Can you get me this article please?

Can you get me this article please?

This is one of the most regular pleas from students, academicians and doctors who do any kind of writing or even reading articles. They search PubMed, find a set of references and then “get stuck” for the full text.  I mention this in the Indian context, though I suspect this is true for any developing nation that does not have  HINARI privileges.

A couple of weeks back I got a request for two articles from a young doctor who was working on a research project with a team. I checked the NUCSSI Union Catalog and told him that the articles he needed (both from the same journal) would be available in two Indian libraries. One was the National Medical Library.

Now that should be easy – right? In theory – yes. We should be able to send them a request and get the articles and if applicable pay what is needed. Specially in today’s digital age. While setting up such mechanisms involve some complexities, the sad state is that today we are almost in the historical time when nothing works.

In short – the doctor tried emailing both institutions but did not get any response or even an acknowledgement of the email request.  There ARE libraries that offer inter-library systems, but where does a doctor who is not attached to any institution go, if he needs an article?

I had offered that if he did not get a response within a certain date, I would get them for him from one of the International Libraries. I actually mailed him later to ask if he did. And he said “Ma’m I was about to write to you. I got them from a friend in Pakistan. I do not know how he got them though”

I know for sure that if the friend from Pakistan (a country that faces exactly the same problems like we do when it comes to getting articles etc) – would not tell him the source, he obviously managed a not-so-legal method

I believe that while many of our libraries and library systems need strengthening, it will happen ONLY if people are ready to use them and ask for such services.  Can each of you reading this, pledge to discuss with all faculty in your institution and ask for a facility where

a) Your library will provide articles to you and to all? (Of course – we need to have rules / frameworks in place)

b) Your library can help you get articles from other libraries

One tool – NUCCSI – mentioned above, already helps you to locate journals in other libraries. There are more that we can talk about later


One Comment

  • admin

    Thank you not only for your comment, but the link to your blog. Your blog post actually corroborates what we were trying to get at – that people struggle for articles, when there is a library system that CAN provide it. Converting a physical copy to a pdf is being done in countries abroad, for this very purpose and in legal frameworks. The only real “problem” with a such a pdf is that you cannot copy and paste matter, which is a blessing, because it makes a teeny contribution to cutting down on plagiarism!
    What we are trying to encourage here is that when you need an article, and if your library or any library in the country has it, you should be able to
    a) Get a photocopy
    b) Get a scanned pdf
    within legal frameworks.
    We used to be able to get such copies from the US and CANADA in 24 hours. Sadly, those libraries also have hiked their service charges to rates not very affordable to us. If our libraries could have such services and make them affordable… what we want to see happen!

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