The Veterans Affairs Library Network (VALNET) is the largest health care library network in the United States. VALNET library staff provide knowledge-based information for clinical and management decision-making, research, and education to enhance the quality of care for Veterans enrolled in the VA health care system. VA librarians have led the nation in innovative library programs such as clinical medical librarianship, consumer health services, therapeutic use of books (bibliotherapy) and information therapy. The services they provide contribute to evidence-based practice and VHA’s patient-centered care, empowering Veterans through information and education. VALNET serves a diverse group of users: Veteran inpatients and outpatients, their families and caregivers; VA staff and employees; researchers; and students and trainees in affiliated teaching programs.
Libraries in the VA System
The American Library Association established the VA Library Service as a part-time activity under the Public Health Service during World War I. In 1923, when the program became part of the Veterans Bureau, the forerunner of the VA, many library operations were centralized. After 1940, as individual VA medical centers became more specialized, their libraries became more autonomous. VALNET was established to ensure that the unique resources available at different VA libraries were accessible to users across the entire network.
The VA health care system is organized into 21 geographically distinct Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISNs), made up of VA medical centers and community-based outpatient clinics (CBOCs). VALNET libraries are usually located in medical centers, but provide services to CBOCs as well. Most VA medical centers are affiliated with a medical, nursing, or allied health school. Many are located in large urban areas, while others serve rural areas.
Due to the unique clinical, research, and educational mix at each facility, variations exist in the size and scope of the library collections and services in VALNET. Many libraries offer consumer health information services, computer-assisted instruction, clinical librarianship, end-user database searching, training in internet navigation skills, therapeutic reading resources for Veterans, and more. In some settings, the physical library is very small, with many services and resources provided electronically. A smaller, more traditional library may be staffed by a nonprofessional, subscribe to a few core medical journal titles, and house a collection of standard health science texts. A larger library may be staffed by a mix of professional librarians, technicians, and clerical personnel, and maintain an extensive collection of journals, monographs, audiovisual (AV) programs and other multimedia formats, and electronic resources.
A Network of Health Science Librarians
VALNET provides many opportunities to collaborate with, assist and engage in dialogue with health science library colleagues, including network-level workgroups and panels, and a supportive and active e-mail listserv.
The Librarian Manager Mentoring Program helps new library managers acquire the skills and knowledge they need to be effective VA managers by partnering them with experienced VALNET librarians who have been selected and trained. For more information, view the Librarian Manager Mentoring Program Fact Sheet.
For more information about opportunities with VALNET, view the VALNET Employment Opportunities page.
Library Network Office
The Library Network Office (LNO), Office of Informatics and Analytics, is the program office that supports VALNET library professionals and staff with centralized services, policies and procedures, staff development opportunities, and assistance with local library issues. Throughout the VA, LNO promotes the importance of knowledge-based resources to quality healthcare, and provides a core collection of nationally funded, authoritative information resources to all VA staff, available both on-site at a VA medical center, or from home.
For cost-effectiveness and efficiency, centralized resources are funded through the LNO. For a full list of centrally funded resources, visit the VHA National Desktop Library, the online medical library available to staff VA-wide that provides full-text access to clinical textbooks, journals and databases.
The collective resources of VALNET offer significant resource-sharing opportunities for users through a shared union catalog, as well as participation in local and national resource-sharing networks. Libraries in a VISN may cooperate in the selection and retention of journal holdings, as well as collection development and interlibrary loan responsibilities.
Individual VALNET libraries have established a variety of sharing agreements with academic institutions, hospitals, public agencies, Department of Defense facilities, and research centers in their states or local communities.
All VALNET libraries provide reference/research service, mediated literature searching, data curation, marketing, instruction, document delivery, and collection development.
All electronic library resources are available to clinicians and VA staff via the desktop, and most are accessible remotely through any computer with internet access. For more information on remote access to library resources, view the Remote Access page of the VHA National Desktop Library.
Most VA libraries provide service to Veterans and their families and caregivers. Services can range from information prescriptions from physicians, to a patient-centered oasis of information and assistance. Collections are created based on information literacy levels and learning styles. Subject content can range from life skills, military service issues, general health, and recreational reading.
For additional information about VALNET email the Library Network Office, or contact us at:
Library Network Office (10P2C)
Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20420