There are hundreds of medical books published every year in a wide range of topics and focuses. Medical book libraries can only hold a certain amount of books and the shear number of new medical books makes it hard for them to make selections. One useful solution to this dilemma is that medical book librarians can take advantage of is medical book reviewing. However, the availability and timeliness of the book reviews appearing in medical journals is questionable.
There are many reasons why medical book selection is a complicated process for medical librarians. The number of medical books that are published within the United States has been growing at a rapid rate, doubling the number of books with each new decade. Medical books are also imported from other countries into the United States as well, to add further complication. In addition, the number of medical book publishers has skyrocketed ever decade since 1970. In 1970, there were approximately twenty publishers. There are now well over one hundred different publishers of medical books.
With the bloated number of publishers comes great confusion among medical books with similar titles, which are usually grouped together, but differ in quality. Some medical experts find that a significant portion of medical books are almost worthless. With prices of books increasing at a rapid rate, the importance of selecting the best books becomes even more vital within medical libraries for two reasons– Libraries must spend money to purchase the books, and people will be less inclined to purchase a book themselves, and in turn, would be more likely to take out books from libraries for their research.
Librarians are left with the difficult task of identifying books that contain quality information and usefulness to strengthen their selection. Unfortunately, not all medical librarians have the proper knowledge or time to evaluate medical books for the selection process.
There is assistance that medical librarians can use however to aide in their medical book selection process. The Brandon list is a powerful tool aimed at assisting small medical libraries select quality and useful medical books. While the Brandon list should not be the primary source of medical book selection, it should be used selectively as a supplemental guide.
Also, publishers have begun shipping books to libraries where in-house specialists can review the books and make selections. There is a problem with this method, however, as potential books of interest must still be selected and reviewers cannot review all the books that are published.
The third available method for librarians for medical book selection is the traditional book review published in medical journals and other similar mediums. Medical journals have book reviews as a guide to readers, with most of the readings belonging to the medical community. This method seems to still be the most useful and extensive tool available. The availability of these reviews is in question though. Also, a past issue was the timeliness of the reviews because the lag time between the published medical book and its subsequent review was from six months to a year. Today, this issue has been fixed with the instantaneous nature of the internet, as many medical journals provide online resources.