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Letters: Close the Library?

September 17, 2012

For all intents and purposes, the ADA Library is closing. In a July 16 article in the ADA News, it was announced that the ADA Board of Trustees recommends a bold plan for growth and strength and that the 2013 budget proposal reflects four strategic goals (briefly: members, public health, collaboration, financial). The closing of the ADA Library was not mentioned. However, guided by a software program (Decision Lens) that calculates return on investment, return on objective, and alignment with the Strategic Plan, it was decided that our ADA Library is not worth maintaining. The Library’s budget proposed for 2013 has quietly been cut by 60 percent and the Library will be downsized, transitioned and transformed into a limited information service in order to save just 0.6 percent of the ADA’s total budget.

At the same time, it is proposed that members will have a $30/year dues increase to improve our cash flow surplus and a $50/member Capital Improvement Fund special assessment for two years, partly earmarked for "tenant improvements to secure long-term leases," i.e., to remodel the Library space to rent it out to someone else. Similar money-oriented analyses and "stinkin’ thinkin’" led other entities to close the Schools of Dentistry at Northwestern and Loyola, among others. Now we’re doing it to ourselves.

In our revised library, there will be no books as they will be dispersed to places unknown. Book loans will be a thing of the past. Online dental library books will never happen because the licensing costs are prohibitive. Our revised library will not allow members to visit, so we will not have access to the journals collection. This includes the library’s online journal subscriptions because they can only be accessed from within the library. Subscriptions to some journals may need to be canceled. Library support of evidence-based dentistry searches and reviews is uncertain. There is no plan for an online "dental professional library of the future."

What community doesn’t invest in a library for the common good? What library has no books? What community closes their main library mostly to save money on librarian salaries? The ADA is not wallowing in red ink. This is not happening because we cannot afford our library. What are they thinking?

We think there is a very strong obligation for the dental profession to maintain a central repository of dental scholarship. If the ADA doesn’t do it, then who will? The ADA Library was established as a member benefit in 1927 and has always been open and available to the entire profession and the public. Physicians have access to hospital or academic medical libraries and attorneys use the law library of their firm, legal society or court system. Most dentists do not have a low-cost, comprehensive resource outside of the ADA Library.

There is comfort knowing we have this world-class professional library and it is available to us when we need it. The Library is used regularly by researchers, academicians, article and book authors, ADA members and nonmembers in other health fields and the public, in the U.S. and abroad. They also service requests from councils and departments within the ADA. If we don’t act, then starting in January 2013 there will be only five staff members doing the job of 13. We will no longer have a library ... just a limited information service.

The Library supports the stated objective of the ADA: "to improve the health of the public and to promote the art and science of dentistry." We believe the Library is in alignment with the first three of the ADA goals in its Strategic Plan. We suppose the only thing the analysis software and pencil-pushers find hard to accept is that our professional library doesn’t bring in enough money. What library does? Our library should not be assessed by its dollar costs vs. revenue data. Libraries are investments whose value is in its collection of books, journals and the services provided. Our ADA Library is currently regarded as the best, most complete resource for dental professionals in the country, and no doubt, in the world. We believe it is an invaluable and irreplaceable resource, regardless of what the Decision Lens software analysis process says. We believe this is a big mistake and the Library is the victim of "garbage in, garbage out." We believe "money can be too costly when we try to save it at the expense of a valued institution."

We believe that our ADA Library serves a vitally important function and brings prestige to our profession and our professional organization. To cut it down and out is unconscionable.

The Illinois State Dental Society passed a resolution in its House of Delegates stating support for keeping our Library and the ADA 8th District delegation will work to restore the Library’s budget. We urge you to tell your ADA delegates that you want the ADA to restore the 2013 Library budget to the 2012 level. Tell them you support the notion that the ADA should always keep a well-maintained and professionally staffed library of historical and up-to-date books and journals as a world-class resource for the dental profession, with full access by its members and the public.

We hope the ADA Board and the House of Delegates consider the needs, desires and expectations of the dental profession and the public over the advice of a software program when they consider the 2013 ADA budget in October.

Spencer Bloom, D.D.S.
Chet Klos, D.D.S.
Paul Landman, D.D.S
Jeff Kramer, D.D.S.
Janet Kuhn, D.D.S.
Joy Poskozim, D.D.S.
Kirk Kollmann, D.M.D.
Harvey Mahler, D.D.S.
Marvin Berman, D.D.S.
Trucia Drummond, D.D.S.
Mary Starsiak, D.D.S.
Barb Mousel, D.D.S.
Caroline Scholtz, D.D.S.
Robert Hessberger, D.D.S.
Neal Nealis, D.D.S.
Lawrence Zager, D.D.S.
Chicago

Jay Blackburn, D.D.S.
New Buffalo, Mich.

Kaz Zymantis, D.D.S.
Naperville, Ill.

Victoria Ursitti, D.M.D.
Arlington Heights, Ill.

Dan Uditsky, D.D.S.
Schaumburg, Ill.

Mary Licking, D.D.S.
Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Fred Peck, D.D.S.
Cincinnati

Lynn Carlisle, D.D.S.
Carbondale, Colo.

Tim Tishler, D.D.S.
Sister Bay, Wis.

Clifford Prince, D.D.S.
Skokie, Ill.

Andrew Browar, D.D.S.
Hinsdale, Ill.

Lou Imburgia, D.D.S.
Michael Biasiello, D.D.S.
Park Ridge, Ill.

John Kaminski, D.D.S.
Des Plaines, Ill.

Editor’s note: For more information, see "Association clarifies status of ADA Library".