U of T’s Health Science Information Consortium of Toronto celebrates 30th anniversary

By Lori Oja

The Health Science Information Consortium of Toronto (HSICT) was founded in 1990 out of a desire to strengthen the relationship between the University of Toronto Libraries and the affiliated hospital libraries to better serve teaching faculty, researchers and students. As we turn 30, we consider the changes and the improvements we can celebrate.

Ontario’s Health Information Consortium

When it was established, the Consortium consisted of 38 member institutions. The members included the University of Toronto Libraries (UTL), the fully affiliated teaching hospitals, the partially affiliated teaching hospitals and institutions and 9 community hospitals. At that time, every member had a link with the University of Toronto: the teaching institutions were affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine; the community hospitals were institutional members of the University of Toronto Libraries system.

Today, the Consortium has expanded its reach province wide and consists of over 50 members from Ottawa in the east to Sault Ste. Marie in the north and Thunder Bay in the west. Our membership has diversified beyond hospital libraries to all types of health libraries including Public Health organizations, government agencies and nonprofit organizations.  Our goal is to become the provincial health information consortium in Ontario.

Our librarians

With Joan Leishman as its first director and Sandra Langlands instrumental in its founding, the Consortium has a long history of fostering not only health libraries but health librarians.  We continue to honor these two exemplary professionals through annual awards named after them that focus on lifetime achievement and innovation.  Additionally, we highlight the many individual contributions our member librarians make throughout the year to the profession and other scholarly pursuits.

Adapting to needs

The Consortium's original purpose was to enhance resource sharing through the coordination of new technology and the rationalization of information resources. Over time, the focus has moved from the initial emphasis on sharing of paper-based resources to the consortia licensing of online databases and full-text resources.

While most consortia’s focus only on that role, HSICT has broadened its role to help advance our member’s own roles in health information delivery and health education. This has included professional development, expertise sharing and impactful advocacy initiatives.

 Looking ahead

The guiding principle for the Consortium is that collectively members can accomplish as a group much more than a single member could accomplish on their own. This principle remains and is enhanced as we consider how to add more value in future by:

·       Enhancing collaborations among libraries by identifying and developing services and programs that can be provided at scale

·       Establishing and communicating the value proposition for health libraries within their institutions

·       Encouraging innovation in skills and services

·       Providing further opportunities for expertise sharing, professional development and networking

As we have for the past 30 years, the Health Science Information Consortium will continue to evolve to ensure it is stronger and more relevant than ever.