Health Information and Libraries Journal, or HILJ, pronounced by the irreverent to rhyme with bilge, is 25 years old. The journal has marked its birthday with a splendid celebratory issue, guest-edited by Andrew Booth, or Andrew Boot, as CILIP's Library and Information Gazette dubs him. As well as reflections by Andrew, Penny Bonnett, Assistant Editor and the three editors of the 25 years Shane Godbolt,the founding editor, Judy Palmer who served from 1999-2002 and Graham Walton, the present incumbent who contribute their perspectives in a triptych, there are four sections on learning and teaching, information technology, using evidence in practice and informatics in the international scene. In each of these an article from the archives sits between a retrospective view, a commentary by a practitioner and a look at the future. A final section brings together future perspectives from, among others, Margaret Haines, Joanne Marshall and Muir Gray.
Andrew's editorial brought back memories: when I moved into health libraries in 1992, as Librarian at the newly build David Ferrminan Library at North Middlesex Hospital, I immersed myself in back issues of Health Libraries Review, as it then was, to understand this new part of the profession. I also used runs of another journal Andrew mentions, the Bulletin of the Thames Postgraduate Regions. By the mid-nineties, I found myself working with HLR's founding editor, Shane Godbolt, as Senior Project Officer for the North Thames Regional Library Information Unit's Project Connect. The offices in Millman Street were filled with physical and intellectual bustle. Visitors, senior clinicians and medical educators, librarians from round Britain and the world, came and went, calmly co-ordinated by Shane's PA, Susan Fairlamb. Somehow, I found myself asked to give a presentation to the HLR Editorial Board on electronic publishing, then in its infancy. I turned up at the meeting, and by the end found myself a Board member, serving for ten years.
Something is missing though; the development of the open access movement, probably one of the most significant things to happen in scientific communication in the recent period, is barely mentioned. Martin Tilly, of the journal's publisher, Wiley-Blackwell, mentions briefly that content three years old or more is freely available, though by no means all, as I discovered when searching for an article from 1998. Ian McKinnell of the National Library of Health calls for a more equal partnership with publishers. But apart from that, nothing.
The reason for this silence may be that HILJ's position on open access, in contrast to our North American colleagues' Journal of the Medical Library Association, is not well developed. A three year embargo, when one takes into account the length of time it takes for research to be written up, submitted, reviewed, revised, resubmitted, published and printed, means that it will be more like five years before research results are freely available to the community. Worse, this three year embargo is coupled with the impostion on authors of a six-month post-publication embargo on self-archiving, though pre-prints may be freely self-archived. This journals is, as it should be, owned by the profession and an urgent task for HILJ, and for the Health Libraries Group, whose journals it is, is to make sure access is improved long before the next big birthday.