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A survey was conducted of health sciences libraries to obtain information about newer buildings, additions, remodeling, and renovations.
An online survey was developed, and announcements of survey availability posted to three major email discussion lists: Medical Library Association (MLA), Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries (AAHSL), and MEDLIB-L. Previous discussions of library building projects on email discussion lists, a literature review, personal communications, and the author's consulting experiences identified additional projects.
Seventy-eight health sciences library building projects at seventy-three institutions are reported. Twenty-two are newer facilities built within the last ten years; two are space expansions; forty-five are renovation projects; and nine are combinations of new and renovated space. Six institutions report multiple or ongoing renovation projects during the last ten years.
The survey results confirm a continuing migration from print-based to digitally based collections and reveal trends in library space design. Some health sciences libraries report loss of space as they move toward creating space for “community” building. Libraries are becoming more proactive in using or retooling space for concentration, collaboration, contemplation, communication, and socialization. All are moving toward a clearer operational vision of the library as the institution's information nexus and not merely as a physical location with print collections.
Librarians are frequently challenged to justify the need for the physical library space, given the wide availability of electronic resources, changes in scholarly communications models, ubiquitous student laptops, and competition for space needed by other institutional priorities. Littleton notes that these changes raise important practical and philosophical questions for libraries and the institutions they serve : What is the library's purpose? How is library space best used? How does the concept of “library as place” relate to the concept of the “library as institutional information center?” How do institutional values influence the course of library design?
The 1999 Medical Library Association (MLA) library building survey  and this 2009 survey and analysis of health sciences library buildings, additions, remodeling, and renovations over the last ten years offer some insights into these questions and others. The 2009 online survey was developed, and announcements of survey availability were posted to three major email discussion lists: Medical Library Association (MLA) with more than 1,000 members, Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries (AAHSL) with more than 200 members, and MEDLIB-L with more than 450 members. The survey was conducted during the months of March and April 2009, during which 82 responses were received. In addition to identifying institutional affiliation, respondents were asked to classify the reported building project as totally new, renovation, or combination of renovation and new construction. The survey also asked for project completion date, project cost, gross square feet, furnishing and equipment cost, and special features. The survey also included space for a narrative description of the project. Previous discussions of building projects on library email discussion lists, a literature review, personal communications, and the author's consulting experiences identified additional projects.
Seventy-eight health sciences library building projects are reported in the 2009 MLA survey (Table 1). Twenty-two are new facilities in new locations; two are expansions to existing library space, although several of the new facilities also include additional space. Forty-five renovation projects are identified; nine libraries report some type of combination of new construction and renovation; and six institutions report multiple or ongoing renovation projects during the last ten years.
To accommodate new roles for the library—such as a coffee shop, collaboration space, and information commons—traditional libraries clearly need to change. It is also clear that whatever direction libraries take, having physical space makes an impact on learners. Numerous respondents to this survey report increased usage of new or remodeled library spaces that are attractive, centrally located, and technologically current and are arranged to meet the needs of groups as well as solitary users. In addition to serving coffee, well-designed facilities support small group study and larger group training, provide abundant wireless access for interdisciplinary collaboration, and welcome those seeking temporary work space, individual assistance, or quiet places. These findings tend to provide additional credence to the McHarg study of medical students with identical curricula and online learning resources, who when given access to a physical library as well as a virtual one, use physical library resources ten times as much as the students with no virtual library access . The building survey also reflects the importance of twenty-four hour a day, seven days a week (24/7) access and validates Gardner and Eng's study that suggests the most important thing an academic library can be is open—preferably twenty-four hours a day .
Nelson observes that every library building project is unique in terms of how the library functions relative to other libraries, the mix of funding sources available, the political climate on campus, the site available for expansion or new construction, and the programmatic issues to be addressed . Five health sciences library building projects have been selected to illustrate how these factors impact library construction projects and the innovative ways that libraries are using space for concentration, collaboration, contemplation, communication, and socialization. They also demonstrate how health sciences libraries are becoming more proactive in retooling the use of their space as they become the information nexus of the institution.
The Spencer F. and Cleone P. Eccles Health Sciences Education Building (HSEB) at the University of Utah is an interdisciplinary education building used by all four health sciences colleges and schools for their teaching (Figure 11).). The HSEB is connected by a “generational donor legacy” bridge to the Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library, which was the last library funded by the Medical Library Assistance Act of 1965 built in the country. Library staff does HSEB technical and distance education support, room scheduling, and building administration and maintenance and conducts many of its educational sessions in this facility. A subcontracted bookstore, café, and parking garage provide revenues that support the building operations. The building has three additional main tenants in clinical and hospital training, dental education, and biomedical informatics. University of Utah students have 24/7 access. Three glass art compositions and a ninety-two-foot history of health sciences in Utah mural decorate the building. The Eccles Library staff, under the direction of Wayne Peay, FMLA, contributed to HSEB's design.
The classrooms are designed to accommodate three class sizes: forty students, twenty-five students, and fifteen students. Other than the podiums in the forty- and twenty-five-student classrooms, there is no fixed furniture in the rooms and all classrooms have whiteboards. The forty- and twenty-five-student classrooms have a teaching podium that includes a computer, VCR, and DVD player. These rooms are configured with a classroom management system that controls the computer, projector, screen, lighting, audio system, VCR, and DVD. The podiums also provide connections for portable computers, and universal serial bus (USB) memory devices can be connected to the computers in the classrooms. The fifteen-person classrooms are configured with a portable computer on request, projector, and screen. The classroom management system for these rooms controls the computer and the projector. Sixteen fifteen-person seminar rooms are available for small group instruction.
The most technologically intensive area in the HSEB is the clinical suite. This facility consists of eighteen fully equipped examination rooms, which are managed by a system that is capable of real-time, digital audio- and video-recording in each room, saved to a large storage array. The system also handles scheduling and performance of students and standardized patients. The library helps coordinate a clinical team experience in the suite, which demonstrates the importance of other health care providers as teams of students from all of the schools and colleges participate in this required experience.
The lecture halls are designed to accommodate classes of 150 students and 75 students. The rooms are tiered, with fixed writing surfaces and power connections at each seat. Access for students with disabilities is provided to the rear and the front of the rooms. The lecture halls have teaching podiums that include a Windows computer, a Macintosh computer, VCR, DVD player, and document projector. These rooms are also configured with a classroom management system that controls the computers, projector, screen, lighting, audio system, VCR, DVD, and document projector. The 150-student lecture halls are equipped with 2 projectors. The podiums also provide connections for portable computers, and USB memory devices can be connected to the computers in the classrooms.
The teaching laboratories are located on the fourth floor. The laboratory space is divided into fourteen ten-person bays. Each bay is equipped with a projector, screen, and computer connectivity. Projection into each bay can be controlled by the classroom management system.
Two forty-person classrooms are configured for use in distance education. In addition to the standard hardware configuration in the teaching podium, rooms 4100C and 5100C have dual projectors to support local and distant projection. Each seat includes power, data, and a microphone. The instructor can monitor projection and broadcast on flat screen monitors located at the back of the classroom.
Located on the third floor at the north end of the building, the computer suites consist of one twenty-four-person computer classroom (Room 3100c); three twelve-person computer classrooms (Room 3100a, b, d); and twenty-five open access computer workstations (Room 3100).
Located on the second floor and adjacent to the main lobby is the University of Utah School of Medicine Alumni Hall. This is a multipurpose facility with flat floors, a divider wall, moveable tables, and chairs. The Alumni Hall can accommodate as many as 150 people.
HSEB houses individual school and college student lounges, where students can relax and enjoy a quiet study area. There is also a “noisy” interdisciplinary lounge, where students can play ping pong, pool, or foosball. The lounges also have kitchenette areas. Lockers are available for students as well.
On October 1, 2008, the Central Library of the University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Cluj opened in a new location in a new building designed and built specifically to serve as a library (Figure 2). The University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Cluj is the patron institution (in Romania, medical schools are constituted in separate universities that include under their umbrella all the higher education in health sciences: general medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, nursing, midwifery, and allied health, plus various specialized colleges like physical therapy, medical imaging, etc.). Since the founding of the medical university in 1948, the library has functioned in various more or less suitable locations and adapted to its needs. The last location before the move to the present facility was a student hostel, a totally inadequate space.
The new building has 6 floors, 3 of them for the library (building floors 2, 3, and 4) and 3 for university presidential offices. However, the building is always referred to as “the library.” The total space on the 3 library floors is 20,000 square feet (1,700 square meters), equally distributed. Less than 20% of the space is for staff offices (technical services) and 1 seminar room; the rest is public space that includes shelves, reading spaces, and computer workstations capable of seating 300 users. Wireless Internet is available everywhere in the building.
The space in the new library was designed almost from tabula rasa and bears very little resemblance to what existed in the old one, whose main function was lending materials. One of the documents taken into account at the design stage was “Library as Place: Results of a Delphi Study,” by Ludwig and Starr, whose stated objective was “to assist health sciences librarians in designing new library spaces” .
Visits to the library, seat occupation, and resource usage have increased dramatically as compared to last year. If in the old library, 30–80 visits per day were normal, mostly to return and borrow books, the average number of visits per day is now 350 (Figure 3). However, statistics for book lending have remained roughly the same, which implicitly means that the visits also had other purposes.
The library is always full, and one can hardly find a place; however, occupancy turnover is rather high with only about 10% of the users staying all day, from opening to closure (Figure 4). Contrary to expectations seats at the larger, common tables are more occupied than the seats at individual tables. The noise seems to be a problem for only a small proportion of the library users. Users especially appreciate open access to all the books (the old library had partially closed stacks), a comfortable and warm environment, nice lighting, view of the city, and laptop connectivity to the wireless network. Nearly 30% of the users come every day, 43.5% use the library 2–3 times a week, 20.7% use the library 2–3 times a month, and only a small proportion use the library rarely.
A recent user opinion survey indicates that the library is perceived more and more as a place for doing collaborative work, socializing with peers, and acquiring additional skills for information searching. As Crawford very well points out, “virtual communities on the Internet do not replace physical gatherings” . Moreover, the library has to be a place that responds to the fundamental human needs for comfort, light, and warmth. Flexibility must also be included in any library design, as culture and technology are changing rapidly and the library must readily accommodate these changes. Users have indicated that they would like more places where they can talk freely without disturbing others and should be allowed to bring coffee and soft drinks to the reading place. They would like to see a café inside the library along with coffee machines, a busy corner for free discussion, more self-lending machines (currently, there is only one), and a drop box for book returns.
The most frequent reasons for using the library include meeting friends, discussing course assignments, resting and relaxing, accessing the full-text databases, looking up the university dissertations, and reading and borrowing books. Overall awareness of library services, especially electronic resources, has also increased. Unlike in the old library, where hardly anyone asked for instructions on searching, most users now want to receive more personalized instruction on database searching. The library has strengthened its role as an iconic symbol of the patron institution, and it may even be said that most of the students conceptualize the university as represented by the library.
The Gustave L. and Janet W. Levy Library embarked on a substantial physical space renovation in 2009. Months of planning and fruitful discussions with faculty and students have shaped the library into a more welcoming and attractive place for work and study. The library's transition from a print collection to one that is primarily accessed electronically has allowed the library to extensively weed its print journal and monograph collections and transformed the library from a collection-centered space to a user-centered space. The renovated library has been reconfigured with interactive study and collaboration, dedicated quiet study, and research spaces. Additionally, two new state-of-the-art computer classrooms have been constructed to support the library's educational programs and to help meet the institutional demand for instructional space.
The library's reference, circulation, and computing help-desk services were centralized and made more visible to more effectively answer the more than 35,000 questions received each year. A consultation space was developed to accommodate the growing requests from faculty to tap into the expertise of the library's information professionals.
To promote scholarly communication, a faculty collaboration space, equipped with teleconferencing and other technology, has been built (Figure 5). Improved areas for quiet and group study, an increased number of computer workstations, a centralized service desk, and an expanded archives department are all part of the redesign project. A warm and inviting lobby and library entryway, ideal for meeting colleagues and study partners, has been added (Figure 6). Expanded study areas with a variety of tables, comfortable chairs, and sofas help put users at ease for those long hours of studying. Two computer classrooms (one seating fifteen, one seating thirty-five) support library and institutional instruction programs. More worktables with improved seating, ideal for working or studying in groups, have been added, as well as an inviting leisure reading area, perfect for relaxing while reading a newspaper or magazine. Improved lighting, new carpeting, and a brighter color palette add to the ambience. Additional public computers provide additional access to the library's constantly increasing online resources.
The library continued to be open during normal hours throughout the renovation, although there were brief demolition periods during which areas of the library were not available for use.
The University of Colorado (UC) Denver Health Sciences Library (HSL) on the Anschutz Medical Campus is the premier academic health sciences library in the region, offering highly integrated and exceptional quality information services to a diverse array of constituencies on a rapidly expanding metropolitan Denver campus and throughout the state of Colorado. Its new library opened in October 2007 and was envisioned as a regional resource for the dissemination of quality health information and as a signature building on the new UC Denver health sciences campus on the former Fitzsimons Army Base in Aurora, Colorado. As a building, the HSL rests at the crossroads of the Anschutz Medical Campus and the Town Center of the Fitzsimons Redevelopment Authority, welcoming the campus and broader Aurora and Denver communities to the university (Figure 7).
As a signature structure on campus, it reminds the community of the centrality of information in achieving the mission of the university in the areas of research, clinical care, and education of future generations of health care practitioners. With its patios, café, and gallery, the HSL offers a place of reflection and regeneration. It is a place of scholarship and a remarkable resource for academic success. Students, staff, and faculty are encouraged to use its resources, both in person and virtually. The library also welcomes the public and strives to serve the people of Colorado through its community service mission. The facility constitutes a unique asset with a comprehensive health sciences information collection in print, media, and digital formats. The essence of what it means to live in the beautiful state of Colorado is woven throughout the building in its design, layout, and furnishings.
Notable features include a physical and digital knowledge hub, concrete construction for a quiet building that is sturdy enough to bear the load of over 215,000 print journal and book volumes, 24,000 linear feet of shelving on the 2nd and 3rd floors, collaborative workspaces, comfortable quiet study areas with 30 group study rooms optimally located throughout to reflect and support small group learning, wireless Internet access everywhere to support advanced mobile computing and communication technologies, and high-tech hands-on teaching, informatics labs. It is a user-friendly building with ample natural light, café, gallery, patios, reading and meeting rooms, a high-tech fire suppression feature in the rare book area, gallery space to host local and traveling exhibits, two 1st floor “information commons” areas with 50 workstations connected to campus network, and “green” building materials and concepts where feasible and affordable (Figure 8).
The McMaster University Health Sciences Library $8.6 million renovation project was completed in May 2007 (Figure 9). A priority for the renovation project was to create an atmosphere that encourages collaboration and inspires learning and discovery. Elegant design elements, artwork, and enhanced lighting have resulted in a welcoming ambiance, and the café at the dramatic new entrance is a popular gathering place. The final result is a wonderful transformation of the library, which first opened in 1971. The focus of the design is on “people space,” with more group learning and quiet study space. In addition to 100 new study spaces, the renovation includes a dramatic 2-story reading pavilion and 15 group study rooms. The library now seats approximately 760 people, with a mix of lounge chairs, individual study carrels, and a range of e-tables and study tables for collaborative work.
Artwork is a key feature. The Tree of Knowledge donor wall, by Newfoundland artist Conrad Furey, looks spectacular just inside the library entrance. More artwork is found throughout the library, including etched glass panels and a large Inuit whalebone sculpture in the Heersink Reading Pavilion.
Notable features of the library include a learning commons, e-classroom, open reserve, additional group study rooms, a new reading pavilion, the history of health and medicine room with a fireplace, and a café. Reflecting the critical need for digital access to information in health sciences and the importance of the library's historical collections, the latest in technology has been incorporated into the design, including wireless access throughout, hundreds of electrical and network connections to accommodate personal and library laptops, a learning commons, and a new e-classroom with twenty-four laptops. Approximately ninety computers are available for library users.
All window space has been designated as “people space,” and the much reduced print collection of books and journals is now located in the center of the lower level. The reserve (short-term loan) material is now housed in the new reserve/multimedia room, allowing students to browse this very high demand collection of books. The large open stairwell was reduced, and the staircase itself was repositioned, with the bottom section reoriented to face the reading pavilion. The underside of the staircase is finished in elegant wood strips to match the ceiling of the reading pavilion (Figure 10).
The elegant history of health and medicine room—with its cove ceiling and recessed lighting, gas fireplace, comfortable leather chairs, and warm cherry wood bookcases around the perimeter of the room—is a very popular place for quiet study and reflection. The rare book room and the archives, rooms located adjacent to the history of health and medicine room, are lovely spaces for those who need access to these special collections.
The new two-story reading pavilion not only adds more floor space to the lower level of the library, but because the upper level overlooks this new space it provides a spectacular view of the campus (Figure 11). The reading pavilion is separated from the rest of the lower level by a wall of etched glass panels by artist Mark Raynes Roberts. Each of the twelve etched panels represents a province or territory of Canada. The concept of “library as presentation space” has been incorporated into the design, so that both the reading pavilion and the history of health and medicine room will be used for special faculty events, such as major announcements and poster presentations.
Although these projects are very diverse in scope, size, and format, some trends can be observed in a number of features that commonly appear:
Planning a new health sciences library and/or remodeling one presents tremendous challenges. In addition to space challenges created by rapid technological changes affecting teaching, learning, and research; changes in teaching methodologies; the need to build a sustainable model for scholarly communication; decreasing rates of financial support; skyrocketing prices for information access; and demand from users to access materials online, there are challenges related to poorly sited buildings that make them unsuitable for renovation for a variety of reasons (too many floors, spaces of the wrong size). Remodeling may reveal other challenges such as providing access for people with disabilites, replacing mechanical and electrical equipment, or correcting other structural deficiencies.
Noise, cleaning, plumbing, heating and ventilation, and lighting also create challenges. Today's libraries plan for as much sound-proofing and baffling as possible. Zoning for quite and silent study areas and use of white noise are helpful, but noise travels, particularly down staircases. They choose colors that hide dust and dirt. Pale floor tiles do not hide coffee and soda spills. Dark furniture looks expensive (and often is), but it shows dust, fingerprints, and cup rings. Motion sensor lights help make the library “green” but are not recommended for staff offices.
The survey results confirm a trend reported by Kronenfeld  that health sciences libraries are continuing to migrate from print-based collections to digitally based collections. Library space has become too valuable to be so heavily used for storage of long back files of lightly used journals. As less collection space is required, technology provides greater accessibility and opportunities to address changes in curriculum and scholarly communication models. Some health sciences libraries report losing space as they move toward library space for “community” building and generally reconstruct the traditional concept of the “library as a place” to the “institution's center for information.” They are becoming more proactive in finding innovative ways of using or retooling space for concentration, collaboration, contemplation, communication, and socialization as the influence of the library extends throughout the parent institution, while moving toward a clearer operational vision of the library as the information nexus of the institution and not merely as a physical location with print collections similar to that described by the AAHSL Charting the Future of Knowledge Management in the Academic Health Center .
Some individuals question whether the library as place will continue to exist as information becomes increasingly available electronically and as budgets tighten; however, there is some evidence in this building survey to support the belief that libraries will continue to be built and/or remodeled as new health care facilities are constructed. New construction and renovation will continue because what goes on inside libraries now is different than what was planned to go on inside of them when they were built, just as what goes on inside of them today will be different than what goes on inside them tomorrow.
Photos for the McMaster University Health Sciences Library provided courtesy of McCallum Sather Architects, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.