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2010 Cunningham Fellow Petros Demilew Miskir

Report on 2010 Cunningham Fellowship Program from 3rd May to 26 May 2010


I am Petros Demilew Miskir Head of Central medical Library at the School of Medicine of Addis Ababa University , Ethiopia. I was applying for 2010 for the Cunningham Fellowship program in the year of 2009. On Same year the board of directors of MLA informed me that I was the winner of the 2010 medical Library association .

First and foremost, I would like to express my deepest gratitude for Medical Library Association International programs award committee for selecting my application as a winner of 2010 Cunningham Fellowship program. One of the interesting parts of this program is that the board of directors informed within a month after the dead line of the application process. This was giving me enough time to prepare myself one year before for my trip to United States of America. Throughout all communications, arrangements and coordination, the hard works of Lisa C. Fried, International professional development programs coordinator, credentialing, professional recognition and career services shall be appreciated.

Components of Fellowship Program

The program has three parts.

Part one is a visit to George Washington University Himmelfarb Medical Library from May 3 to May 12 , 2010 . In this part of my first program a visit to other libraries were also included such as Washington Hospital center, children's hospital , National Library of Medicine, Gelman George Washington University main Library. Anne Linton the director of Himmelfarb Medical library was my host and contact person. Her job in scheduling and arranging all necessary things to all libraries visited in the first part of my program was very impressive.

The second part of the program was a visit to Yale University Cushing/Harbey Medical library from May 14 to May 19, 2010. The contact person and host was Daniel Dollar. He was working hard to end of the program for the success of my second part visit. In addition to Cushing/harbey medical library , Daniel was arranging other libraries such as Quinnipiac University health library and Main Yale university library. Daniel's effort to cover in the visit schedule all functions and services of these libraries was very appreciated.

The last and third part of the program is attending annual MLA meeting at Washington Hilton held from May 21 to May 26, 2010. Besides my attendance of different programs and events an shared new innovative ideas with many medical librarians, I was attending two continuing educational courses namely effective training design: a short course for trainee of trainees HINARI resources .

Observation and Expectations

From all these libraries I have observed that the medical libraries role and integration to their institutions they are in is very high. Even though, there a slight difference according to the nature of the activities, library and information services delivered by these libraries are more or less similar. All of them applies and utilizes the fruits of information technology. Particularly libraries in the hospital environment, they are changing themselves into electronic virtual library. Most of their serials collection is electronically accessible; the physical size of the four-wall library has been diminished. The other important observation from this visit particularly in GWU himmelfarb Medical library is that all professional librarians are involved in providing classes to their medical students on problem base /case based learning's.

When I was applying to the program I was intended to achieve the following.

  • To have a clear picture on the practice of evidence based library practice
  • To acquire basic and advanced techniques of electronic resources management
  • To see the practice of clinical librarianship in hospitals or health care services
  • To know more on the importance of associations of medical libraries
  • To get knowledge o n the settings of libraries in the 21st century
  • To exchange ideas and experiences among medical librarians

One of the important points on the success of my fellowship programs is the question of meeting the objectives it sets. After completing my visit and attending the annual meeting I am realizing that I have achieved my goals set before despite the shortage of time for comprehending all at a time. It gives me an initial spring point for establishing and improving the overall activities of the libraries in medical schools and hospital environment. It provides me practical exposure on how to manage all the functions of and services of biomedical and health libraries. Some of the major issues that attracts my attention and gives impression which are completely new experiences are:

  • In all libraries serials collections and services moving to more and more electronic.
  • Monograph collections in print format has been decreased and some hospital libraries started to get rid of .
  • The physical library is getting smaller and smaller particularly hospital libraries are changing themselves in to virtual. A good example is children's library at national hospital center , Nursing and public health library in Yale university are only accessible electronically and their physical space is changed or taken for other offices . however these libraries have access to unlimited resources electronically for the library users.
  • Problem based or case based learning (PCL or PBL) practiced by Himmelfarb medical library of GWU is one of the new way of delivering instructions to medical students as one part of reference services in the library. The interesting part of this program is it involves all professional librarians and incorporated in the curriculum of the medical schools. I found that such programs increases the visibility, the value and recognition of the library both to the faculty and students.
  • During my visit to the national library of medicine (NLM), I observed that their works is very huge and contributes a lot to all other medical and health libraries throughout the world. They are always improving the searching strategies and techniques of PUBMED and other freely available databases
  • The other important services I have observed in Yale university Cushing/Harbey Medical library is that of personal librarian and liaison librarian. Personal librarian is responsible for about 20 medical students for every question and assistance the students need through out their stay in the university with related to library and information services including technology support. The liaison librarian is responsible for one or two departments in school of medicine serving as an instructor and contact person with related to library/information services, use of library resources, and information literacy programs. These services helps the library to strengthening its relationship with departments and faculties. The library uses these services as meeting points with faculties and students
  • The Cushing/Whitney Medical Library plays a role of intermediaries between the information technology and students or medical school community
  • In all libraries the organizational settings are frequently changing and various from libraries to libraries. I have concluded that any library shall be setting according to the connivance of management and use by patrons


After all these observations, I have concluded that the roles of libraries have been changed. They are considered as one of the places where instructions and research has been conducted. Libraries are partners in the healthcare system.

It is a good signal for libraries in developing countries for evaluating themselves where they are and where to go. Being a Cunningham Fellow enables me to refresh myself to the profession of medical librarianship and encourages me to work hard for the development and improvement of the library service in general and medical library services in particular.

From MLA annual meeting I have got good inputs on how to strengthening libraries associations in which we are under the process of establishment. My attendance to this meeting becomes a source of strength for the realization of Ethio-AHILA chapter which is becoming one of the chapter of African health information and libraries association. Even though, we librarians living in the developing countries have faced scarcity of resources , we can do more better by optimally utilizes the available resources at hand. I have learned that if there is commitment and dedication, we can bring many changes towards the developments of medical librarianship in the continent.

I have noticed that libraries like other sectors of the society they are in a very rapid continuous change. They are shifting from ownership of physical collections to licensing and sharing or accessing content of electronic medical and science information resources. Medical libraries have quickly recognized the enormous potential of electronic resources to transform research and patient care. I am fully convinced that my library should be changed and transformed to become part and parcel of the 21 century library and information services. It is of my strong belief that a lot of work is expecting ahead of me otherwise my skill and knowledge is becoming out of the train it goes to age of information society.

Challenges and/or Problems and Recommendations

Despite all these success story of my Cunningham fellowship program there were challenges and problems that needs the attention of Medical library association. I have mentioned these challenges and problems with the positive spirit and seek of improvement and development of international Cunningham Fellowship programs in the future.

  • The first challenge is in the process of application. The process of collecting application is not convenient. One of the area is that of all printed documents and audio copies of same document with nine copies is difficult to send using ordinary postal system. Other means shall be devised because most developing countries surface postal carriers are not efficient and able to deliver timely and with good conditions. Electronic document delivery systems could be one of the solutions for this challenge. Many librarians are encouraged to compete for the fellowship program.
  • The other important and critically needed issue is the shortage of time for the program. It is very difficult to cover all areas of a library which is totally changing from the works of traditionally libraries. In order to give better knowledge and skills to the fellow in the program, could I suggest that at least four months is needed. Because so much of the items introduced to me were brand new, then without asking some basic questions and clear ambiguities a one hour allotment per library tour is very small. One hour is really but a very fast tour within the library. What supports for the success of my visit is that I am an instructor, I have read many good books and articles about medial libraries operations and services otherwise time allotted for the program is very very short.
  • One of the important components of this program is to introduce the culture of USA for the fellows and exchange the fellow's culture. But such activities are not addressed from the schedule. The fellow should see tourist areas, places and historical famous cultural activities. The other area with related to these issue is also entertainment activities are out of the program. I can say that I was too busy to complete my schedules and then I was unable to take advantage of the wealth of available sites in Washington. In order to make the program more global host cultural activities shall be considered.
  • The other area that needs improvement is the scope of coverage of funding the fellow. It would have been better at least to cover minimum costs of fellows expenses such as round trip air ticket expenses. For instance it was big challenge for me to pay $1500 for my round air ticket from my pocket or institution. Most of developing countries cannot support such expenses due to shortage of foreign currency and shortage of money. Thanks INASP ( International Network for the availability of scientific publications) for providing me the grant to cover my round trip expenses.
  • The number of awards is very few. For instance from Africa I am the only one. But developing countries are many and needs to find such programs . A lot of medial librarians are awaiting for MLA for its expansion of the international programs like this.

Last but not least , I want conclude my report by saying Cunningham fellowship programs is very good program and that should be supported. I would like also to explain my deepest appreciation to all involved in this program. I do hope any of my concerns are viewed as constructive and in no way would I have missed this once in a life time opportunity.