McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Health Sciences Library brings home design award

Published: February 25, 2010
Tim Whelan
McMaster University's Health Sciences Library

The $8.6 million renovation of the Health Sciences Library into a bright and attractive learning space has received another design award.

Today, McMaster University’s Health Sciences Library and McCallum Sather Architects will receive a 2010 Building Design Award from the Ontario Library Association (OLA).

The award, being presented at the OLA Super Conference in Toronto, was created to encourage excellence in the architectural design and planning of libraries in Ontario.

This is the third award for the library renovation and expansion project. Previously McMaster University and McCallum Sather, an architectural firm based in Hamilton, received both the Award of Excellence and the People’s Choice Award from the City of Hamilton at its biennial Urban Design and Architectural Awards.

To be recognized for exceptional design achievement by the OLA is a great accomplishment, said Liz Bayley, director of the Health Sciences Library.

"We’ve known that our renewed library is attractive, as more than half of our visitors come from outside the Faculty of Health Sciences," she said. "This award is high recognition by professional librarians for how well it works as a library."

When the Health Sciences Library originally opened in 1971, it was a state-of-the art facility with a large print and multimedia collection, study carrels and group study rooms, a long orange circulation desk, and funky lime green op art walls, bean bag chairs and fabric-covered pendant lamps. Over the years, a training room, computer workstations and staff space were added.

Thirty years later, an external review determined the once-modern facility was tired and needed to be completely re-conceptualized. As a result, McCallum Sather, the Health Sciences Library staff and Faculty of Health Sciences administration began planning a facility that would meet the university’s research and education  needs in the new century.

Today, the renovated library is bright and open, with emphasis on space for people and areas zoned for interactive group work and quiet individual study.

The upper level includes a welcoming entrance, a centralized service point, a flexible e-classroom, an open reserve/multimedia room, easily accessible liaison librarian offices and a large learning commons.

On the lower level are quiet and silent study areas; group study rooms; an elegant History of Health and Medicine Room, complete with a gas fireplace; and climate-controlled archives and rare books rooms. A wall made of etched glass panels frames the entrance to the two-storey Jan and Mien Heersink Reading Pavilion, which has stunning views across the campus.  Art work has been incorporated throughout the library.

Of the reconstruction, the architects say "the challenge was to renovate the interior space to respond to changing aesthetic and social library requirements in a manner that aesthetically captured the progressive and innovative reputation of McMaster University’s Faculty of Health Sciences."
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