Delivering Health Information: BlueTrunk Libraries

From the Public Library of Science: Special, small collections of up-to-date health information for medical specialists are being distributed via the WHO, called Blue Trunk Libraries.

"Unfortunately, there are still many areas in the developing world that have neither computers nor a reliable electricity supply. Thus, in spite of the rapid development of information and communications technologies, the gap between "the haves and have-nots" continues to blight isolated areas (those outside a capital city). In these areas, the appropriate solution to information access is still printed material. In response to this need for printed health information, WHO librarians created the Blue Trunk Library (BTL) project.

What Is the Blue Trunk Library? The idea of creating the BTL collection stemmed from the conclusions of a joint survey conducted by the ministry of health and the WHO country office in Guinea to define the continuing education needs for health workers based in the health districts. The survey found that these workers needed to broaden their skills. Therefore, the WHO library was asked to compile a collection of appropriate books to suit the different education needs of health district workers at various professional levels. The WHO library in Geneva started the BTL project in 1998. Guinea was the first country to benefit from this prototype [3], which was then extended to other African countries before being taken up in developing countries in other parts of the world. There are English and French versions of the BTL. The BTL is "a ready-to-use documentation module" [4] of about 150 WHO and non-WHO books and manuals fitted into a blue metal trunk (Figure 1). The materials are arranged and filed in such a way that users can easily identify the ones that they need. Fourteen topics have been chosen using a basic classification code, e.g., General Medicine and Nursing (100), Community Health (110), and these codes are written on each filing box."

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