In late June, I took a trip up to Vermont. I was visiting libraries in Rutland County for our Focused Outreach initiative, as well as visiting several hospital libraries in Vermont. At the end of my first day, I checked my email. I had a message from Stacy Wein. She was just notified that her library was closing. Maybe I shouldn’t bother to visit her as scheduled?
On the contrary, I wanted to see her.
The following morning was hot and sunny. I arrived in Morrisville at 10:00am. Copley Hospital, a not-for-profit critical access hospital, opened its doors in 1932. U.S. Census estimates the 2018 population for Lamoille County at 25,300. According to Copley Hospital’s Annual Report, 3669 surgeries and procedures were performed in FY2018, as well as 13,112 emergency room visits and 75,447 outpatient visits. Yet, like most small rural hospitals, Copley is struggling financially.
FY2018 was a challenging year for Copley financially with utilization lower than expected, a rate cut for the third year in a row and continued cost pressures related to staffing challenges and medical inflation… resulting in an operating loss of $2.2 million.~ Copley Hospital Annual Report FY2018
Stacy was understandably upset when I saw her. She suggested that we leave her office for our meeting. We grabbed cold water from the cafeteria and sat down at staff picnic tables in a courtyard. Stacy told me about her efforts to engage clinicians and patients. Her user group was primarily clinicians, patients and patients’ family members. For outreach, Stacy partnered with public libraries for health programming, and had some success. She and Betsy Merrill (Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital) will be presenting at the Vermont State School Nurses Association Fall Conference in November.
Within her hospital, she was stymied by the fact that not much research is conducted at Copley. Biomedical information and continuing education for clinicians is increasingly electronic. At times, Stacy felt that her attempts at communication with hospital administration seemed one-sided.
Ultimately, Stacy told me “I have had a great 18 years here at Copley and learned so much.” She is exploring local job opportunities in education.
After I returned from my trip, this newly published JMLA article caught my attention:
Harrow A, Marks LA, Schneider D, Lyubechansky A, Aaronson E, Kysh L, Harrington M. Hospital library closures and consolidations: a case series. J Med Libr Assoc. 2019 Apr;107(2):129-136. doi: 10.5195/jmla.2019.520. Epub 2019 Apr 1. PubMed PMID: 31019381; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6466508.
Librarian Ellen Aaronson’s case was similar. She stated that little research was done at her hospital in a suburb of Los Angelos. As much as she tried to prove the value of library services, the library was seen as expendable.
Alexander Lyubechansky, librarian at University Medical Center of Southern Nevada, spoke of the lack of communication involving a library consolidation. Hospital employees were not notified about the closure of one location, and found the remaining location through word-of-mouth.
The article acknowledges that economic factors are beyond a librarian’s control, and that sometimes a “cleaner” (as librarian Lisa Marks describes) is brought in to financially clean house and then leave. This undermines any relationship-building efforts between librarians and hospital administrators.
There is no magic wand for me to wave. I cannot undo Copley Hospital’s decision, and neither can Stacy. The National Library of Medicine will continue to build freely available tools and resources, and the National Network provides free training for library staff. We hope to prepare librarians for the changes within their workplaces, or to ready them for career changes. And, we are here to listen to the realities of their experiences.