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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University December 15, 2003 | Vol. 33 No. 15
The Welch Library Looks To the Future

Lobby redo is first stage in providing easier access to services

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

This week, finishing touches will be made to the $300,000 renovation project on the William H. Welch Medical Library's main lobby. The work is the first stage of a much broader effort to transform Welch into a more user-friendly facility to better serve its 18,000 customers.

Once seen as a dark, security-heavy and uninviting entrance, the lobby has metamorphosized into a larger, more high-tech and welcoming area.

The lobby now features new flooring, enhanced lighting, freshly painted walls and a cafe, Books and Beans. The renovated space, which will have wireless Internet access, will contain a touch-screen directory and a wide-screen plasma monitor to display a slide show of various library functions, services, activities and events.

Previously, the first things visitors noticed when entering Welch's lobby was an obtrusive security desk and a walk-through scanner. These have been moved to a less prominent location.

"We wanted to open up the space. Over the years, [the lobby] has increasingly added barriers for visitors to contend with and was not a very welcoming environment," said Kate Oliver, associate director of Welch and a research associate in the Division of Health Sciences Informatics. "The hope is that this renovated space will be a much more visually appealing and inviting one for our visitors."

The renovations come as a result of a long-term architectural study of the 74-year-old East Baltimore library that began three years ago. The plan is to transform the library by the year 2015 into a virtual operation where customers access materials primarily in electronic form; many of the books in the stacks today will be put into the university's storage facility at Moravia Park.

The lobby renovation work began in September and is expected to be completed next week.

Books and Beans is scheduled to open on Jan. 12. The cafe will offer a full-service coffee and espresso bar, baked goods, sandwiches, bottled beverages, smoothies and gourmet candy. Its hours will be from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Books and Beans is sponsored by the Women's Board of The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and all profits will benefit patient care at the hospital and the board's charitable projects. In addition to the new Welch Library site, the Women's Board operates coffee bars at the hospital, Outpatient Center and Johns Hopkins at Greenspring.

To celebrate the renovation and the opening of the new cafe, Welch will host an open house between 4 and 6 p.m. on Jan. 28. Library staff will be on hand to offer information about library services and programs.

Like other medical libraries, Welch is primarily a journal-based operation that meets the specific and timely demands of clinicians. Currently, the library has more than 3,000 journals available electronically, and the plan is to put more journals and databases online in the coming years.

Nancy Roderer, director of the Welch Medical Library, said that the long-term plan is to move the librarians out into the user community where the information materials are delivered and used. Roderer said that the library plans to introduce what are called "touchdown" suites, virtual or physical spaces within academic departments where faculty members will be able to access library materials or consult with a librarian. There is a traveling training touchdown currently in operation in the Oncology Department, and four more suites are in the planning stages. Welch is exploring opportunities for others around the medical campus. The next one will open this spring in the Broadway Research Building.

The Welch's main branch at 1900 E. Monument St. eventually will become a conference and historical center housing--once books are removed--a faculty club, meeting space and expanded facilities for the Historical Collection, the library of JHU's Institute of the History of Medicine. The Welch Library once housed a doctors' dining room in the building's West Reading Room.

The main branch also could become the new home for the Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives, currently housed in an office suite at 2024 E. Monument St.

Welch services the schools of Medicine, Nursing and Public Health, The Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Kennedy Krieger Institute, which comprise an estimated customer base of 18,000. In addition to its main branch, the library has six satellites located at the various medical institutions. The building is named for the School of Medicine's first dean, William H. Welch, honoring his role in the library's creation and the founding of the Institute of the History of Medicine, also housed there.

For more information on the Welch Library, go to


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