About this manual

Over the years, we have received many requests from organisations working in primary health care and related fields for support in setting up resource centres, such as: What issues should we consider when setting up a resource centre? What classification scheme should we use? Should we set up a resource centre, although we don’t have funds for a computer? What software would you advise us to use? How can we get people to use our resource centre? What ideas do you have to help us raise funds?

This manual provides the answers to these and many more questions. It contains practical information on all aspects of setting up and managing a resource centre, from planning, fundraising and finding a suitable location, to collecting and organising materials, developing information services, and monitoring and evaluating the work of the resource centre. It assumes that most readers will use manual systems for organising information, but also explains how computers can be used in resource centres, including e-mail, Internet and databases. It describes how to select database software, and contains a detailed review of three leading database programs. It includes a list of organisations and publications that can provide further information.

The content includes practical information, checklists, tips, examples and illustrations, which can be used for reference or training. Any pages may be photocopied to use as handouts or adapted for other materials, provided it is for educational purposes and the source is acknowledged.

This manual will be of use to people who are involved in setting up a resource centre, whatever its size. Some of the procedures described are more applicable to large resource centres containing several thousand materials - for example, a resource centre supporting a health service training institution - but much of the information also applies to smaller collections. The list of recommended reading in the Further Reading section includes publications that are relevant to different sizes of resource centre.

The information in this manual is drawn from our experience and the experience of our partners in developing resource centres specialising in health and disability issues. Although it includes many references to the health sector, the same principles apply to resource centres specialising in other areas, such as education, environment or agriculture. It is hoped that this book will also be useful to those working in other sectors.

If you have any comments or suggestions for how to improve future editions, these would be very welcome.