Medicus Deus: A review of factors affecting hospital library services to patients between 1790-1950
QUESTION: What are some of the historical societal, medical, and public health trends leading to today's provision of hospital library services to patients?
DATA SOURCES: Literature from the archives of the Bulletin of the Medical Library Association and other library sources, medical journals, primary historical documents, and texts from the history of medicine form the core of this review.
STUDY SELECTION: The period of review extends from about 1790 through 1950 and focuses solely on trends in the United States. Of primary concern are explicitly documented examples that appear to illustrate the patient-physician relationship and those between librarians and their patient-patrons during the earliest years of the profession's development.
DATA EXTRACTION: An historical timeline was created to allow the identification of major trends that may have affected library services. Multiple literature searches were conducted using library, medical, and health anthropology resources. When possible, primary sources were preferred over reviews.
MAIN RESULTS: Juxtapositioning historical events allows the reader to obtain an overview of the roots of consumer health services in medical libraries and to consider their potential legacy in today's health care libraries.
CONCLUSION: This review article highlights early developments in hospital library service to patients. Further research is needed to verify a preliminary conclusion that in some medical library settings, services to the general public are shaped by the broader health care environment as it has evolved.