The Medical Director's Desk
Department Keeps Track of APA History While Gearing Up for Future
Psychiatric News
Volume 39 Number 5 page 4-4
Anchor for JumpAnchor for JumpThe Melvin Sabshin Library and Archives is the APA department that serves as a bridge between APA’s past and its future.

The Library and Archives fields more than a hundred requests for information and research services each month from APA members, staff, other health care providers, attorneys, reporters, historians, and other researchers. Whether it is hunting a quotation purportedly by Benjamin Rush, finding the number and distribution of psychiatrists by subspecialty in Michigan, determining the reliability and validity of the Global Assessment of Functioning Scale, tracking down a training video on tardive dyskinesia, identifying an expert consultant on lycanthropy, or simply completing a bibliographic citation—the answer can be found in the Library’s extensive collection of print, multimedia, and electronic resources.

APA’s Library also serves as a national resource for academic and medical librarians who call or e-mail when their own research hits a dead end. Occasionally callers are looking for specific quantitative psychiatric service standards or other mental health—related statistics that do not exist, and they are relieved that their search can be put to rest.

Far from making libraries and librarians obsolete, the Internet has created a new triage role for librarians to aid the victims of the information explosion. Members usually find the information they need through their local library resources and are quite savvy about using the Internet, so it tends to be the particularly tough questions or those specific to APA history and policy that are referred here.

Providing state-of-the-art library research and information services to members and supporting the research, educational, clinical, and publishing aims of APA departments and components are but two aspects of the Library’s operations. The primary mission of the Library and Archives, of course, is to preserve the record of the Association and its subsidiaries (American Psychiatric Foundation, American Psychiatric Institute for Research and Education, and American Psychiatric Publishing Inc.) and to make APA’s history accessible to members and the research community.

The Archives serves as the institutional memory of the Association and as a rich resource on the history of American psychiatry in general. One major project now under way is building an information infrastructure on the Internet providing access to documents, photographs, and oral history audio clips. Already the Library’s Web site provides access to APA position statements from 1948 to the present, most resource documents, and the last several years of annual meeting and new research abstracts. Task force reports and amicus curiae briefs are next on the docket for text-digitization. "Finding aids" for the psychiatrists’ papers and oral history collection are also available on the Web site, with the goal of making full-text manuscripts and transcripts available in the future.

The Library and Archives must look to the future as well as the past. Working papers and drafts of the various editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders are a frequent topic of interest among doctoral students and faculty. A major challenge for the Archives over the next decade will be to preserve the record of the development of the DSM-V, which, for the first time with any edition, will largely be produced and revised online via electronic documents and e-mail communications.

The director of the Melvin Sabshin Library and Archives is Gary McMillan, M.A.L.S., M.S. He is assisted by Lucy Ozarin, M.D., M.P.H., distinguished life fellow, who volunteers one day a week. The department’s annual budget is $109,573. ▪

Anchor for JumpAnchor for JumpThe Melvin Sabshin Library and Archives is the APA department that serves as a bridge between APA’s past and its future.

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