Integrating with Users Is One Thing, but Living with Them? a Case Study on Loss of Space from the Medical Center Library, University of California, San Diego

Article excerpt

The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) Medical Center is the primary hospital for the UCSD School of Medicine. The UCSD Medical Center Library (MCL), a branch of the campus's biomedical library, is located on the medical center campus. In 2007, the medical center administration made a request to MCL for space in its facility to relocate pharmacy administration from the hospital tower. The university librarian brought together a team of library managers to deliberate and develop a proposal, which ultimately accommodated the medical center's request and enhanced some of MCL's public services.


"With the explosion of the web and ability to access almost any reference materials online, the need for a library buiding [sz'c] on the Hillcrest campus is no longer necessary." These words from a senior administrator at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) Medical Center sent the UCSD Medical Center Library (MCL) on a roller coaster of activities and emotions. While the library had heard bits and pieces regarding a proposal coming its way from the medical center, in other words, a request for some space, the library was not quite prepared for the call for its eradication! With a consistent annual gate count of approximately 50,000 users, book check-out numbers that trend upward each quarter, off-thechart computer room usage, and an exploding nursing outreach and training program, there seemed to be a clear disconnect between the perception of the medical center's senior management and the library's reality.

The medical center's senior management stated that the library building was no longer needed because "almost any reference material is online." Yet, from the library's perspective, scores of physicians, residents, nurses, allied health personnel, patients, staff, and the public use the library and the computers housed in it to access the online content. Unlike administrators and certain faculty, the vast majority of the library's visitors do not have offices or personal workstations. These users come to the library to access the electronic collections, and they check out books, attend consultations and classes, and reflect and collaborate in the group study rooms as well. Moreover, the library is the only facility at the medical center that is available to these users for such activities.

So, even though the library was willing to consider a request for some space, it was clear that the library would need to engage in a dialogue that involved more than the mere consideration of a transfer of square footage. The library realized that it would now have to provide a clear picture (i.e., data: gate count, book check out numbers, computer room usage) to medical center administration of how the building is being used, who is using it, and what users are doing in it. In response to the medical center's senior management regarding closure of the library, a senior UCSD library administrator said it best, "that would be a disservice to our users and to yours." And so, the negotiation, education, and dialogue began.


The medical center

The UCSD Medical Center is currently the primary hospital for the UCSD School of Medicine. Located near downtown San Diego in the Hillcrest district, the hospital is a 386-bed facility, San Diego County's only level I trauma center, a regional burn center, and a National Institutes of Health (NLH)-designated clinical research center. The facility has about 3,000 full-time employees, including clinical faculty, nurses, pharmacists, project scientists, residents, and support staff.

The library

MCL is a branch of the UCSD Biomedical Library, which is located 30 minutes away in La Jolla. As such, MCL is part of the campus library system, reporting to the university librarian. While MCL has some monetary support from the medical center and school of medicine for this branch library's services and collections, the campus's (i. …