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Honoring Our Past

The recent death of Eugene Garfield led to many items in the newspapers. His is a name that resounds in libraries because his creations—Science Citation Index, Current Contents, and The Scientist—proved to be valuable resources in the medical library. In 1969, he wrote “The Role of the Medical Librarian in SDI Systems” [1]. In this publication, he declares that librarians are “an integral part of an [selective dissemination] SDI system.” He points out that medical librarians can make the change from manual to machine systems because they serve as an intermediary between scientists and libraries. In other words, Garfield is saying that the librarian will “bridge the gap between the old world machine and the new world machine, especially for the old world user who, incidentally, still usually controls the budgets.”

The advantages to the librarian in this role include greater prestige and higher pay, along with maximum utilization of data banks and information resources. For a short period of time, librarians were the only individuals who used computers to search for information in the library. It did not take long for users to demand training to do their own searching.

Although Garfield was a graduate of Columbia library school, he never worked in a library. Because of his work in citation analysis he was called by some the “Grandfather of Google.” He certainly was a pioneer of scientometrics. Librarians have been the recipients of his knowledge, his work, and the resulting publications—as have our physicians, researchers, students, and staff. Those of us who knew him will long remember his friendship.


  1. Garfield E. The role of the medical librarian in SDI systems. Bull Med Libr Assoc. 1969 Oct;57(4):348–51.

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