Dr Patricia Flatley Brennan: Think of NLM as a Digitized Environment

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) isn't a library in the traditional sense of a building with book and a librarian to help research, explained Patricia Flatley Brennan, RN, PhD, director of the NLM. NLM is a digitized envrinoment that connects people and researchers worldwide.

Are there misconceptions the public has about the National Library of Medicine and its role that you would like to correct?
Because of the National Library of Medicine, all of the discoveries of the Human Genome Project are available worldwide. So what that means is that we provided the place to store the genetic codes that were discovered, but we also provide it because we have worldwide access of our resources. We have made them available to scientists everywhere around the world. So the fact that we enable knowledge building is a fundamental part.

Now often when people think of a library, they think of books and nice people behind a desk that help you find the books. I want them to think of digitized environments. I want them to think about what we call "digital assets" that may be an electronic paper, may be a video, may be a link between the statement of a clinical trial and the opportunity to enroll in that clinical trial for an individual. So libraries are becoming knowledge integrators and using pathways to reach people where they are, rather than requiring people to come to see us.

There are many other aspects that the National Library of Medicine is involved in. Probably one that is most surprising to people is we're very heavily involved in the quality of care and quality monitoring initiatives. We provide the value set authority that ensures that the measurement of quality of care done electronically during the process of giving care uses proper standards and uses agreed upon terminologies. We provide common data element references so that studies that say they are focused on depression have a systematic and similar way of measuring depression. So we are seeing ourselves as providing the foundation of information for practice and to provide a structure for that foundation so we can keep linking it and leveraging the different aspects of information we know, translating them into the point of care.

So I think of libraries not as buildings with books and nice people behind the desk, but as knowledge integrators that reach worldwide.
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