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NIH Record

NLM Wins Vice President's Hammer Award

The National Library of Medicine has received the Hammer Award for a series of improvements in its information services, including making its popular MEDLINE database of journal article references and abstracts free and easier for the public to use.

The library's systems reinvention team placed more medical information online, improved its format and created a sophisticated integrated library system that reduced processing time dramatically. According to team leader Kent A. Smith, the library's deputy director, the reinvention program involved the efforts of hundreds of library staff in all divisions. As direct spin-offs of basic reinvention activities, the team also put environmental health and hazardous substance information on the Web, made the Visible Humans available, and introduced "Profiles in Science," a Web-based file containing the laboratory notebooks and personal papers of some of the 20th century's greatest scientists.

The team's approach was based on several strategies: the Internet would be used for delivering services; commercially available software would be used wherever practical; industry standards would be adhered to, so that NLM's services would operate smoothly with other information systems; and, through forms and surveys, NLM's users would have a say in the design of the services they receive.

In the case of MEDLINE, NLM made one additional improvement: registration and search fees were removed. In the words of library director Dr. Donald Lindberg, "The increased results in usage were dramatic. Before the systems reinvention, NLM recorded 7 million searches of MEDLINE in one year [FY 1997]. The current rate is about 18 million searches every month, or 216 million searches per year."

The Hammer Award is given by the Vice President of the United States. He recognizes federal government teams who demonstrate innovation by: putting customers first; empowering employees; cutting red tape; or achieving results American citizens care about. The award is the Vice President's answer to yesterday's federal government and its much talked about $400 hammer. The Hammer Award consists of a $6 hammer, festooned with a ribbon and surrounded by a sensible aluminum frame.

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