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Sense of Place

Sense of Place

University of California, San Diego's Biomedical Library
University Business, Dec 2006

FUNCTION: Library for students and faculty, as well as the San Diego region's biotech and life sciences communities and area physicians

CHALLENGES: University of California, San Diego's original Biomedical Library, constructed in 1969 as a wing in the School of Medicine's Basic Science Building, had been fully outgrown. Its space was meant to serve a population of about 950 users, but needs were well beyond that, explains Susan Starr, associate university librarian and director of the Biomedical Library. Programs served by the facility had grown substantially, yet no major renovations, data infrastructure and technology upgrades, or expansions had been done since its opening. Besides the lack of space, renovations were needed to provide better lighting, loading dock access, and building access for the disabled.

SOLUTIONS: A three-level library addition was called for. With 23,000 usable square feet added to create a total of approximately 51,000 usable square feet, the library now has enough space for its user population of about 5,000, mainly from the medical and pharmacy schools. "We are proud to have created a warm, inviting space that encourages biomedical faculty, staff, and students to make full use of the many information resources we provide," Starr says.

With many resources now available electronically, Starr notes that access isn't the main role of the library anymore; that role has been redefined as a space that encourages use of library materials. New features include an 80-computer Information Commons area that helps students in writing papers and creating presentations, a light-filled second-floor "grand reading room" that encourages users to stay and reflect on the materials they consult, and a recreational reading room to encourage study breaks and exploration of current trends in other disciplines. A 24/7 graduate study area allows students to work even when the library itself is closed.

The facility's staff and project team used a branding exercise in designing the space. A new tagline-"Connect, reflect, research, discover"-provided inspiration, and each of those elements was incorporated into the design in some way. Staff say they've received nothing but compliments on the new library, which is now filled with activity on weekends and many evenings.

PROJECT COST: $20.8 million

TIMELINE: Grand opening held in September 2006

PROJECT TEAM: Architects from Pfeiffer Partners, based in Los Angeles; construction manager/general contractor McCarthy Building Companies, based in San Diego -M.E.

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