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The Tampa Bay Medical Library Network, lovingly abbreviated TABAMLN and pronounced "ta-bam-lin," began in 1975 from a series of organizational meetings of librarians in local hospital medical libraries and the University of South Florida Medical School Library in Tampa. It is a local consortium mainly dedicated to the distribution of interlibrary loans among its members. In 1976, TABAMLN applied for a grant from the National Library of Medicine to become an actual consortium. NLM approved the grant in July 1978 and extended it until 1982. From the original 8 hospitals, TABAMLN has grown to over 30 members and expanded far from the shores of Tampa Bay. The organization now spreads across central Florida. Its scope encompasses not only interlibrary loans but also continuing education and all pertinent issues related to the field of health science librarianship.

To render an informative history of the Tampa Bay Medical Library Network (abbreviated TABAMLN and lovingly pronounced Ta-bam-lin), one must first place the organization within the umbrella history of the National Library of Medicine.

In 1818, the first inklings of a national library of medicine began as a few books in the office of Joseph Lovell, who was the United States Army's Surgeon General. In 1836, John Shaw Billings became the director of the Surgeon General's office. Billings was also a consultant to the Census Bureau and a friend to Herman Hollerith, director of the Census Bureau. Billings suggested to Hollerith that a machine should be devised that could perform the tabulation of the census data. From this idea, Hollerith invented his first Tabulating Machine. (Hollerith formed the Computing-Tabulating Recording Company in 1911 which was later purchased by Thomas Watson who transformed it into IBM.) The relatively small beginnings of a national medical library continued after the Civil War.

In 1879, Billings began publishing Index Medicus. Index Medicus was originally a monthly classified subject guide to the medical books and journal articles available in Billings' library. An offshoot of the Index Medicus was the Index-Catalogue of the Library of the Surgeon General's Office, United States Army, first published in 1889. Under a succession of directors of the United States Army's Surgeon General's office, the library grew at a slow pace.

In 1956, the United States Congress passed the National Library of Medicine Act, which was spon-sored by Senators Lister Hill and John F. Kennedy. This act moved the books and journals, which had become the nucleus of a national library, from the U.S. Army to the jurisdiction of the Public Health Department. It also designated a permanent building site for the new National Library of Medicine. Dr. Frank B. Rodgers, a medical doctor, was sent to library school.

In 1958 he became the first director of the National Library of Medicine. During the 1960's, the National Library of Medicine hired the General Electric Company to develop a com-puterized system to enhance the availability of the In-dex Medicus. MEDLARS, the Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System, became operational in 1964. ELHILL, a system to allow librarians at NLM to retrieve electronically the medical literature on de-mand, became available in 1968. Medline, MED-LARS Online, was developed in 1971.

In 1965, the Medical Library Assistance Act was passed. This act helped push forward the develop-ment of Medline as well as the Regional Medical Li-brary (RML) Network. One of the goals of the RML network was to improve the delivery of information to health professionals. As such, the Regional Medical Libraries supported (and still support) the develop-ment of library consortia.

In 1975, the war in Viet Nam ended with the fall of Saigon. Mitchell, Haldeman and Ehrlichman were sentenced for the Watergate break-in. In this tense atmosphere, TABAMLN was formed. Twelve li-brarians plus the director of the University of South Florida Medical School Library met and formed the first medical library consortia in the Tampa Bay area. The geographical area consisted primarily of the cities of St. Petersburg and Tampa as well as the surround-ing bedroom communities on the central west coast of Florida. The founding libraries of TABAMLN were: Tampa General Hospital, All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Bayfront Medical Center in St. Pe-tersburg, the Florida Mental Health Institute in Tampa, Tampa Veterans Administration Hospital, University Community Hospital in Tampa, Mease Hospital and Clinic in Dunedin, St. Petersburg Junior College, Hillsborough Community College, Morton F. Plant Hospital in Clearwater, Bay Pines Veterans Hospital in St. Petersburg, and South Florida Baptist Hospital in Plant City.

In late 1976, TABAMLN applied to the National Li-brary of Medicine for a three year grant to fund itself as an interlibrary loan consortium with a network co-ordinator based out of the University of South Florida in Tampa. At this point, TABAMLN had 14 member libraries including 2 community colleges and the Uni-versity of South Florida. Agreements were estab-lished to create a union list of serials and interlibrary loan journal articles and audiovisual aids. In 1978, the National Library of Medicine awarded TABAMLN a grant of $118,394 for a three year pe-riod. A medical library coordinator's office was es-tablished at the University of South Florida Medical Library. The services offered, besides interlibrary loan coordination, included reference, vacation coverage, continuing education, a newsletter, and photocopies of requested information.

The NLM grant was renewed in 1982 for one addi-tional year. In 1983, no further funding was available from the National Library of Medicine. TABAMLN reorganized with ten participating libraries. Each of these libraries contributed $4,000 annually for two years to fund the consortium. The coordinator's po-sition was subsidized by TABAMLN and maintained within the Medical School Library at the University of South Florida. Interlibrary loan agreements contin-ued between the TABAMLN members. Continuing education was a priority. In 1985, the National Library of Medicine introduced Docline. Docline is a computerized system for routing interlibrary loans to libraries using a predetermined table paradigm. Reciprocal borrowing agreements are hon-ored with specific placement within a prescribed rout-ing order. Consortia such as TABAMLN route inter-library loan requests to each other as first choices within the table. Quicker receipt of interlibrary loans is the goal of the system.

History document written by Karen L. Roth, Morton Plant Mease Health Care, Clearwater, Florida And Diana Akins, Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center Bay Pines, Bay Pines, Florida

TABAMLN History (PDF File, Size 178 KB)

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Page updated on 10/25/08

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