Delving Into the College Library

February 18, 2020

By Karen MacDonell, PhD, MLIS, Director, Library Services | College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia

What does the College library have to offer?

Libraries are like our brains: while rich with untaxed potential, we cleave to the well-trodden paths, using just a portion of their full capacity.  I am reminded of this every time I take on a new fascination, be it learning to sail, house training a new dog, taking up woodworking, or researching Grecian chairs for a friend’s art paper.  The depth and quality of resources that my public library offers boggles the brain; the librarians manage to carefully select the key information sources in each field.  The very book that is the ultimate authority on Grecian chairs is in the Vancouver Public Library’s collection and 14 books on canine house training were there to borrow when that compelling need arose.

The Library of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia has a more focussed scope than public libraries but it holds some unexpected gems that can deliver that perfect answer to unfamiliar clinical scenarios you may encounter.  Consider, for instance, psychotropic drug-related questions. With the high frequency of mental disorders experienced by primary care patients1, evidence-based psychotropic drug information is crucial and Canadian sources are especially helpful.  Canadian sources for medical information in general are uncommon in the scholarly publishing marketplace, which is dominated by American and European publishers and authors.  The Clinical Handbook of Psychotropic Drugs is published by the German company Hoegrefe but is the product of Canadian health professionals. Both the print and online versions are free to College Library users at the library’s Point of Care and Drug Tools page.

- Apps -

Apps are handy for quick consultation.  Three point of care tools have been determined as tied-for-first in terms of strength of volume, editorial quality, and evidence-based methodology2 – they are BMJ Best Practice, DynaMed, and UpToDate.  UpToDate is free to Division members and BMJ Best Practice and DynaMed are free to physicians as stand-alone apps and online through the College Library, also at the Point of Care and Drug Tools page.

Tracking new publications in areas of interest or scanning the tables of contents of favorite journals can be hard to sustain as a regular practice. The app Read by QxMD may be a good solution: this Vancouver-based product alerts you to new articles indexed in PubMed (Medline) and delivers abstracts from your favorite journals.  Specify your affiliated institution, e.g., the College Library or UBC, and the Read app simply and smoothly downloads full articles where available.  Instructions for downloading Read and other medical apps are at the College library’s Apps and Audiovisual page.

- Podcasts -

Prefer your learning to be aural?  Consider scanning through the list of podcasts in various specialties. Podcasts have variable quality and, as summed up by Kane et al (2019), “the quality and accuracy of their content cannot be easily determined”3. Using the scholarly publishing stature of individuals, organizations, or publications as a measure of quality, the College librarians have gathered this list with information on frequency of episodes, length, cost and CPD credit value.  It is a work in progress, and we welcome suggestions for medically-related podcasts to include or exclude.

- Workshops -

For a deeper immersion into information resources provided by the College Library and to revitalize your literature searching skills, attend the hands-on, computer-based Fast Evidence workshop, a collaboration between the College library and UBC CPD and accredited for 16.5 Mainpro+ credits.  The next workshops are scheduled for February and May and again in the fall of 2020.  Furthermore, you can leave the literature searching to the College librarians – physicians may request searches on any topic, be it clinical, administrative, medicolegal or research. Feel free to submit your queries to medlib@cpsbc.ca or call 604-733-6671.

- And so much more - 

And there’s more… ebooks, e-journals, mail delivery of print books, and so on.  We look forward to hearing from you and feel free to delve in to the library’s website. You may find more there than you expected.


  1. Roca M, Gili M, Garcia-Garcia M, Salva J, Vives M, Garcia Campayo J, Comas A. Prevalence and comorbidity of common mental disorders in primary care. J AffectDisord. 2009 Dec;119(1-3):52-8.
  2. Kwag KH, González-Lorenzo M, Banzi R, Bonovas S, Moja L. Providing Doctors With High-Quality Information: An Updated Evaluation of Web-Based Point-of-Care Information Summaries. J Med Internet Res. 2016 Jan 19;18(1):e15. Available from: https://www.jmir.org/2016/1/e15/
  3. Kane SP, Shuman M, Patel K, Olson M. Characteristics of Drug-Related Podcasts and This Medium's Potential as a Pharmacy Education Tool. Am J Pharm Educ. 2019 Oct;83(8):7083. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6900824/


Karen-MacDonell-blog .jpgKaren MacDonell has been a librarian for the CPSBC for 20 years after careers in clinical pharmacy and pharmacology research.