Medical librarians who are challenged by tight budgets, a proliferating body of health literature and limited time to evaluate the many available titles and online resources sometimes struggle to make wise selections for their local library. Given these pressures, librarians seek help. Often, that help is a trusted guide that can point to a selected title as the one to buy.
In the past, medical librarians relied on the Brandon-Hill lists, which identified essential monographs and serials in medicine, nursing and allied health disciplines for the small and medium-sized medical library. Because the lists were coming from some very experienced librarians, you could use their opinion as your authoritative guide. Besides the Brandon-Hill lists, other guides existed too, and together, these lists provided the fast and easy approach to collection development1. For broad coverage of monographs (print and electronic formats) in health subjects and disciplines, Brandon-Hill has now been replaced by Doody’s Core Titles (DCT).
After the 2003 announcement that the Brandon-Hill lists would no longer be updated and would cease to exist, Dan Doody was asked by various MLA section members and representatives to consider crafting a replacement; discussion took place at the 2004 MLA annual meeting. At the meeting, Dan heard what medical librarians wanted – a means to keep a trusted guide current and fresh. Then he proposed that MLA members be a part of the process of determining the essential titles for a medical library.
He suggested that a combination of the librarians’ skills in selection and collection development with the expert opinions he was gathering via his book review service would make for a powerful and effective replacement for the now defunct lists. Members adopted his proposal and the replacement for Brandon-Hill, Doody’s Core Titles, has been published annually since 2004. Dan’s efforts make DCT the true successor to Brandon-Hill.
Like Brandon-Hill, DCT fills the same librarian need for a trusted guide to selecting the literature in 121 health sciences specialties. Dan’s company set up an online system to gather the intelligence from the health sciences and library communities.
- Each year, the Doody’s Review Service subject experts (over 100) use the online system to recommend the most important titles in their respective disciplines.
- DCT then asks Librarian Selectors (about 120 every year) to review what the subject experts recommend and select additional titles appropriate for the health sciences library environment. Up to 3 librarians work, independently of each other, in each of the specialties.
- The Librarian Selectors then use their expertise to score the titles in their specialty(ies) and select the Essential Purchase titles. The Core Titles are those that the Librarian Selectors think best fit the needs of the average medical library, whether in a hospital, academic or special library setting. The Essential Purchase titles are a replacement of the Brandon-Hill “minimal core list” titles.
With the help of Majors Scientific Books, DCT also reports on updated editions of titles that appeared on the final Brandon-Hill lists. DCT maintains this continuity with Brandon-Hill as an aid to those customers who remember the past and the value of this trusted guide to aid selection in a busy medical library. However, as time passes (over seven years now), a smaller and smaller percentage of titles on the DCT list represent new editions of titles on the final Brandon-Hill lists. Only 408 of the 2,186 unique titles on DCT 2011 are updated editions of Brandon-Hill titles, which means that over 81% of Doody’s Core Titles are new. Of the 442 Essential Purchase titles on the DCT list, only 160 represent updated editions of Brandon-Hill titles, so 64% of the Essential Purchase titles are new.
Some medical librarians still long for the old Brandon-Hill lists, look for links to the latest update and may not buy into DCT, literally or figuratively. One reason to buy DCT is for its currency in identifying the best monographs and related resources in the health sciences based on expert opinions. Though the old Brandon-Hill list was free, it was dated and now no longer exists; it is gone and is not coming back. The new reality is for librarians to learn what DCT has to offer as an improved replacement for the old Brandon-Hill list.
Another reason to buy DCT is that it increases the purchasing power of the library’s budget, however limited it may be. Yes, buying a title like DCT for collection development means buying one less title for the user. However, DCT aids the selection process so no budget dollars are wasted due to guesswork or limited time to evaluate potential purchases. Actually, buying one guide that will help you decide how to spend the rest of the limited acquisitions budget is a good thing in the long term.
What DCT (and the more comprehensive Doody’s Review Service) gives the librarian is an online resource that can be used every day, week, month or year, depending on the library’s collecting pattern. It is a powerful tool that combines expert opinions on new books and resources, a selection guide, and an online community to consult. All of these features serve as resources for the librarian. The critical point today is that DCT is on the web, updated and fresh, not static and confined to a printed list.
Over the years, Doody Enterprises and DCT continue to improve their brand and work to meet the needs of medical librarians. Doody Enterprises and its Library Board of Advisors strive for innovative services by monitoring trends in publishing, technology and library development. As the Brandon-Hill list recedes in memory and relevance, DCT continues to flourish as the trusted guide to the health sciences literature.
1 Shedlock J, Walton LJ. Developing a virtual community for health sciences library book selection: Doody's Core Titles. J Med Libr Assoc. 2006 January; 94(1): 61–66.