Anne Harrison

Anne Harrison FALIA

The Anne Harrison Award

Miss Anne Harrison (1923-1992) was librarian-in-charge of the Brownless Medical Library at the University of Melbourne (1949-1983), and founder of the Central Medical Library Organization (1953-1994). She helped pioneer the introduction of Medline into Australia, and was a founder of the Australian Medical Librarians Group in the early 1970s, and later of the LAA Medical Librarians Section (now ALIA Health Libraries Australia). An ALIA Fellowship was conferred on her at the State Library of Victoria on 21st June 1989 by Averill Edwards, ALIA President.

Anne was extremely humbled by all the attention focused on her albeit delighted to have many of her former colleagues present. Afterwards, seventeen librarians shared a delicious banquet with her. They gave her a picturesque anthology of Australian gardening and a signed card as a memento of the dinner. Anne sent her thanks to Janet Riches, Secretary, Medical Libraries Section.

The Anne Harrison Award was established to commemorate her work, and to encourage others to make their own contribution to the development of health librarianship.

Fellowship conferred 1989

Miss Anne Harrison made a distinguished contribution to the library profession, to the Library Association of Australia, and particularly to the development of medical librarianship and medical library services in Australia.

She gained a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Western Australia, completed the Preliminary and Registration Certificates of the Association, and was admitted to Associate ship in 1966.

Miss Harrison's early entry into medical librarianship, combined with her talents, abilities and foresight, enabled her to develop an expertise which was highly regarded not only by her colleagues, but also by educators in the health sciences. Her willingness to share this expertise meant that she had significant influence on the development of medical libraries throughout Australia, especially in Victoria.

In 1948 Miss Harrison joined Brownless Medical Library, University of Melbourne as Assistant Librarian, became Medical Librarian-in-charge in 1949 and held that position until her retirement in 1983.

Miss Harrison was instrumental in the establishment of the Central Medical Library Organization (CMLO). This non-profit co-operative venture was established in 1953 and was the brainchild of Miss Harrison, who recognized the benefits that would result from a union list of books and journals, plus the co-operative disposal of duplicates, amongst a network of poorly endowed medical libraries. Its membership increased from an original eight in 1953 to forty-seven in 1988.

As Honorary Secretary of CMLO from its inception until her retirement, she organized regular meetings of members, established policies and procedures, maintained records, and administered the funds obtained from membership dues. The task of maintaining the card catalogue union lists, and the exchange lists, was considerable in the days before the advent of computer technology. The card catalogue alone had grown to approximately 91 drawers. It was this sustained effort that was largely responsible for CMLO's continued success.

The completeness of the major medical archival collections in Victoria owed a great deal to CMLO's role as a central clearing house for monographs and periodicals exchange. The many smaller libraries established during the past thirty years had been able to build reasonable working collections because of the resources distributed through CMLO. This service was available to libraries on a national basis, and so assisted collection development at a national level.

The union list, which started in 1954/55, preceded the National Library of Australia's National Union Catalogue of Monographs (NUCOM) service by a decade. By including the holdings of the smaller medical libraries, not at that stage contributing to NUCOM, it became a primary source for medical material for the whole of Australia.

An audio-visuals catalogue, published in 1981, was based on CMLO's union catalogue holdings. It was Miss Harrison's lobbying which gained the necessary sponsorship and financial support for this publication.

CMLO, through the resources available at Brownless Medical Library, also offered assistance to it members with difficult reference queries. This was a valuable supportive service to those libraries with few reference resources. It also acted as an agency for obtaining overseas inter-library loans, and was the designated contact point with the National Library of Medicine (U.S.) and its Regional Medical Library network.

This co-operative venture, led and nurtured by Anne Harrison, helped to promote high standards of service, and foster collection development among member libraries. It also helped to encourage the sense of cohesion and unity between medical librarians which stimulated the growth of the strong medical library network so evident today.

Miss Harrison also made a significant contribution to the development of the Australian MEDLINE (MEDLARS on Line - the automated version of the printed index for medical literature: Index Medicus) network. She was one of the foremost advocates for MEDLARS (Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System) before it was introduced into Australia, and played an important role in gathering support from the medical research community for its adoption, and in persuading the National Health and Medical Research Council of its potential value.

Miss Harrison promoted the use of this information service as a facility which should be available not only through large institutions, but also through hospitals and other health care facilities, so that the medical community as a whole could utilize it in the provision of quality patient care. Miss Harrison ensured that Brownless Medical Library's MEDLINE service policy was consistent with the Library Association of Australia's stated policy on equality of access to information. Her provision of access to affiliated hospital personnel opened the way for the rapid acceptance of MEDLINE into teaching hospitals as the network expanded.

Miss Harrison was the first convenor of the Victorian Group of representatives on the National Library of Australia's Life Sciences Consultative Committee (LSCC). The LSCC was the main avenue available to the MEDLINE user community for provision of feedback which could be used to improve the quality of this service. She succeeded in establishing a form of representation on the committee which was reflective of the diversity of MEDLINE users, with hospital, university and research institute representation.

Miss Harrison played an active role in advancing the profession of Librarianship. From the early 1950's she saw the need for medical librarians, as a group, to undertake co-operative activities, to set standards for libraries, and to raise their own professional competence and qualifications.

Miss Harrison's colleagues appointed her co-convenor of the National Steering Committee for the formation of an Australian Medical Librarians' Group. In 1971 she organized and presided over the first meeting to establish the Victorian branch of the Group, and was instrumental in organizing the first national conference of medical librarians in 1972.

She subsequently became the driving force in lobbying the various state-based Medical Librarians' Groups to become formally affiliated with the LAA, and was appointed convenor of the Steering Committee for the formation of the LAA Medical Librarians Section (now Health Libraries Australia). She argued this cause nationally, and in the face of some considerable opposition, was largely responsible for persuading the majority of medical librarians to align themselves with the LAA.

As her writings attested, Anne did not lose sight of the interdependence of librarians, and their role in the wider spectrum of national information resources. Her professional activities included contributions to the Special Libraries and the University and College Libraries Sections, including appointments as an office bearer in each.

She actively promoted the cause of professional librarianship in the wider community, and was called upon to represent librarians as a consultant on various committees. Significant among these was the Consultative Committee on Hospital Libraries to the Victorian Health Commission, which was instrumental in the establishment of professionally supervised libraries in country and smaller metropolitan hospitals throughout Victoria, and served as a precedent in other states.

Miss Harrison's work was instrumental in opening the way for the development of the present vigorous medical libraries network in Australia, and in promoting the sense of co-operation which is now such a feature of it. Her foresight, skill and dedication have been instrumental in the development of a higher status and quality of librarianship, and her leadership, work and example have brought significant and lasting benefits to the practice of the profession.

Anne Harrison's contribution to library and information services in Australia has made her a most worthy recipient of a Fellowship of the Australian Library and Information Association. To celebrate this great occasion, a conferral ceremony was held in Queen's Hall at the State Library of Victoria, followed by a dinner at a nearby restaurant. Averill Edwards, ALIA President, presented the Fellowship and spoke about a new future for ALIA.

Anne Harrison, 1923-1993.  Obituary  inCite  vol. 13, issue 3, 6 April 1992, p. 24.

A major era for health librarianship in Australia ended with the death of Anne Harrison on 13 February.  Anne was a friend and mentor to so many of us who have been working in medical libraries through the period of her influence from the early 1950s until her retirement in 1983.  We all feel a deep personal sense of loss.

Anne entered medical librarianship as librarian in charge of Brownless Library at the University of Melbourne. Her vision, and her willingness and ability to share her expertise, influenced significantly the development of medical libraries throughout Australia.  She established the Central Medical Library Organisation in 1953. This was a pioneering effort in library cooperation, and brought a sense of cohesion to the medical library network. Through the CMLO, many fine schemes have been developed. These have ranged from a clearinghouse and exchange system, which was invaluable in establishing collections for new medical libraries in the early 1950s and '60s, through co the Union List of Monographs, which preceded NUCOM by nearly 10 years and which proved to be an indispensable location tool for scarce resources.

Anne played a valuable part in the development of the Australian MEDLINE network. She lobbied enthusiastically for the network, and her promotion of the system throughout the medical community ensured its eventual availability as a national network.

In the early 1970s she played a major role in ensuring that the various state groups of medical librarians became affiliated with the then Library Association of Australia. She was proud to see her work result in the formation of the Health Libraries Section of the Australian Library and Information Association.

The library community acknowledged Anne's great contribution to our profession by conferring the award of Fellowship of ALIA in 1989. Health librarians throughout Australia rejoiced in this official recognition of our debt to a dedicated and most professional colleague.

The Anne Harrison Award, presented bi-annually to a member of the Health Libraries Section for a special research project in health sciences librarianship, was established in the mid-1980s. It exists as a tangible reminder of our debt to a pioneer in our profession.

We mourn the passing of our friend and mentor. Times and circumstances have changed, but those who knew Anne well will remember her with great affection.