EMTS logo EMTS History (imagemap)


The MLA Educational Media & Technologies Section: A Twenty-Five Year History

Marlene B. Smith, MLS Chair, Educational Media & Technologies Section/MLA University of Missouri-Kansas City, School of Medicine Medical Education Media Center 2411 Holmes St. Kansas City, MO. 64108

Birthing Pains

In Kansas City, Missouri on Thursday May 31, 1973 a group of concerned Medical Library Association (MLA) members met informally at breakfast to discuss the relationship of medical audiovisuals and their effect upon medical librarianship.

During this brief meeting, many critical questions were raised dealing with the role of MLA and its support of information and education for librarians who were faced with the task of developing and implementing audiovisual facilities. Although audiovisual resources for educational support began to flourish in the post-World War II era, this little breakfast group was the first to formally request that MLA address itself to this growing area of informational resources.

And so, on that spring morning 25 years ago, a seed was planted. By August 17th of that year, the group had grown to sixteen. It was time to seek recognition. Dorothy A. Spencer of the Medical College of Georgia wrote to Sarah Brown, the President of the Medical Library Association, as the "Acting Spokeswoman for the Unofficial Special Interest Group for Medical Media" to ask for MLA approval.

It is interesting that the proposed "Special Interest Group for Medical Media" should change their name to "Health Sciences Audiovisual Group" (HSAG) by November 16th of 1973. The original term "media" was actually a broader based application and closer to the current moniker "Educational Media & Technologies Section." "HSAG" first appears on a "List of Petitioner's in Support of the Proposed Health Sciences Audiovisual Group" prepared for the 1973 MLA December Board meeting. By this time, the swell of support provided 50 names on the petition and represented 19 states. The petition included familiar names like Susan Crawford and Nancy Lorenzi. As a new "Special Interest Group" we were hard to resist.

Letters of support included a variety of concerns which causes one to smile even now. The reason? So much of the early discussion was as valid then as it is today. Nancy Sauro of the University of Minnesota wrote, "One thing I would like to see accomplished is a comprehensive catalog of the health sciences audiovisual materials currently available for purchase or loan, from commercial and academic sources. This would be something like a Books in Print." Ahhh well, Nancy, ... 25 years later we wish the same thing.

Other concerns in those early letters of support revolved around our relationship with other groups, federal legislation and outreach education. Joe Taylor of the Houston Academy of Medicine, Texas Medical Center Library wrote, "The relationship between the medical librarian and the biomedical communicator deserves considerable scrutiny." "Another critical problem the group should examine is the impact of national legislation upon medical media, ... and federal outreach programs such as the Area Health Education Centers (AHEC)."

Today's hot topics still involve legislation and educational outreach programs affecting media. The "fair-use" copyright regulation of digital media is a major concern right now. Telemedicine is one of the current techniques for educational outreach (current term: distance education), and includes other applications such as diagnostic medicine. It's the same story, just a newer form of technology.


At any rate, the HSAG quickly gained momentum and recognition. On February 7, 1974, Dorothy Spencer received the official notice from John S. LoSasso, Executive Director of MLA, "....This is to confirm for your records that the Board did grant official status to the Health Sciences Audiovisual Group and the meeting of your group will be publicized in the official program for the Annual Meeting in San Antonio this June." From that first little breakfast meeting in Kansas City, Missouri to our first meeting in San Antonio, it took less than a year for our seed to grow and establish our roots as an official MLA Special Interest Group.

Abstract | History | Timelines | Memories | Future | Gallery | Credits