Brandon Hill Selected Lists

Introduction Overview History Small Medical Library Nursing Allied Health

A History of The Brandon/Hill Selected Lists

Dorothy R. Hill
Henry N. Stickell

The idea for a "Selected List of Books and Journals for the Small Medical Library" occurred to Alfred N. Brandon in the mid-1960s when he was Director of the Welch Medical Library of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. During his previous position he had built a new health sciences library collection, which supported colleges of medicine, dentistry, and nursing, at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.1-2 Prior to that, he had assembled a dental library collection at Loma Linda University to meet the needs of their new dental school. He had a strong familiarity with the concepts of collection development in health sciences libraries. He also was in the process of revamping, organizing, and updating the huge collection in the Welch Medical Library of John Hopkins

In Baltimore there was at that time a very active hospital librarians' association, and he attended their meetings on a regular basis as Director of the Welch Medical Library. He felt that, in spite of their great interest and enthusiasm, some of these librarians did need guidance. They wanted to do a good job, but often did not know exactly what to do or how to do it. Their problems were especially overwhelming when it came to selecting books and journals.

As a result of his work with these hospital librarians, Alfred Brandon came to the conclusion that it was about time to have a reference tool or selection guide geared toward hospital and small medical libraries, because probably comparable situations existed in hospital libraries throughout the nation. The most useful list of its time was published sporadically by the American Medical Association between 1940 and 1959,3 but it was out-of-date by the mid-1960s. The AMA had announced that this publication would no longer be revised.

So having to start somewhere, Alfred Brandon used the 1959 version of the AMA list as a base document and went on from there to request help from medical colleagues at Johns Hopkins and the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. Nurses and hospital librarians were also asked for their opinions. From this background, in July 1965 the initial "Selected List of Books and Journals for the Small Medical Library" appeared [4].

It is easy to understand why the "Brandon List" achieved almost instant popularity. At the time of its initial publication, this piece of work provided a document for hospital librarians that contained a contemporary list of books and journals recommended for the hospital library by an authoritative source. Equally as important, it further gave hospital librarians a tangible means of impressing upon the minds of their administrators the actual cost of purchasing health sciences books and journals, since prices were included.

Alfred Brandon was already well-known in the academic medical library community as a result of his years at the University of Kentucky. During that time he had contact with nearly all academic medical librarians in the United States. From these contacts, many academic medical librarians might have become interested in the "Brandon List" because they were personally acquainted with its author.

While the idea of a selection guide of this kind did not originate exclusively with Alfred Brandon, he did perceive a need for keeping this information current and recognized how fast it was outdated. To address this situation, he made the "Brandon List" a permanent, revolving project on a fifty-two-week per-year basis. By doing this, he was able to publish updated versions every two years.

Dorothy Hill became unofficially involved in the "Brandon List" during the 1970s. She worked at Mount Sinai (New York) as Acquisitions Librarian; Alfred Brandon was Director. In that capacity, Dorothy Hill was viewing and handling many books every day. She began to call to his attention books that she thought should be considered for the "Brandon List." She gradually became more and more engrossed in the project, eventually emerging as coauthor with the publication of the 1979 "Selected List." Over time the "Brandon List" slowly began to evolve into the "Brandon/Hill List."

The original "Selected List" has had two spin-offs--nursing (1979) and allied health (1984). Alfred Brandon and Dorothy Hill worked together on both of them from their inceptions. They, too, have been updated biennially. There have been twelve versions of the nursing list and ten of the allied health list.

In the 1970s and the 1980s, many nursing and allied health programs were moving from hospital to academic settings, and selection guides were needed especially by academic librarians who had little familiarity with health sciences books and journals. The need was particularly great in community colleges where those programs were being transferred. Alfred Brandon had long had an interest in nursing literature that began from his association with CINAHL (Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature) back in the mid-1950s. In the early 1970s, Dorothy Hill had set up a new nursing collection at Mount Sinai. Because of the success of the "Brandon List," Alfred Brandon had been requested repeatedly by various nurses and nursing groups to put together a comparable list of nursing books and journals. After some procrastination, the decision was made to take on the task since both had a well-grounded knowledge in nursing literature. The first nursing list was published in 1979 [5].

The allied health list was definitely the most difficult of the three. The umbrella term "allied health" covered a lot of territory. They were not sure exactly what the boundaries were, and apparently neither was anyone else. When they began, they knew far less about this body of literature than they did about the literature of medicine and nursing. Work began in 1981 and the first allied health list was published in 1984, three years later [6]. The primary audience was intended to be academic librarians who had to develop collections in allied health literature and had very little or no subject background.

Shortly after Alfred Brandon had resigned his position at the New York Academy of Medicine and moved to Florida in the late 1970s, he became a consultant to Majors Scientific Books, Inc. In this capacity, he was able to expand his collection development interest by originating and editing a quarterly newsletter titled A Major Report, which served as an interim supplement to the book sections of the "Selected Lists" [7]. The first issue was published in the fall of 1979. The last issue that Alfred Brandon edited was Vol. 17 No. 3, summer 1996. Majors Scientific Books has continued its publication.

Starting with the 1998 version of the "Brandon/Hill Selected List of Nursing Books and Journals," Henry Stickell began to assist Dorothy Hill with preparation of the lists. Gradually, his involvement became greater and greater, and he eventually became coauthor of the lists starting with the 2001 version of the "Brandon/Hill Selected List of Print Books and Journals for the Small Medical Library [8].

During the late 1990s, the authors received calls, requests and complaints from various sources inquiring why they had not added electronic media to the lists. The authors wanted to clarify this matter. So, starting with the 2000 "Nursing List", the authors decided to add another word (Print) to the titles of all three lists. The authors hoped that by doing this, people would understand that their work and expertise was limited to print.

The status of the "Brandon/Hill Selected Lists" is a phenomenon in this electronic age. There still seems to be a demand for this part of the scholarly record. It is still being used worldwide, not only by librarians but also by health care providers as well. After thirty-seven years, its content, format, and usefulness remain very much the same.


  1. Brandon AN. The development and organization of a new medical school library. Bull Med Libr Assoc 1964 Jan;52(1):188-95.
  2. Brandon AN. Management methods in libraries; a symposium. Space management and layout. Bull Med Libr Assoc 1961 Oct;49(4):523-30.
  3. American Medical Association. Library. Recent books and periodicals selected for the small medical library. Chicago: The Association, 1959.
  4. Brandon An. Selected list of books and journals for the small medical library. Bull Med Libr Assoc 1965 July;53(3):329-64.
  5. Brandon AN, Hill DR. Selected list of nursing books and journals. Nurs Outlook 1979 Oct;27(10):672-80.
  6. Brandon AN, Hill DR. Selected list of books and journals in allied health sciences. Bull Med Libr Assoc 1984 Oct;72(4):373-91.
  7. A Major Report. v. 1, no.1. Dallas: Majors Scientific Books, fall 1979. Quarterly.
  8. Hill DR, Stickell HN. Brandon/Hill Selected list of print books and journals for the small medical library. Bull Med Libr Assoc 2001 Apr;89(2):131-53.