The other day Hambartsum, coordinator of FAR’s medical programs, a fellow YPT member and I took a ride to the Republican Scientific-Medical Library, where we had the chance to see the facility and meet the library’s Director Anna Shirinyan. I had heard quite a bit about this place since starting my work at FAR. Formerly known as the Soviet Medical Library, the FAR Medical Fellow Alumni Association spearheaded efforts to revamp it with new resources after the 1988 earthquake. At the time, only a small portion of its books were available in Armenian, but the collection eventually grew through shipments from the United States and later through updated computer technology and the development of an extensive online database and network.
Today, it’s an advanced library, which plays a major role in the development of medical education and the sciences. The library not only has a tremendous resource of journals and other books, it hosts teleconferences, seminars, classes in medical English and also produces the annual Armenian Medical Review Journal, which is supported through FAR.
Anna’s passion for this facility is clear. (She and her staff even lovingly planted rose bushes and trees to enliven the otherwise barren yard surrounding this building.) Her feelings that the facility needs to be expanded are also strong, and she is right. There’s barely any space to house all of the books and journals that are stored here and there’s limited room for teleconferences and computer classes. But as she said, sometimes it’s hard to convince people that this sort of resource is important.
Medicine is changing all the time and Anna and the rest of FAR’s medical programs team are trying to emphasize the importance for Armenia’s doctors to have the best resources they need to keep up with the latest advances. They hold information literacy courses and the team collaborates with the heads of the National Institute of Health and several medical schools to try and spread the word. Plus, they are trying to secure funds to make the medical library fully electronic, so that information will be accessible by both doctors and patients. Yet, another imperative resource for this nation.