Gross Anatomy in the Library
LBA Profile/CaseStudy
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G.J. Corey Harmon, MA, MSLS
Head of Access Services
Laupus Health Sciences Library
East Carolina University

Laupus Health Sciences Library at East Carolina University houses an extensive anatomical model collection that is one of the largest among academic health sciences libraries in the country. The collection started around 1980 and currently consists of 236 models ranging from single organs to entire bodies. Although the collection has been in place for nearly 40 years, the collection grew slowly during its first three decades; the oldest model currently in the collection was added in 1987 and remained the only one until 1992 when three more were added. There were 44 models by the year 2000 and 117 by 2010. The collection reached its current size in the spring of 2019 when 44 more models were added to expand the collection based on student requests and replace items that had fallen into disrepair.

The growth of the collection is mirrored by the collection’s circulation numbers. Although the library’s data only goes back to 2011, it shows a steady increase in use with 2019 being the best year to date with 4494 circulations as of December 1 (model circulation accounts for approximately 40% of the library’s annual circulation). This is a 38% increase over 2018 and a 438% increase over 2011. This growth in use happened without any real marketing by the library; rather, it has largely been driven by word of mouth by students and professors in the anatomy classes that serve so many of the programs on the health sciences campus. That said, the library has produced materials highlighting models to increase use from targeted programs such as ECU’s School of Dental Medicine. The library is also in the process of updating a LibGuide, linked from the homepage, that will list every unique model with an image so that potential users will be able to see what the library owns.

As the circulation numbers indicate, this program has been extremely popular, which does have some downsides. For one, the majority of the models were purchased from 3B Scientific, but many of the older models were bought from Denoyer-Geppert. While model price varies based on size and detail, they are not inexpensive to purchase. The average cost per use for Laupus’ collection is $9.11 with some items being as low as a few cents. An additional point is that these models were not designed to be used in this manner, which makes maintenance difficult. Overall, though, it has been an excellent service to provide our students.

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