Les réseaux

(1992) - The health sciences library network in Russia.

International information and library review, 1992, 24, pp. 269-273.


The last historical events in the ex-Soviet Union are not only political . The world of libraries begin to be open and the changes even reach the most famous institutions. Such as, for example, the State Central Scientific Medical Library in Moscow which is at the head of a network of scientific and research libraries, and has created the first russian scientific data base. This article has been written after the last congress of IFLA (International Federation of Librarian Associations) in august 1991.

An Historical approach...

The first libraries of the history of Russia are mentionned during the years 400 of our era. In the fields of medicine and sciences, the foundation of great institutions such as the Academy of Sciences in St Petersburg in 1724, and the University of Moscow in 1756, is the beginning and the basement of the history of scientific libraries.

The Russian State administrates these libraries through local mediums:the Ministries of Culture of the Republics.

The main period of the development of public libraries took place during the years 1945-1960:it corresponds with the reconstruction of the national economy. In 1960, the number of 380.000 libraries (in all categories) was reached. At the present time, 326.000 libraries are registered with 400.000 employees. With over 300 millions of inhabitants, 50 % of the population are users of a public library.

The Scientific and medical librarians

The Institute of Culture in Moscow has 7 faculty chairs of library science and an enrollment of 1200 library students . There are 40 schools of library science in Russia and a special school in Saint Petersburg for the education of health sciences librarians. Russian librarians did not have a national organization until just a year ago and are now beginning to organize themselves into a national presence.


Under the direction of Dr Alexander KISELEV, of the Ministry of Public Health, SOYUZMEDINFORM is a recent organized entity that includes:

  • the Institute for Scientific and Medical Information for the Republics
  • the State Central Scientific Medical Library (SCSML)
  • a publishing house

The purpose of this consortium is to build national databases and disseminate this information both inside and outside the Russian republics. 5000 persons are working for SOYUZMEDINFORM.


SOYUZMEDINFORM is the main producer of scientific and medical information all over the Russian territory and the Republics. Its activities are the following ones:

  • the acquisition of documents
  • the generation of bibliographic and factographic data bases on medicine and health care
  • publication of information materials:medical abstract journal, press reviews on public health, bibliographic indexes, a periodical both in russian and english languages
  • sociological studies in medicine
  • the introduction and the development of new computer information technologies

It is an answer to the needs of a great number of persons working in the fields of public health:over 1, 2 millions physicians, 100.000 searchers and teachers.
In order to spread medical and scientific information in every Republic, a dense network of libraries has been constituted (see diagram).


This library, established in 1918, is the russian national library of medicine. The present building, constructed in 1977, was one of the most modern and well-maintained building in Moscow. The SCSML is housed in a big building, with large reading rooms.

The Books collecting

The SCSML receives without fail almost all russian books on medicine, transactions of research institutes and conference proceedings. Part of this literature is directed to the exchange stock for the libraries network of this country and some developing countries.

Some significant figures

With over 2, 2 millions volumes, the SCSML is one of the world's largest medical libraries .
Dayly, the SCSML provides about 1000 readers with 4500 documents. Annually, 1, 7 millions pages are copied and 11 million journal page copies are microfished for the network requests.

International cooperation

The SCSML makes a centralized acquisition of foreign periodicals for medical libraries subscribing to about 2000 journal titles.

In order to ensure a better selection of foreign books and more effective use of foreign currency allocations, SOYUZMEDINFORM regularly arranges books exhibitions of foreign publishing houses during which it makes its own purchases and serves a mediator for other consumers of medical literature.

Besides, the SCSML makes a wide exchange of books and journals with over 1000 organizations from 80 countries in the world.

The Interlibrary loan

It processes more than 90, 000 interlibrary loan requests a year. The process of initiating an interlibrary loan for a rural physician begins with the physician's local library. The request is made to the regional medical library and from there, if necessary, to SCSML.

The Russian medical libraries network

With at the head the SCSML, the network includes 4000 specialized libraries. We find:

  • the scientific libraries of the Republics (14) with:
    • the medical libraries of the regions (96)
    • the hospital libraries and the medical school libraries (3500)
  • then, the libraries of the research institutes (340)
  • and, finally, the scientific libraries of the universities (100)

Library network conception

In order to ensure a more effective use of the acquired stock and modern means of document delivery, the network needs up-to-date information system.

The following tasks are carried out:

  • a bibliographic data base generation developped in the largest libraries of the country
  • the access to foreign data bases and producing domestic data bases on CD ROM
  • ensuring to users an on- line access to catalogues

The First russian data base generation

In 1988, a new computer technology was developed by SOYUZMEDINFORM. Automation of SCSML began with entry of book titles into an automated union catalogue, the Deutsch Medical Database (DMD) in Cologne, Germany. The records are entered in machine readable-form and are then transferred to the All Union Institute of Applied Automation Systems in Moscow; from Moscow, they are transmitted to Cologne. SCSML doesn't have a main computer system.
At present, six biomedical information databases are being developed. Five of the files are incorporated into one retrieval system that is housed in a 120-MB harddrive IBM XT clone. The data is initially entered into dBase 3+ files that include a Cyrillic language compiler. These ASCII files are converted to ISO-2709 format of MICRO CDS/ISIS 2.0. This UNESCO-developed software includes a multilanguage menu (English, French, Spanish, and Russian) and its own program language, which has beeen used to create combined-sort formats.

The data-base files are journal articles, monographs, dissertations, government documents (almost from the Ministry of Public Health) and medical patents.

The article database contains items from 140 russian journals plus selected foreign journals. Access is possible by author, title, and subject, with all articles given an English title.
The retrieval system had 55.000 entries with 5.000 added monthly.
An English/Russian, Russian/English MeSH (Medical Subject Headings from "Index Medicus") database has been constructed with dBase 3. All terms have been translated and entered into a file that has Russian term, English term and tree structure access. The file also can be accessed by subheading,


These databases have been created to increase the dissemination of biomedical information. Via deskstop publishing and printing by the attached printing house, a number of bibliographies are produced. These includes:

  • a weekly Current Index of Scientific and Medical Literature
  • an annual Index of Scientific Research
  • a quarterly Catalog of Medical Dissertations
  • a monthly list of published medical books


With the reorganization under SOYUZMEDINFORM, the means of access to Russian biomedical information has been restructured and enhanced. At present, access is limited to one terminal or print products ; the hardware size will be exhausted in one year . Despite the limited resources, comprehensive files for current Russian biomedical materials have been developed.

How does SOYUZMEDINFORM face the disintegration of the Soviet Union ? Until now, we have no answer to this question. We only hope that efforts could go on and that SOYUZMEDINFORM would achieve the process of reorganization of scientific information in Russia.


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(2) JONES C.A. Soviet libraries in transition. Bulletin of the Medical Library Association, 1991, vol. 79, n° 3, pp. 326-327.
(3) Les bibliothèques soviétiques. Moscou:IFLA, 1991.
(4) RHINE L. The Development of biomedical databases in the Soviet Union. Bulletin of the Medical Library Association, 1990, vol. 78, n° 2, pp. 196-197.
(5) JAKIMOV G. Les usagers des bibliothèques publiques en URSS. Bulletin des Bibliothèques de France, 1991, t. 36, n° 6, pp. 512-517.
(6) POULAIN M. Moscou, le putsch et les bibliothécaires. Bulletin des Bibliothèques de France, 1991, t. 36, n° 6, pp. 564-572.
(7) LAITINEN S. Experiences in using soviet databases in Scandinavia. IFLA booklet, 1991, n° 2, pp. 24-27.
(8) Moscou 1991 ou comment la géographie a rendez-vous avec l'histoire. Bulletin d'Informations de l'Association des Bibliothécaires Français, 1991, n° 153, pp. 73.
(9) ACCART J.P. Les Bibliothèques scientifiques russes en transition. Documentaliste, sciences de l'information, 1992, vol. 29, n° 1, pp. 42-45.
(10) ACCART J.P. Soyuzmedinform:le réseau des bibliothèques scientifiques soviétiques. Newsletter to european health librarians, 1992, n° 19, pp. 17-18.

cop. JP Accart, 2007




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