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Planning a Health Sciences Library for Southern Nevada

By rpietrucha on December 1, 2015 6:00 AM | Permalink

Students work with anatomical models at UNLV’s Lied Library.

UNLV’s School of Medicine has generated a lot of excitement—and rightfully so. The impact of such an investment will reach well beyond campus, transforming the local economy and rehabilitating the state’s ailing health care system.

The medical school will not be able to achieve this, however, without a health sciences library to support student, faculty, and community research and professional development. UNLV University Libraries Dean Patricia Iannuzzi is leading the strategic planning efforts for this library, which will be Southern Nevada’s first comprehensive and integrated health sciences library.

A dedicated health sciences library in Southern Nevada is long overdue. While the University Libraries currently supports several UNLV health sciences programs (in the Schools of Dental Medicine, Nursing, Allied Health Sciences, and Community Health Sciences) and UNLV students and Southern Nevada health professionals may use library resources on site at any of the physical University Libraries facilities on the Maryland campus, additional facilities and resources will be necessary to scale up and sustain the new students, faculty, and curriculum of the School of Medicine.

The School of Dental Medicine, Biotechnology Center, and other facilities for those engaged in university-related biomedical studies are housed at the Shadow Lane campus near the University Medical Center (UMC), and no physical library facilities are currently affiliated with these programs. At this time, the Shadow Lane campus is supported by a single health and life sciences librarian who works at Lied Library (Xan Goodman, whom you can read more about here) and a virtual health sciences library comprised of electronic resources that cost nearly $1 million annually.

As is the case with other modern medical schools, students and faculty at Shadow Lane and the School of Medicine will require a more resource-intensive, state-of-the-art medical library that is as much about digital information and collections as it is about physical space. In addition to the electronic resources it already provides, the University Libraries plans to add more than $1 million a year in new medical collections for all students and faculty, including digital journals, databases, datasets, streamed video, and other forms of content that health sciences librarians will select and make available through an online portal.

Planning for the School of Medicine’s first academic building, which will include the new health sciences library, is under way with the hiring of a national architecture firm (read more about it at the School of Medicine website). However, for the next five years, while funds are raised and additional planning takes place, the School of Medicine will be located at Shadow Lane. Therefore, the University Libraries is embedding an interim medical library space there.

While in its temporary location, the interim library will focus on School of Medicine faculty and students, serving as a learning commons in support of the School of Medicine’s problem-based curriculum. The interim library will include a variety of study spaces, technologies to support the curriculum, and spaces for groups to work with each other or guided by a librarian. A room adjacent to the library will serve as a computer classroom and open lab space. A robust web portal will be created, and digital content will be embedded in the school’s course management system. The Libraries hopes to secure a second location at Shadow Lane to expand services beyond the medical school.

Much work needs to be done, including hiring a founding director and other staff for the health sciences library. Funding from the state for staffing and materials will help propel planning forward through and beyond the completion of the new library in 2019-2020.

The University Libraries will have more exciting news on this project in the coming months, so stay tuned!


UNLV School of Medicine Planning Dean Barbara Atkinson (pictured left) shares her insights on how the new health sciences library will impact students, the medical community, and Southern Nevada.

How will the new health sciences library help our medical students?
The UNLV School of Medicine problem-based curriculum is library-intensive. The Libraries is in a good position to aid students because you are pushing research-based learning concepts into the undergraduate curriculum already. This will be an extension of what you are doing currently, just at a different level and health-related.

Do you see practitioners in the community availing themselves of this resource?
Yes. Physicians definitely want greater access to credible information. There has not been a central place people could go. Here, we will be able to provide research literature from almost anywhere with the national affiliations the University Libraries have. We will be able to support research projects not done here before because the background information was not available.

How can a health sciences library impact and contribute to Southern Nevada?
It is way bigger than just the medical school. That is the exciting part about this library. We are envisioning it as a resource center for the entire community. If you need to find out something, you can look on your own computer or cell phone with Google, but who knows the value of that information? People who want good, valuable information on anything—a disease, a symptom, a life problem—could come to this library and actually get help from expert librarians and credible sources of information.