The Association of Caribbean University, Research and Institutional Libraries (ACURIL) is holding its 2022 conference under the theme Managing Change and Resilience: Proactive Action in Caribbean Libraries, Museums and Archives. A pre-conference event held on May 26 brought the Virtual Health Library (VHL) Content roundtable, which featured presentations by Amanda Wilson, Chief, Office of Engagement and Training, National Library of Medicine (NLM), Sebastián García Saisó, Director, Department of Evidence and Intelligence for Health Action, Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) and Director a.i. of the Latin American and Caribbean Center for Health Sciences Information (BIREME/PAHO/WHO), and Marcia Y. Barretto, Coordinator of Information Technology Infrastructure, Administrative Management and Planning Management at BIREME/PAHO/WHO. The event was chaired by Ayaana Alleyne Cumberbatch, Library of Medical Sciences, University of the West Indies, St. Augustine.
Amanda Wilson spoke about the NLM’s strategy for the period 2022-2036, when the institution will celebrate the bicentennial of its founding. The NLM’s mission and federal mandate, Amanda explained, is to collect, preserve and disseminate biomedical information. The Library Operations unit envisions a future in which data and information will continue to transform and accelerate discoveries in biomedicine to improve health and health care worldwide. NLM’s Strategic Plan in this regard includes reaching more people through outreach and engagement and helping to train professionals specializing in data-driven research and health.
Sebastián García Saisó and Marcia Y. Barretto presented the topic “Virtual Health Library: resilience and innovation towards the future”. The presentation was initiated by Sebastián García, who highlighted the 24 years of the VHL in 2022, mentioning the circumstances of the creation of the VHL, in 1998, during the IV Regional Congress on Health Sciences Information (CRICS IV), in San José, Costa Rica. The Declaration “Hasta la Biblioteca Virtual en Salud” was signed by 19 Latin American and 13 Caribbean countries. Since then, 7 Regional Coordination Meetings of the VHL have generally been held preceding the CRICS, except for the first, which took place in 1999 and was held in Washington, D.C., with the meeting being inaugurated by the then Director of PAHO/WHO, Sir George A. O. Alleyne. The most recent, VHL7, or 7th VHL Coordination Meeting, took place in 2018, preceding CRICS10, held in São Paulo, Brazil. At CRICS10, he noted, 10 members from Caribbean countries (Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago) were present.
Marcia Y. Barretto then listed some of the achievements of the VHL in its 24 years: the main sources of information, the Latin American and Caribbean Literature on Health Sciences (LILACS) and the Health Sciences Descriptors (DeCS); the relevance of the VHL for national health institutions (Ministries and Secretariats of Health, academic institutions); the thematic instances (MTCI VHL, Nursing VHL, Scientific Communication VHL). He then mentioned the information products created during the pandemic to provide qualified scientific and technical content on the virus and COVID-19, such as the Windows of Knowledge and specialized databases, highlighting the WHO database on COVID-19 developed with the contribution of BIREME and which received the prestigious “Choice” award from the American Library Association in 2021. He also showed the statistics of access and use of the VHL portals that reflect a growing trend, especially in recent years.
Sebastián García concluded the presentation by envisioning the future of the VHL, mentioning innovations such as the adoption of international standards in science and technology that are already in use in VHL methodologies and technologies, such as the use of open source. However, BIREME professionals are constantly updating the methodologies following international standards and the state of the art in the construction of portals and infrastructures to better serve the VHL user community.
Sebastián also emphasized that the VHL is a knowledge management model based on collaborative and networked work, whose objective is to facilitate access to information and scientific evidence in health to users of the health sector that contributes to reducing the gap between knowledge and practice in the countries of the Region. Its results can have an impact on the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): 3-Health and well-being; 4-Quality education; 10-Reducing inequalities; and 17-Partnership to achieve the SDGs.
García concluded by announcing that BIREME should, possibly in 2023, hold the XI Regional Congress on Health Sciences Information – CRICS XI and the 8th Coordination Meeting of the Virtual Health Library – VHL8. Announcements will be made in due time and until then, everyone is already invited, he said.