When the Library Is Located in Prime Real Estate: A Case Study on the Loss of Space from the Duke University Medical Center Library and Archives

Article excerpt

The Duke University Medical Center Library and Archives is located in the heart of the Duke Medicine campus, surrounded by Duke Hospital, ambulatory clinics, and numerous research facilities. Its location is considered prime real estate, given its adjacency to patient care, research, and educational activities. In 2005, the Duke University Library Space Planning Committee had recommended creating a learning center in the library that would support a variety of educational activities. However, the health system needed to convert the library's top floor into office space to make way for expansion of the hospital and cancer center. The library had only five months to plan the storage and consolidation of its journal and book collections, while working with the facilities design office and architect on the replacement of key user spaces on the top floor. Library staff worked together to develop plans for storing, weeding, and consolidating the collections and provided input into renovation plans for users spaces on its mezzanine level. The library lost 15,238 square feet (29%) of its net assignable square footage and a total of 16,897 (30%) gross square feet. This included 50% of the total space allotted to collections and over 15% of user spaces. The top-floor space now houses offices for Duke Medicine oncology faculty and staff. By storing a large portion of its collection off-site, the library was able to remove more stacks on the remaining stack level and convert them to user spaces, a long-term goal for the library. Additional space on the mezzanine level had to be converted to replace lost study and conference room spaces. While this project did not match the recommended space plans for the library, it underscored the need for the library to think creatively about the future of its facility and to work toward a more cohesive master plan.


Duke University Medical Center Library and Archives (MCLA) was created to be the center of educational, health care, and research endeavors. It is located in the heart of the medical center campus in the Seeley G. Mudd Building. The Duke Medicine campus includes Duke University Hospital, Duke Clinics (an ambulatory center), the school of medicine, and the school of nursing. MCLA is located on a walkway between the hospital and the buildings that hold the clinics and school of medicine. The Duke University Cancer Center is part of the clinic facility and is the closest ambulatory service to the library building. More than ninety buildings that support clinical and basic science faculty and the research enterprise surround MCLA.

The library facility is embedded in the Mudd building, which has interesting architectural features. The building was designed as an inverted pyramid, with the top floors being the largest floors. Each floor of the building is also L-shaped, with the long wings on the uppermost floors designed to accommodate long ranges of shelving for books and journals.

In 2007, Duke Medicine was experiencing high volumes in patient care. The hospital needed to expand their facility to accommodate its patient volume, and the cancer center, identified as a major service area, required expansion as well. The footprints of the two projects would extend toward each other, requiring the demolition of Duke Medicine's oldest research building, the Bell building. With the elimination of the Bell building and renovations in the cancer center, office space had to be found for the Duke Medicine oncology faculty and support staff. The library facility offered a prime location between the hospital and clinics where oncology delivered services.

MCLA had undergone a space planning process in 2004/05 that analyzed possible alternate uses of the facility. The MCLA Library Space Planning Committee's final recommendation [1] was to create a learning center in the library facility that would combine information and instructional technologies and integrate educational activities with library services and resources. …