How to Find and Use a Medical Library

When you get a list of interesting references through MedLine or other sources, you will want to obtain copies of the most interesting articles. The articles have much more detail than a mere abstract or summary, and also have other references. Although some Online services such as PubMed or PaperChase do offer document delivery, it’s typically pretty expensive.

If possible, the best plan is to visit a major medical library. Almost every hospital has a medical library, but most hospital medical libraries are actually pretty small. The best bet is usually the medical library associated with a medical school, comprehensive cancer center, or major university medical center.

Policies vary, but most medical libraries will allow public access. You will probably not be allowed to take out any books, but the real interest is in the journals. I strongly recommend that you copy all interesting articles to read at home. The references and introductions of interesting papers often lead you to more papers, so its worth checking while you’re there.

Most of the time, current journal issues are kept in separate shelves from older journals which have been bound. So to get articles published within the last few months you will have to look here rather than with the bound journals. In large libraries, journals older than 10 or 15 years may be in a separate room as well. In general, the medical librarians are very helpful. If you can’t find what you need, ask. There are so many journals that no library carries them all, and typically there will be some articles that you can’t get. So it’s best not to count on getting any one article unless it’s in a major journal.

Many medical libraries will actually let you search MedLine yourself, and many offer search services for a fee.

This CancerGuide Page By Steve Dunn. © Steve Dunn
Last Updated: July 27, 2000