Of the 23 organisations contacted, 12 individuals agreed to be interviewed. One participant responded to the interview questions via email, as she had to seek answers to the questions from various other individuals within the association. Respondents represented three provincial colleges, two provincial associations and seven national associations. The range of resources and services provided varied considerably. Some associations provide no information support, while others employ librarians and offer a suite of licensed resources.
Provincial association results
The three colleges – Alberta College of Pharmacists, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta and College of Dieticians of Alberta – are provincial licensing bodies for their respective professions. Membership is therefore mandatory for practising professionals in these disciplines. Information provided on their websites relates primarily to licensing and registration, ethics, standards of practice and continuing competencies. None provide access to clinical information through licensed resources or librarian services.
Membership in the two provincial associations interviewed is not mandatory as they are not involved in licensing of health professionals. Information is provided to members via email communications or through a members-only section of the association website. This information is not clinically focused, but relates to the profession. It includes news regarding funding, insurance, membership information and continuing medical education. The only clinical resources provided by the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) are those for which the association had been involved in the development process. The provision of library resources and services is left to the Canadian Medical Association (CMA). While the Alberta Physiotherapy Association (APA) had not typically licensed resources in the past, at the time of the interview they had started providing access to a full-text database through EBSCO. They planned to track usage statistics of the resource and create an online tutorial on how to use the database. They planned to assess at a later date whether a part-time librarian would be hired to enhance their information services. However, since the time of the interview, the APA has ceased operation and has been subsumed into the College of Physical Therapists of Alberta (CAPT). CAPT is the provincial regulatory body for physical therapists. Neither AMA nor APA had conducted surveys of their membership to investigate what their members need or want in terms of information resources or services.
National association results
Professional associations at the national level are much more likely to provide information resources and services. None are involved with licensing health professionals as this is administered by provincial regulatory bodies. Membership requirements differ. Membership is not compulsory for five of the seven associations. It is mandatory for the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) and the Canadian Dental Association (CDA) except in Ontario and Quebec. Where membership is not required, between 55% and 75% of practitioners in the field still choose to join the association. Several organisations [Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT), Canadian Association of Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists (CASLPA), CNA] are involved with certification programs and/or the administration of national exams. Many have large numbers of student members, with one (CAOT) providing free membership to this group.
Table 1 displays a comparison of the resources and services provided by the seven national associations interviewed. Five of the seven provide electronic access to databases. Databases offered by the Dieticians of Canada (DietC) and CASLPA were developed in-house. The CMA, CNA and CDA provide access to licensed databases. All three license Medline, either through OVID or EBSCO, though CDA access is for staff only. All three provide access to the Cochrane Library, with CDA indicating specifically that they had acquired their subscription prior to the national pilot that made it freely available to all Canadians for a limited period of time. Stat!Ref and Lexi-Comp are each provided by two associations. CNA provides CINAHL, the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health database, and at the time of the interview was trialing Dynamed for members. CMA offers MDConsult and has recently added Dynamed to their list of offerings. A complete list of the resources provided by the national associations may be requested from the authors.
Table 1. Overview of resources provided by Canadian professional associations – interviewed
|Databases developed in-house||–||–||–||–||–||Y||Y|
|Journals/Magazines (if number is 1, is usually the association's publication)|| || || |
Y (1 personal, can request delivery of
|Y (1)||Y (5)||Y (1)|| |
|Ebooks|| || ||–||–||–||–||–|
|Drug reference||Y (lexi-Comp)||–||Y (Lexi-Comp)||–||–||–||–|
|Usage statistics||Y|| ||Y||–||Y||–|| |
|Library/Information support services||Y||–||Y||–||Y||Y||Y|
|Current awareness services||Y||–||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
Few associations are considering adding additional licensed information resources to their offerings. Several cite cost as the major barrier. If funds were made available, the CMA would license UpToDate, and the CNA would seek to include EBSCO Nursing Reference Centre, the Joanna Briggs Institute and additional Canadian e-books into its NurseONE Portal. Several organisations cite the importance of additional information access for their own staff, as opposed to access for their members. As resources and policy documents are often created in-house, the need for access to research from the journal literature is extremely important but currently insufficiently supported. All seven national associations provide access to periodicals, although for three (CASLPA, Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists, DietC), the only serials offered are journals or magazines published by the association itself. Members of CMA, CNA and CAOT can access journals electronically, while members of the CDA must request delivery of specific articles.
Table 2 displays a comparison of the resources and services derived from the websites of the seven national associations or colleges not interviewed. The majority provide fewer extensive resources and services than the interviewed associations. None provide access to online databases, though members of the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) are allowed five free mediated searches conducted yearly on their behalf. Additional searches cost eight dollars. The Canadian Physiotherapy Association (CPA) website refers to an outcome measures database, which might have been developed in-house. The Canadian Association of Paediatric Surgeons (CAPS) and the Royal College of Dentists of Canada (RCDC) do not offer any journals to members, while the CFPC, CPA, Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA), Society of Rural Physicians of Canada (SRPC) and Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians (CAEP) all provide members with a subscription to their respective association's journal publication. Members of the CFPC are entitled to 25 free articles per year, selected from the holdings of the University of Western Ontario's (UWO) or from those titles available through UWO's participation in library networks such as OCLC WorldCat. Additional articles cost two dollars apiece. Members also receive book loans for the cost of return delivery. The CAEP, CPA and CPhA all offer discounts to members on publications purchased through the association.
Table 2. Overview of resources provided by Canadian professional associations – not interviewed
|Licensed databases||–||–||–||–||–|| ||–|
|Databases developed in-house||–|| ||–||–||–||–||–|
|Journals/Magazines||Y (1)||Y (1)||Y (1)||Y (1)||–|| |
Y (1 personal, 25 free articles
number of titles available
|Print books|| || || ||–||–|| ||–|
|Lists of links to free online resources||–||Y||–||Y||–||Y||–|
|Drug reference||Y (CPS)||–||–||–||–||–||–|
|Library/Information support services||–||–||–||–||–||Y||–|
|Current awareness services||–||–||–||–||–||–||–|
For all associations, access to resources is via a members-only section of the website. Usage rates for these resources are largely unknown. While statistical programs like Google Analytics are popular, they are used mostly to assess website access as opposed to licensed resource use. Tracking usage is regarded as valuable, however, and several associations are planning more assessment in future. As a preliminary indication of usage, members must register for a login and password in order to obtain access to the CNA's NurseONE Portal. Though the resource has been heavily marketed, only 20 000 of the association's 136 000 members have signed up for access. The reason for the low sign-up rate is unknown. Member surveys have not typically been used to evaluate the use of the information resources provided. CAOT surveys lapsed members, finding that these individuals predominantly used the career links and the main website page for information. CASLPA's member survey from 2008 identified evidence-based practice resources as one of four main areas of interest along with advocacy, relationship of the association with members, and concerns about system funding. Of the three largest associations, neither CDA nor CMA had conducted formal member surveys. CNA had recently conducted a survey but was awaiting results at the time of the interview.
Five of the seven associations interviewed indicated that they provide some sort of library or information support services. This included answering questions, performing literature searches and/or providing document delivery. For three of these associations (CAOT, CASLPA, DietC), the information services were provided not by librarians but by other staff – policy analysts, directors who are professionals in the field or other staff members. CMA and CDA both employ librarians. The CNA does not provide information services to members but has a library technician for taking care of association staff needs. Information services are typically marketed via the website, emails, electronic newsletters, at conferences and/or as information provided with membership renewals. Of the associations not interviewed, only the CFPC offers information support services in the form of mediated literature searching and document delivery. One physician member of the SRPC is referred to as their librarian and is responsible for adding links to online reports and reviews to their library of rural medicine links.