On April 9, 1976, the opening of the new Health Sciences Library at the University of Virginia was celebrated at a dedication ceremony. This year on April 8, 2016, we recognize the Health Sciences Library’s 40th anniversary, marking four decades of service in the current library building.
The early history of the Health Sciences Library goes back to the very beginning of the University and a modest collection of medical, anatomical, and surgical texts, including 329 works selected by Thomas Jefferson. For nearly a century, medical books were kept with the rest of the library collection housed in the Rotunda. Unfortunately, most of these medical texts were destroyed during the 1895 Rotunda fire. As the Rotunda and the library collection were rebuilt in the years that followed, a new medical library of 7,000 books was acquired and housed in the basement of the Rotunda, separate from the rest of the collection.
In 1910, Abraham Flexner’s famous report on medical education in the United States and Canada commented that one of the primary deficiencies of the UVA medical program was the lack of an adequate medical library. Nearly two decades later, the construction of the new UVA medical school, which opened in 1929, met this need by allocating space for a designated medical library. However, the rapid expansion of the library’s collection of books and journals and the swift growth of both the School of Medicine and the University Hospital caused the library to outgrow its new space much sooner than expected. Beginning in the 1940s, storage limitations led many medical books and library materials to be stored in Alderman Library or in other offsite locations like the attic of Cabell Hall. A need for additional library space was becoming increasingly apparent, but the struggle to obtain the funds needed to develop and build a new library would stretch on for several more decades.
Finally in the early 1960s, generous donations by alumni, a grant from the National Institutes of Health, and state funding provided the necessary capital to launch a planning committee for the new library. Leading these efforts was Dr. Wilhelm Moll, director of the library from 1962 until his death in 1979. In recognition of Dr. Moll’s leadership and substantial contributions to the medical library, the Wilhelm Moll Rare Book and Medical History Room in Historical Collections was named in his honor.
Re-envisioned as the “Health Sciences Library,” the new facility designed under Dr. Moll’s supervision would bring together the medical collection and the nursing collection, which had been held in a separate nursing library in McKim Hall, and would adopt the mission to serve patrons from all areas of the health system. Project leaders hoped to select a site for the new library that would position it at the heart of the medical center complex, adjacent to education, research, and medical care facilities. An innovative design was proposed for a library building that would span Jefferson Park Avenue, serving as a “bridge” between health system buildings on either side of the street. After much debate, and despite lingering apprehension from some community members, the “skybridge” design was approved. Construction began in 1973 and was completed for a grand opening of the new library on August 8, 1975. Two years later the library acquired the name we know it by today after the reception of a gift by radiologist and UVA alumnus Dr. Claude Moore.
Over the last 40 years of the Health Sciences Library’s history, the library has experienced tremendous collection growth, embraced the advent of new technologies and digital resources, and completed a major renovation project from 1999-2000 to create a new journal room, computer lab, updated entry foyer and service desk, group study rooms, and expanded Historical Collections area. Just last year the Library opened a satellite unit, the Patient & Family Library, in the UVA Hospital’s main lobby. In 2016 the library continues its mission to support education, research, patient care, and community service at the UVA Health System, serving as a leader in the creation, organization, sharing, and preservation of biomedical knowledge. Help us celebrate this 40 year milestone at a celebration Friday, April 8, 2016, at 12:30 pm in the main lobby of the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library.