical Library at M.D. Anderson Hospital, and Ann P. Hutchinson, the newly appointed director of the Medical and Scientific Library at Roswell Park Memorial Institute. As a result of their discussion, Marie organized the first meeting which took place in San Antonio at the 1974 MLA Annual Meeting -- seven librarians attended. Although cancer librarians met every year thereafter at the annual meeting and kept minutes, it was not until 1982 that the group obtained official section status.

The first issue of the Cancer Librarians Section News appears to have been published on October 25, 1982.

The first edition of the section's annotated bibliography, Clinical Oncology: A Selected List of New Books, was dated 1984-85 and cost only $2.50. The fourth edition covered 1992-1994. The 5th edition, now called Cancer Resources: A Selected List 1995-1997, was expanded to include more patient education and consumer health resources.

In December, Eve Ruff, library director at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC), began CANCERLIB-L, a listserv to support the sections's activities. CANCERLIB-L was established with technical support from the FHCRC's Public Heals Sciences Administrative Computing Department and Library Services. It is open to health science and research librarians who are particularly interested in issues relevant to the section and to the initiatives of cancer librarians.

From 1982 through 1995, the section has had its own program at MLA annual meetings. Speakers have included Daniel Masys, M.D., who spoke on the human genome and molecular oncology, Rosemary Laidacker of the Texas Cancer Data Center, Dr. E. Loren Buhle, founder of Oncolink, and Eve Ruff who spoke about cancer information on the Internet. Since 1996, we have co-sponsored sessions at MLA's annual meetings with other sections.

Section membership includes librarians at cancer and academic medical centers, hospitals, businesses and government agencies. Membership has grown from forty in 1981 to 152 in 1997/98.

Cancer librarians are active in many aspects of medical librarianship. Those at cancer centers deal directly with researchers and clinicians developing cancer treatment modalities and protocols. Those in academic medical centers and hospital libraries are frequently called upon to answer questions not just for faculty, residents, nurses and students but also for the consumer. With new modalities available through the Internet and using those tried and true research modalities that we've always had we are an integral part of the treatment process.

Gayle Ablove and Margaret Vugrin, AHIP

Margaret Vugrin, AHIP, Reference Librarian
Preston Smith Library, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Lubbock, TX 79430