Med Students, Teachers Making Switch To Digital Journals

If you walk into the Houston Academy of Medicine -Texas Medical Center Library today, you’ll see a big open space right near the entrance. It’s the clearest sign of a major shift in how medical students, doctors and researchers both access and disseminate information. Jack Williams explains.

“Originally where we’re standing right now, as you can see from the marks on the floor, many ranges of unbound journals and we’re down now to one range.”

Leah Krevit is the associate director for collections management at the TMC Library.

“We have left about 150 print, current journals that we’re still subscribing to. Everything else is available electronically.”

Krevit says instead of bulky textbooks and journals, students, researchers and doctors are now using electronic open access journals, podcasts, wikis and blogs.

“When we cancelled over a thousand print journals, current journals, we did not receive any feedback at all. So, the library had waited just long enough I think for our users, faculty, researchers, students, to make the shift. They had already shifted their reading patterns and their research patterns to digital information, so by the time we actually cancelled the print, it didn’t matter to them anymore.”

The shift to electronic publishing has been swift. Experts now say students not only expect to have access to digital information, they demand it. Dr. Adol Esquivel a graduate student at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

“From the student’s perspective what is important is to be able to get to the information that we need to get when we need to get to it. It used to be that I had to come to the library and spend literally hours looking for things, doing my research, reading and things like that. Now, with things like this, I can be at the side of the patient or doing my homework at home or wherever I am, and I can get access to the information I need when I need it.”

The conversion to digital information hasn’t been easy. Some researchers are reluctant to release their work on a blog or in a podcast. Dr. Cynthia Phelps is an assistant professor of Health Science Education at UT-Houston. She says the National Institutes of Health is pushing the conversion to open digital access.

“They are demanding now that if they fund grants, the data that comes out of those grants must be accessible and published for people to be able to use. In addition to the articles, they need to be accessible for people to read. So this is pushing the technologies that allow for open access in digital form so anyone can use this information.”

The digital efforts are part of what’s called Web 2.0, a growing array of interactive resources on the internet.