CAMLIS – A Library for CAM Professionals

by Gerhard Bissels

CAMLIS at the Royal London Homœopathic Hospital is the world’s first specialist library for CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicines).

You’ve been asked for the evidence base for hypnotherapy for orofacial pain? You want to form your own opinion on Homoeopathy and see the clinical trials? Colleagues are discussing case studies you haven’t seen? Well, you could just go to the library! Or – can you?

While virtually all other branches of medicine are well served by libraries at medical schools, professional associations or healthcare providers, CAM has missed out. The big medical libraries tend not to collect in CAM, and CAM organizations – be they professional bodies, colleges or other training providers – have, at best, a few books in a cupboard, but nothing comparable to a decent academic library, or one of the excellent libraries at the royal colleges or similar bodies.

To put research and teaching in CAM on a proper foundation, at last, and also to offer (potential) patients adequate information, the Royal London Homœopathic Hospital took the plunge and decided to start the country’s first specialist library for CAM. From the start the hospital sought to collaborate with professional associations and academic institutions in CAM: none of these organizations would be able to afford a library just for themselves; but through sharing the cost the benefits can be shared too.

CAMLIS has come a long way since work started in 2007. The splendid former boardroom of the Royal London Homœopathic Hospital has been converted into a library, with computer work stations, comfy leather chairs and sofas, space for around 4,000 volumes and displays for current journals. More storage and office space is currently being made available in the basement to accommodate several substantial collections that have been passed on to the library. The catalogue now holds around 3,000 items, and around 50 periodicals are subscribed to. The library is currently open from 8.45 am to 5.00 pm, Monday to Friday; extension of hours (evenings and Saturdays) is on the cards for the 2nd half of 2009. For reference purposes the library is open to anybody – we encourage conventional healthcare professionals, healthcare commissioners, and, of course, patients and potential patients to seek evidence-based information from us rather than surf miracle cures on the internet.

What really makes CAMLIS worthwhile for busy practitioners who cannot visit in person, are our electronic resources. Core databases from Medline and AMED to HerbMed Pro and the Essential Oil Resource are available, as well as about 40 core journals. A six-figure grant from the Mitra Trust will allow us to build up a collection of e-books this year and extend our journal holdings.

But we do not just want to furnish our members with good and reliable information sources, we also want to support and stimulate peer-to-peer communication. Therefore, we run all sorts of on-line services from CAMLIS VaLE (Virtual assisted Learning Environment) which is excellent for supporting training courses, to fora and mailing list software for groups of specialists, to hosting and software to let our members publish journals or newsletters electronically without the need for extensive IT support. Any CAMLIS member who wishes – be they a course tutor with hundreds of students, or just the coordinator of a small informal network – can have the resources configured which suit them best.

All professional associations and training providers in the UK are welcome to license the CAMLIS service for their members, and a number of organizations have done so already. If you are a member of a professional association, check if, or when, they will include CAMLIS access with their membership benefits. Meanwhile, pop in at or at the reading room at the Royal London Homœopathic Hospital!

CAMLIS – Complementary and Alternative Medicine Library and Information Service, Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital, 60 Great Ormond Street, London WC1N 3HR
T: +44 (0)20 7391 8828
F: +44 (0)8458 334 550