Reports from CAIP Affiliates: Medical Library Association

The Medical Library Association (MLA) is a nonprofit, educational organization comprised of health sciences information professionals with more than 4,700 members worldwide. Through its programs and services, MLA provides lifelong educational opportunities, supports a knowledgebase of health information research, and works with a global network of partners to promote the importance of quality information for improved health to the health care community and the public.

MLA’s strategic plan calls for building a network of partners with the objectives of seeking local, regional, national, and international partnerships with others who share its values and goals on information access including outreach to underserved communities and working to develop international connections that support access to quality information for improved health for all. MLA has had two Canadian presidents, including our current President, Joanne G. Marshall, AHIP, FMLA, and the 1989/90 President, Frances Groen. An association priority for 2004/05 is to embrace diversity locally and globally by participating in national and international activities related to information policy, scholarly communication, and access to electronic information resources, and increasing the range of partnerships between MLA and other associations, both nationally and internationally.

Significant international initiatives during the past year include:

  • appointing an MLA Task Force on Global Initiatives to review MLA’s current activities and recommend future directions and programs; providing special recognition of international attendees at MLA’s 2004 annual meeting; continuing to support the MEDLIB-L listserv which currently has 2,145 active subscribers in 46 countries; monitoring the library situation in Iraq and alerting members to special programs that are offering assistance to libraries in the country; attending the IFLA 2003 and 2004 meetings and co-sponsoring an MLA booth at these meetings; working with MLA’s International Cooperation Section to support the section’s sister library program.

Since its founding, the association has undertaken several international relationships such as:

  • In 1925, medical libraries gave duplicate journal issues and provided subscriptions to aid German libraries. At the same time, librarians were greatly concerned by the cost of German periodicals.
  • In 1934, the association began paying .05 per member for all classes of membership for IFLA dues. Today, several MLA members, including the Executive Director, serve on IFLA standing committees and roundtables. The Executive Director serves as MLA’s representative to IFLA.
  • Between 1941-45, medical libraries supported the war effort. Medical libraries and librarians supported the work of libraries in Europe and shared duplicate subscriptions.
  • In 1947, the International Cooperation Committee received the first of several three-year grants from the Rockefeller Foundation to finance fellowships for medical librarians outside North America to travel to the United States.
  • In 1967, the association established the MLA Cunningham Memorial International Fellowship with a bequest from the estate of Eileen R. Cunningham. The first fellowship was awarded in 1972, and since that time more than 34 fellows from around the globe have participated in the program that trains international librarians in the latest advances in the health information profession.
  • Established in 1989, MLA’s International Cooperation Section provides opportunities for participation in international cooperation projects; provides a mechanism to address and respond to the needs of international members; and fosters communication in the area of international health sciences librarianship. Prior to 1989, the International Cooperation Committee supported the associations international initiatives.
  • Over the years, the association has established bilateral agreements with the Canadian Health Libraries Association/Association des Bibliotheques de la Sante du Canada, the Europea Association for Health Information and Libraries, and Arbeitsgemeinschaft Fur Medizinisches Bibliothekswesen (Working Group for Medical Librarianship). The MLA Board of Directors approved establishing a bilateral agreement between MLA and the Association for Health Information and Libraries in Africa (AHILA) earlier this year.
  • MLA appoints representatives to allied organizations, including the Canadian Health Libraries Association, the European Association for Health Information and Libraries, IFLA, and the World Congress on Fair Use and Libraries.
  • Since 1953, members of MLA have been involved in planning and supporting the International Congress on Medical Librarianship. The Congress is organized by theme and reflects the concerns of the times. The conferences include the development of personal networks among colleagues, development of national and regional library networks, the reporting of medical library and information activities, and the education and training of medical librarians worldwide. Nine Congresses have been held since 2000.

Information about the association can be found at: and on the International Cooperation Section can be found at:

The MLA Cunningham Memorial International Fellowship was established in 1967. The first fellowship was awarded in 1972 and since that time, more than 34 fellows from around the world have participated in the program. The fellowship supports a three to four-month program, which runs the months prior to the MLA annual meeting. It includes observation and supervised work in one or more health sciences libraries in the United States or Canada, a limited amount of travel, and an opportunity to attend continuing education courses at the annual meeting of the Medical Library Association. Additional information about the Cunningham Memorial International Fellowship can be found at:


May 14-19, 2005 MLA Annual Meeting, San Antonio, Texas
May 19-24, 2006 MLA Annual Meeting, Phoenix, Arizona


Journal of the Medical Library Association, MLA’s quarterly scholarly journal, MLA News, MLA’s newsletter, published ten times per year. A listing of MLA books, BibKits, DocKits, and other publications with links can be found at: