Renovated, Repurposed, and Still "One Sweet Library": A Case Study on Loss of Space from the Health Sciences and Human Services Library, University of Maryland, Baltimore

Article excerpt

Setting: The Health Sciences and Human Services Library (HS/HSL), University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB), is located in an urban environment on the west side of downtown Baltimore. Founded in 1813, the library opened its current building in 1998 and is one of the largest health sciences libraries in the United States, with 6 floors and over 180,000 gross square and 118,000 net assignable square feet (NASF).

Project: The initial discussions in late 2005 involved moving campus offices into the library. Almost immediately, it was recognized that a much larger renovation was needed due to the scope of the work. The vice president for academic affairs, the library executive director, and campus planners agreed that if the renovation was done thoughtfully, multiple needs could be met, including new office spaces, better user spaces, and synergy with the new campus center being built next door.

Planning: The planning, design, and construction process was multifaceted and on a fast track. Although the final piece of the renovation was completed in June 2009, the majority of the planning, design, and construction took place between March 2006 and June 2008. All tenants were involved with office design. Library staff were involved in designing the public spaces and planning the strategy for weeding and shifting.

Outcomes: Approximately 8,000 NASF was reallocated to new office space from shelving space, amounting to approximately 6.7% of the building NASF and approximately 10.6% of the public space in the building. The majority of new offices in the building report to the same vice president and are student focused and service oriented, with similar missions to that of the library resulting in a very harmonious cohabitation. Additional units with these missions and reporting structure are located in the new campus center, creating a synergy between the two buildings.


The Health Sciences and Human Services Library (HS/HSL), University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB), opened in April 1998 after approximately 6 years of planning and construction. With 120,000 net assignable square feet (NASF) spread over 6 floors, the library is one of the largest health sciences libraries in the United States. Located on the west side of downtown Baltimore, the building is prominently sited on one of the busiest corners in the city. As such, it was conceived as a signature building for the campus. Due to this status, the design and construction of the building engendered a lot of attention both on and off campus [I]. This attention and ongoing interest has continued to this day. The campus community has great affection for the building, which has become an iconic structure for the west side of the city. The building was featured on the cover and in a paper in the Bulletin of the Medical Library Association in April 1999 [2].

With its dramatic central staircase, the longest continuous staircase in Baltimore; the use of over a dozen colors; large floor-to-ceiling windows; and open floor plan, the building was designed to be a welcoming space for users and staff. Programmatically, the building was designed for flexibility of space, a feature that has stood the library in good stead over the last three years of renovation. Initial planning for the building in the 1990s was done during a time when the library community was just on the cusp of realizing the impact of digital and electronic collections. The impact could be imagined, but there was not yet a critical mass of resources shifting to this new environment. Consequently, 15 years of growth space in the stacks was planned before 85% capacity would be reached. Additionally, approximately 3 miles of compact shelving was installed in the lower level.

Input from users influenced much of the design. Space for copiers was located on every floor. Over 900 data connections were installed. A mixture of lounge, study table, and carrel seating was available. …