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NLM Associate Director, Lois Ann Colaianni Retires

The Legend of Library Operations, Lois Ann Colaianni, Puts Her Career on the Shelf

NLM Associate Director Retires After Nearly 18 Distinguished Years

Lois Ann Colaianni, Associate Director for Library Operations since 1984, retired in December 1998. At the September meeting of the NLM Board of Regents, NLM Director Dr. Donald A.B. Lindberg presented the NLM Director's Award to Mrs. Colaianni "for exceptional leadership and innovative contributions to the Library's programs and services during her highly successful tenure as Associate Director for Library Operations, National Library of Medicine." On the same occasion the Board passed by acclamation a resolution of appreciation acknowledging "...on behalf of the U.S. medical and health communities a debt of gratitude for seventeen years of outstanding service to the National Library of Medicine and its users." (Full text of the resolution follows.)

Lois Ann Colaianni Mrs. Colaianni came to NLM in January 1981 as Deputy Associate Director for Library Operations after serving as the director of libraries for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. She became acting associate director in 1982 and was named Associate Director two years later. Library Operations, the oldest and largest of NLM's components, is responsible for building and preserving the NLM collection; developing the Medical Subject Headings; indexing and cataloging biomedical literature; disseminating NLM's authoritative bibliographic information online and in machine-readable and printed products; providing reference assistance, customer service, and document delivery; maintaining an active History of Medicine program; managing NLM's health services research information services; and directing the National Network of Libraries of Medicine.

During her tenure at NLM, Mrs. Colaianni strengthened basic services and improved the flow of medical information to the user community, while also improving the working environment for NLM staff. She led programs to expand NLM's preservation program, establish an NIH-chartered committee to advise NLM on the selection of literature to be indexed, improve the currency and coverage of Index Medicus and MEDLINE, increase international MEDLARS accessibility, encourage end-user searching, implement DOCLINE throughout the U.S. and Canada, improve outreach to health professionals through the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, re- engineer customer services, and expand the NLM associate program. Most recently she initiated the development of MedlinePlus, NLM's consumer health information webpages.

Mrs. Colaianni also maintained a strong presence outside of NLM. She represented the Library on the Advisory Committee to the NIH Office of Women's Health, was a member of the Library of Congress Network Advisory Committee, served on the Board of Directors of the National Information Standards Organization, chaired the Section of Biological and Medical Science Libraries of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), and edited the third volume of the Handbook of Medical Library Practice, 1989.

Sherrilynne Fuller, Ph.D., a member of the NLM Board of Regents and director of the Health Science Libraries, University of Washington, views her as "an inspiration to health sciences librarians through her entire career. Her outstanding achievements in a variety of settings from academic to hospital to NLM are a tribute to her breadth of knowledge, dedication and hard work. She will be remembered as a superb role model, mentor and valued friend to hundreds of health sciences librarians in the United States and the world."

Mrs. Colaianni's contributions to biomedical librarianship have been recognized with the highest professional awards in her field. In 1995 the Medical Library Association (MLA) presented her with the Marcia C. Noyes Award, which recognizes an individual whose career has resulted in lasting, prominent contributions to health sciences librarianship. In 1976-77, she chaired MLA's Hospital Libraries Interest Group and was instrumental in its transformation into the Hospital Libraries Section. In 1979-80, she served as president of MLA. Other honors conferred on her include appointment as a Fellow, the Janet Doe Lectureship, the MLA President's Award, the NIH Director's Award, the NIH Merit Award and the UCLA Graduate School of Library and Information Science's first Distinguished Alumnus award.

In recognition of her career-long interest in international cooperation among medical libraries, Mrs. Colaianni was named winner of the 1995 Award of Honour of the European Association for Health Information and Libraries (EAHIL) -- the first time this award was presented to a non-European. The same year she served as chair of the International Organizing Committee of the 7th International Congress on Medical Librarianship held in Washington. In 1996 she was named an honorary fellow of the Library Association of the United Kingdom.

Commenting on her retirement, Tony McSean of the British Medical Association called Mrs. Colaianni "the most respected figure in the world of health librarianship, as her international honors testify, and through IFLA and elsewhere her contribution to the wider profession has also been both broad and deep." McSean characterizes her as "an incomparably dynamic and reliable collaborator."

Mrs. Colaianni received a BA in biology from the University of Rochester and an MLS from UCLA. After completing the UCLA biomedical library internship program, she participated in one of NLM's first classes to train MEDLARS searchers. She returned to UCLA to pioneer in implementing decentralized searching of NLM databases and providing health professions with faster turnaround for computer-based health information. As head of Medical Information Communication Services at UCLA from 1968-72, she also pioneered in expanding information services to rural areas. Traveling extensively in southern California, she worked to establish information services in hospitals, develop cooperative networks, and train hospital librarians. This outreach effort was the model on which many subsequent regional medical library programs were based. In 1972 Mrs. Colaianni moved to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center where she served over 6,000 health professionals and provided a model hospital library information service before coming to NLM in 1981.

She and her husband, Edmund Colaianni, have now returned to southern California. Recruitment is underway for a successor.

Thanks to Duane Arenales, Chief, Technical Services Division, and Betsy Humphreys, Acting Associate Director, Division of Library Operations, for contributing this article.


Adopted by the Board of Regents of the National Library of Medicine September 24, 1998

WHEREAS Lois Ann Colaianni has outstanding talents as a leader, manager, and strategic thinker which have enabled the National Library of Medicine's Library Operations Division to meet the challenge of rising service demands, new programs in AIDS, molecular biology, health services research, and outreach to individual health professionals and recently the general public; and

WHEREAS Lois Ann Colaianni has directed the improvement and expansion of the National Library of Medicine's basic services in such critical areas as selection of the literature for MEDLINE and Index Medicus, online bibliographic information, use of the Internet as a dissemination and access mechanism, preservation of the biomedical literature, improved systems for national and international interlibrary lending, management of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, and education and training of health sciences librarians; and

WHEREAS Lois Ann Colaianni has improved the working environment and professional development opportunities for her staff and colleagues; and

WHEREAS Lois Ann Colaianni has played an important role in the development of health sciences librarianship and biomedical information services in the U.S. and around the world and has been recognized by the highest honors conferred by the Medical Library Association, international library organizations, and the National Institutes of Health; and

WHEREAS Lois Ann Colaianni has dedicated herself to enhancing biomedical information services for the benefit of health care, education, and research;

BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Regents acknowledges on behalf of the U.S. medical and health communities a debt of gratitude to Lois Ann Colaianni for seventeen years of outstanding service to the National Library of Medicine and to the Nation.