Library construction to modernize 50-year-old building

May 04, 2021
students sit at clusters of tables in a large room, chairs placed haphazardly about the perimeter while colorful streamers still hang from the two story ceiling
The colorful atrium of the former Children's Hospital building now serves as a temporary library study space for students. Photos by Sarah Pack

The Medical University of South Carolina’s library building, one of the most visible structures on the peninsular Charleston campus, is getting an update.

Shannon Jones, director of MUSC Libraries, called it a “long, long overdue renovation and modernization of the building.”

The building was opened in 1971 as the Library-Administration Building. In 2009, it was renamed the James W. Colbert Education Center and Library in honor of James Colbert, M.D., the university’s first vice president of academic affairs.

And while the knowledge contained in libraries remains essential, the ways to share knowledge and the needs of students have changed. With the exception of archival records, all of the library’s holdings are now electronic, Jones said.

two people use a cart to wheel a loveseat out of a nearly empty library space 
Heather Barraco and Michael Stafford move furniture out of the Colbert Library prior to construction starting.

But there are infrastructure needs that come along with a virtual library – like electrical outlets. Most students show up with at least two devices that need to be plugged in, and when you have a study group of multiple students, that quickly puts electrical capacity to the test. Nonetheless, Jones said, the building itself is fundamentally a good one.

“It has withstood Hugo and a number of other hurricanes, so it’s a tried-and-true building. It’s served us well for a number of years. It just needs some upgrades,” she said.

For now, the library staff has relocated to University Hospital Extension, where student study spaces have been carved out of a former patient floor and the Atrium in the old Children’s Hospital.

a young woman sits in front of a laptop with other students similarly studying in the background overlooking a large window 
Amber Sansbury, College of Health Professions student, studies in the temporary library space. 

Although those spaces are available only to students, Jones noted that there is a computer classroom that can be reserved for testing or training. Also, the library continues to lend equipment – like cameras, projectors, laptops and iPads – to students, faculty and staff. Pickups are currently on Tuesdays and Thursdays, though she hopes to resume Monday through Friday service in the fall.

When the library building reopens, the first floor will look quite similar. The Innovation Station, which has temporarily relocated to 135 Cannon St., will be there along with the cafe space.

The second floor will house the Health Care Simulation Center, which currently occupies space on the first floor of the College of Nursing building, as well as the College of Medicine’s Center for Clinical Evaluation, Teaching and Simulation and a student study area.

The third and fourth floors will house the library, a study space for medical students and other student support services like the Center for Academic Excellence and Writing Center.

Jones said the revamped interior will provide more seating space for students and will overall be nicer and more modern. She and the staff are already counting down the days until they can move back in.

The library is projected to reopen in the spring of 2022.

About the Author

Leslie Cantu
MUSC Catalyst News

Keywords: Education, Features