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A grand space for learning: U-M reopens Taubman Health Sciences Library after $55M metamorphosis

By Kara Gavin

A $55 million renovation turned the 143,400-square-foot University of Michigan's Taubman Health Sciences Library facility into all-digital, light-filled, dynamic learning space. Photo courtesy UM Health System.

The books moved out two years ago, and the construction crews moved in. And today, the University of Michigan’s Taubman Health Sciences Library reopens as a transformed space for learning, teaching and gathering.

After a $55 million renovation, the 35-year-old building on the U-M medical campus has emerged from a metamorphosis that has made it into a new kind of library, and much more. The transformation turned the 143,400-square-foot facility into all-digital, light-filled, dynamic learning space for future physicians, scientists and other health professionals.

Starting today—the first day of the Medical School’s academic year—it will serve as the central learning hub for U-M’s nearly 780 medical students.

Photo courtesy UM Health System.

Photo courtesy UM Health System and University Libraries.

With dozens of classrooms and small-group meeting rooms, a realistic simulated clinic, and advanced educational technology, it greatly expands and enhances students’ options to develop the knowledge and skills they’ll need as doctors, under a new curriculum now being phased in.

The building also provides lecture and advising space for the Medical School’s more than 1,100 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in biomedical sciences. U-M students studying public health, dentistry, pharmacy, social work, nursing and kinesiology can join medical students in many learning spaces specifically designed for new interprofessional education programs that emulate the health care teams they’ll find in their future careers.

“Simultaneously creating both a new curriculum, and the space to implement it, has presented us with a rare opportunity – one we’ve worked to take full advantage of,” said Dr. James Woolliscroft, dean of the Medical School and the Lyle C. Roll Professor of Medicine. “Thanks to the vision and effort of hundreds of faculty, students and staff, we have strengthened our ability to train the future medical leaders that health care and biomedical science need.”

A library for the future

Photo courtesy UM Health System and University Libraries.

Photo courtesy UM Health System and University Libraries.

Just as health care has gone from paper to digital systems, so have library services. U-M’s 518,942-volume print health sciences collection now resides off campus. The library space in the renovated building has been reconfigured for the way faculty and students learn in the 21st century, and sits just inside the main entrance on Catherine Street.

“Today’s library can be anywhere, thanks to technology, yet there is still a desire for a physical location that facilitates collaboration, study and learning,” said Jane Blumenthal, associate university librarian and Taubman Library director. “We continue our 150-year tradition of medical information expertise to serve U-M and beyond.”

U-M community members can still request books and other printed materials for delivery from an off-campus location, and delve into the historical collection of medical tomes at the Hatcher Graduate Library. They can work with specialized health sciences librarians called informationists via online chat, text and email, as well as in classrooms, offices and laboratories.

Designed to last

The building’s namesake—U-M benefactor A. Alfred Taubman, whose 1977 gift helped fund the original construction—did not live to see the reopening. But using his architectural experience, he had provided valuable input to the renovation planning.

Photo courtesy UM Health System.

Photo courtesy UM Health System.

The project was designed by TMP Architecture and Ballinger Architecture and Engineering, and constructed on time and on budget by the Christman Company with many Michigan-based subcontractors and suppliers.

“This new space is truly designed by educators, and it shows in every detail,” said Dr. Rajesh Mangrulkar, associate dean for medical student education. “For example, students can write on erasable walls and tables to help facilitate discussions and teamwork. There’s supportive technology infused in every element, not so that it stands out, but so it’s an integral part of the learning environment. There are well-crafted spaces to lounge and relax, while students take a break and connect with each other. That is what we strove for, and I think the team did a great job in achieving these goals.”

Key features of the new Taubman Health Sciences Library:

  • It stands on the site where U-M’s second hospital began taking patients in 1891, one year after the Medical School adopted a then-revolutionary four-year curriculum.

  • Learning spaces are spread over five levels of the building—two below street level.

  • Learning technologies include a large touch-screen table for exploring human anatomy virtually and facilities for teleconferencing and computer-based testing.

  • The Clinical Skills Suite includes 30 realistic patient care rooms complete with simulated medical technology and facilities for the trained medical actors—called “standardized patients”—and actual patients who help medical students learn and test hands-on skills.

  • In addition to the library, the entrance level includes a new café with coffee and light fare.

  • A medical student lounge offers kitchen facilities and entertainment options.

  • An all-glass exterior of nearly 18,000 square feet of low-e glass replaced the former windowless brick walls on all sides of the building, providing natural illumination

  • About 6,000 square feet were added in the renovation, including a monumental staircase.

  • A wide array of “green building” features make the building eligible for Gold LEED status, a measure of environmentally conscious facility construction and operation.

  • The building has indoor connections on several levels to other Medical School buildings.

  • Construction teams used 1,700 tons of concrete, recycled 1,780 tons of material, and installed more than 67 miles of data cable and 2,011 data jacks.

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