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25 Most Impressive University Medical School Libraries

by Marianna Chara

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Attending medical school is singularly impressive; in most cases, only the brightest, most hardworking, ambitious students are accepted to and keep up with a medical university program of study. From course work to research to residencies, medical students likely spend more time in the library than they do at home. It’s vital, then, to know not only about a university’s curriculum and tuition, but also about its library’s collections, special holdings, research support, digital resources, and even the design of its study areas. Whether you’re applying to medical school, in the medical field, or just curious (many of these libraries are open to the public), bestmastersdegrees.com invites you to look at our list of 25 Most Impressive University Medical School Libraries.

There are many beautiful, resourceful libraries in the world, but, of course, not all could be included here. Many libraries’ collections are counted as part of the main university system library resources, and could therefore not specifically determine the precise medical school collections. Bestmastersdegrees.com determined that it would be most helpful to include only those libraries whose medical collections are known and available. Virtually all of the libraries provide general services: document delivery, on-campus computer labs, off-campus access to databases, research assistance, med student portals, mobile resources, and group study rooms. Any library with particularly notable or exceptional provisions is explicitly mentioned. Many well-known, high-ranking libraries have chosen to provide solely or primarily digital resources, so for the purposes of this list, they were not included.

Methodology:

Institutions were culled from top world medical school listings (based on Shanghai Ranking, US News, QS, HuffPost) which rank schools according to awards won and articles published and cited. Schools for this list were then selected based on the following four guidelines:

1. Size and variety of holdings/resources
Institutions selected have at least 50,000 print volumes and at least 2,000 medical digital resources (e-journals, e-books, online databases). NB: The emphasis on size of a library’s print collection is intentional. While some libraries have done away with traditional print volumes in favor of e-resources, a study done by the Pew Research Center finds that 69% of adults read print books, while only 28% have read an e-book, and 4% prefer electronic resources.

2. Special collections or exhibits
The schools selected each possess distinct resources or collections of interest and assistance to medical students. Each school represented has something that makes it stand out, from rare medical manuscripts, to art exhibits, to medical incunabula.

3. Architecture
Each school selected has a unique building or design feature (including innovation, functionality, and size), from gothic halls of book stacks to modern study spaces and conference rooms.

4. Bonus features
The list considered libraries with notable highlights, like accessibility, public access, length of time open, or environmental considerations.

#25. Lane Medical Library and Knowledge Management Center, Stanford University School of Medicine

Stanford, California

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Lane has myriad study spaces; many areas combine alcoves, 24/7 study rooms, private cubicles, lounges, computer centers, and even a courtyard patio with umbrella-covered tables. Libraries are quiet spaces, of course, but Lane boasts a specific section—the Quiet Zone—in which library users must refrain from talking, eating and drinking, or using noisy technology. Lane’s geometrically detailed building is so stunning that the library offers monthly tours to new students and campus visitors. The Li Ka Shing Center offers students silent areas in which to study, and learning spaces for collaborative working.

Print volumes: 381,368
Digital resources: 62,000+
Public access: Yes

#24. Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library, Yale University School of Medicine

New Haven, Connecticut

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Built in 1941, the Yale School of Medicine’s library dates back to the early 18th century when Elihu Yale donated the school’s first medical texts. Thus far, the Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library contains some of the most eclectic and obscure holdings in the country, including rare medieval and Renaissance medical texts in the Medical History Library wing. Of particular note is the Cushing Tumor Registry, a collection of over 400 glass jars filled with human brains, located in the library’s basement level. The library’s thorough resources, including its extensive print volumes, databases, e-journals, and portals, are available to members of the Yale community, and the Medical History Library reading room and Cushing Center are open to the public at specified times.

Print volumes: 411,000
Digital resources: 17,544
Public access: Yes, at posted hours

#23. Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, Harvard University Medical School

Boston, Massachusetts

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One of the world’s leading medical history collections, Countway’s Center for History of Medicine houses over 100,000 items, including the Archives for Women in Medicine and the Warren Anatomical Museum (continuously updated), among other archives and rare book collections. An impressive building in its own right, the Library’s grounds were designed by the landscape architectural firm of Frederick Law Olmstead in 1906.

Print volumes: 630,000
Digital resources: 10,000+
Public access: $35/day fee

#22. Dartmouth Biomedical Libraries at the Geisel School of Medicine, Dartmouth College

Hanover, New Hampshire

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The Geisel School of Medicine, newly named for the author and illustrator Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel, combines two libraries which serve the medical school: the Dana Biomedical Library and the Matthews-Fuller Health Sciences Library. Both accommodate the research and study needs of medical students, are jam-packed with resources such as the “Librarian Liaison” Program, which partners medical students with a librarian who will assist in matters of complex database searches, research questions, or teaching needs. Both libraries are open 24 hours to medical students.

Print volumes: 230,000
Digital resources: 4,500+
Public access: Yes, limited hours

#21. Parnassus and Mission Bay Libraries at the University of California San Francisco Medical School

San Francisco, California

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The Medical School’s two libraries, Parnassus and Mission Bay, offer research assistance, inquiry support, and education courses, as well as group meeting areas and silent study spaces, including Parnassus’s East Asian Room, a quiet, illuminated haven filled with lounge chairs, private carrels, and stunning views of a nearby Japanese roof garden and the Golden Gate Bridge. The UCSF Medical Libraries hold a unique East Asian collection of medical documents that chart the development of the practice of medicine in China and Japan before 1900, including the transition from traditional Japanese medicine to a more Western-style practice.

Print volumes: 678,235
Digital resources: 10,000+
Public access: Yes

#20. Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University

New York, New York

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The Health Sciences Library is part of the 25-library Columbia University system, and medical patrons may access information from the entire collection, including over 11 million print volumes and over 1 million digital resources. The HSL boasts an intriguing collection of the personal library, writings, and letters of Sigmund Freud—the 770 title Freud Library—which is available to medical students and patrons for research purposes.

Print volumes: 50,000+
Digital resources: 10,000+
Public access: No

#19. Edward G. Miner Library at the Medical Center, University of Rochester

Rochester, New York

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Miner Library, in addition to impressive holdings and varied medical resources, provides particularly strong support in the publishing aspects of medicine, from producing a well-researched article, to understanding bibliographic management, copyright, and public access policies. The Library’s Information Prescription program also allows students and physicians to coordinate with a librarian to give patients and their families detailed, individualized information through books, pamphlets, or websites. Finally, Miner Library’s extensive Rare Book Collection gives medical students access to the historical progression and reception of disease with the yellow fever and cholera collections.

Print volumes: 277,146
Digital resources: 7,946
Public access: Yes, until 8 pm

#18. Welch Medical Library at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Baltimore, Maryland

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One of the leading research medical schools, Johns Hopkins provides its students with state-of-the-art study facilities. Welch Library offers extensive courses and lectures in medical database searching and medical research, while the History of Medicine collection—which includes rare texts from the 15th to 18th centuries—gives students amazing opportunities for historical inquiry. Among Welch’s copious digital resources, the specialty information portals offer up-to-the-minute reports on topics ranging from epidemiology to behavior science and provide the latest links to journal articles and professional affiliations.

Print volumes: 50,000 (mostly historical texts)
Digital resources: 13,400
Public access: Hopkins-affiliated patrons only

#17. Health Sciences and Human Services Library at the University of Maryland School of Medicine

Baltimore, Maryland

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The School of Medicine library serves as the Regional Medical Library for the Southeastern/Atlantic Region of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine. The region serves 10 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, and the Network’s mission is to provide both health professionals, medical students, and the public with up-to-date, accessible information for the purpose of improving health care. The striking library, built in 1998, offers a variety of resources and services, and includes a rare book collection and a medical art gallery on first floor.

Print volumes: 366,755
Digital resources: 5,015
Public access: Yes, until 8pm

#16. Ginsberg Health Sciences Library at the Temple University School of Medicine

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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Ginsberg Library is located within Temple’s 53,000 square foot newly designed Medical Education and Research building. Collections include a special focus on anatomy, with myriad textbooks, e-books, videos and interactive online resources, as well as anatomical models on reserve for medical student study needs. Additionally, the Library boasts an iPad and laptop lending program with pre-loaded anatomy apps or software.

Print volumes: 127,000
Digital resources: 2,000+
Public access: Yes, limited hours

#15. Eskind Biomedical Library at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

Nashville, Tennessee

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This stunning library effectively combines hospitality with seclusion. The massive, glass-walled building opens to an inviting eating and meeting area, and provides convenient computer workstations on the first floor, allowing easy access to medical center databases, while the remaining floors are devoted to quiet study rooms and spaces. Half or full day training courses are available in not only medical citation and research, but in such specific areas as genetic variations and clinical trials. Online tutorials are available to interested patrons, and medical students may request or suggest a course topic.

Print volumes: 200,000+
Digital resources: 10,000+
Public access: Yes, for a fee

#14. Donald C. Harrison Health Sciences Library at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine

Cincinnati, Ohio

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In 2008, the Donald C. Harrison Health Sciences Library opened to join the University of Cincinnati’s Health Center campus. This remarkable structure of glass and light accommodates the needs of the Colleges of Medicine, Pharmacy, and Nursing, as well as University Hospital and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. The Library’s website provides the most recent information regarding newly published books, journals, and conveniently offers a handy listing of mobile health resources, including apps and software, categorized by device.

Print volumes: 200,000+
Digital resources: 259,800
Public access: Yes, for a fee

#13. Galter Health Sciences Library at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University

Chicago, Illinois

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The imposing form of the Galter Health Sciences Library belies its personalized and effective resources. Focused on efficiency, the library offers, among myriad research, classroom, and publication support, a convenient way to collect and categorize favorite links and databases through GalterLists, the library’s unique resource for creating and customizing personal web resources. Special collections include 13th century works by St. Thomas Aquinas, and 1,400-volume collection on the subject of Northwestern’s African American Medical and Dental Pioneers.

Print volumes: 206,686
Digital resources: 9,920+
Public access: No

#12. Ruth Lilly Medical Library at the Indiana University School of Medicine

Indianapolis, Indiana

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The Ruth Lilly Medical Library, established in 1908, is the only academic health sciences library in the state. It houses the world’s first Bioethics Digital Library, whose mission is to acquire materials in the bioethics discipline, both current and out-of-print, and convert them to web-accessible and storable formats. The Library is also home to a statewide HIV/AIDS network, which provides health care providers, students, non-profits, and individuals with information and resources about HIV/AIDS related articles, research, and events.

Print volumes: 96,415
Digital resources: 22,916
Public access: Yes, until 5pm

#11. Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library, University of Utah School of Medicine

Salt Lake City,Utah

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The Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library, connected to the University’s Health Sciences Education Building, is one of the most environmentally-sustainable libraries on this list. Concerned about the massive amounts of waste paper generated by a library’s discarded journals and printed paper, the library contracted with a recycling company to re-use as much material as possible, and has implemented in-house recycling measures such as bins and light conservation. In addition to its eco-friendly efforts, the library also offers substantial collections and varied holdings, including NOVEL, the Neuro-Ophthalmology Virtual Education Library, in which students and professionals can access lectures, images, articles, and animations on the specialty. The building’s striking refractive glass fountain is shown here.

Print volumes: 3,523,013 (UU library total)
Digital resources: 82,000+
Public access: Yes, limited to non-restricted resources

#10. Becker Medical Library at the Washington University School of Medicine

St. Louis, Missouri

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In addition to support classes for students on citing, researching, and publishing, Becker Medical Library offers a feature known as “Becker-on-the-road,” in which librarians and other experts come to classes or meetings to present information about library services, research, collections, or other topics of interest. The library’s 7th floor boasts a History of Medicine art gallery, featuring rotating exhibits on medical-related topics of interest, and its Rare Medical Books Collection houses a range of archives, from scientific and medical journals dating back to the late 1600s, to a one-of-a-kind collection of rare books on ophthalmology and the visual sciences.

Print volumes: 140,500 (includes rare books)
Digital resources: 7648 (approx.)
Public access: Yes, during the day

#9. Medical Center Library at the University of Texas Southwestern

Dallas, Texas

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The Medical Center Library offers many general medical clinical, research, and education portals, as well as a liaison program in which patrons may connect with a “clinical informationist” by medical specialty, who will assist in referencing and researching field-based issues. Additionally, the library collaborates with the UT Southwestern Women in Science and Medicine Advisory Committee, providing patrons with a “Women in Science and Medicine” portal, in which students may learn about research, resources, grants, awards, and professional organizations for women in the medical field.

Print volumes: 264,982
Digital resources: 18,530+
Public access: By appointment only

#8. Arizona Health Sciences Library at the University of Arizona College of Medicine

Phoenix, Arizona

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As of July 2012, the Arizona Health Sciences Library opened on the 3rd and 4th floors of the newly designed 265,000 square foot Health Sciences Education Building at the University of Arizona. The library offers instructional support, research assistance, and student reservation of its myriad group study rooms, media centers, and conference areas. AHSL Special Collections focuses on history of the health sciences in the American Southwest and border region: its special collections, holdings, and exhibits relating to those subjects are available to researchers.

Print volumes: 210,032
Digital resources: 13,721
Public access: Yes, at community user hours

#7. Health Sciences Library at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine

Denver, Colorado

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The librarians and staff at the HSL at the School of Medicine at the University of Colorado are committed to providing users with the ultimate support and access to collections and services. Eligible patrons have use of an unprecedented Preservation and Access Service Center for Colorado Academic Libraries (PASCAL), a high-density, climate controlled library storage facility which can hold 1.6 million volumes in under 10,000 square feet, where almost unlimited information is on hand. The library’s on-site writing center and wireless printing capabilities ensure that students write and turn in the best possible papers.

Print volumes: 244,000+
Digital resources: 30,000+
Public access: Yes

#6. Medical Library at the Medical University of Vienna

Vienna, Austria

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The Medical University of Vienna’s library serves both students and the community with its impressive collections and ample reading rooms. Medical students are offered full study and research support, including dissertation guidance and publishing links, as well as library courses and document delivery. Of interest is also the Medical Library’s Josephinum collection, an adjacent building originally an 18th century medical institution, now home to 1200 wax specimens, historical replications of bodies, human organs, and other anatomy.

Print volumes: 50,000+
Digital resources: 10,000+
Public access: Yes

#5. Karolinska Institutet University Library

Stockholm, Sweden

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KI is home to the Nobel Assembly, which has selected the Nobel Laureate in physiology or medicine since 1901. Its library, the largest in Sweden, offers research and study assistance to medical scholars, with particular emphasis on support for global and exchange students. The University Library offers writing and publishing support, search requests, and courses for students on database searching and reference management in both Swedish and English. KI’s library is the only one on this list to offer the digital production of medical illustrations and animations to assist students, teachers, and doctors when writing articles, teaching classes, or explaining concepts.

Print volumes: 50,000+
Digital resources: 80,000
Public access: Yes

#4. The Sibbald Library at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh

Edinburgh, Scotland

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Established in 1686, the Sibbald Library has a long and fascinating history; the existence of the Royal College of Physicians was granted Royal Charter by King Charles II in 1681, and the library began with the donations of Sir Robert Sibbald, among others. Today, an entity independent of the state, the Library attracts students, researchers, and other patrons for both its Gothic architecture and for its professed willingness to help with frequent genealogical enquiries.

Print volumes: 50,000+
Digital resources: 35,000+
Public access: Yes, for viewing purposes only

#3. Brownless Biomedical Library at the University of Melbourne Medical School

Melbourne, Australia

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Brownless Biomedical Library, winner of the 2011 Melbourne Design Awards, provides students and faculty at the U of Melbourne Medical School with the most current resources for study, research, and teaching in a modern, functional setting. Architect firm McBride Charles Ryan designed the building to reflect an organic theme, with its spiral central staircase, tessellated ceiling, and vibrant reds and pinks. The library features an extended hours zone, which is open until 1am every day, a collection of past examination papers (without answers) for ultimate study, and in-person or online research consultations.

Print volumes: 50,000+
Digital resources: 10,000+
Public access: Yes, for a fee

#2. Gerstein Science Information Center at the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine

Ontario, Canada

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The largest science and health science university library in Canada, Gerstein provides students with wireless-equipped group and quiet study areas, one-on-one research consultations with a librarian through UT’s library website, and customized library workshops. The library building, which features a restored 1892 domed ceiling, has won several architectural awards, including the Ontario Library Association (OLA) building award in 2010.

Print volumes: 1 million+ volumes
Digital resources: 100,000+
Public access: Yes

#1. The National University of Singapore Medical Library at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine

Singapore

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The Medical Library, established in 1905, boasts substantial electronic resources, from e-books and journals, to databases, to medical apps for Apple and Android devices, and offers medical students significant study support, including individual consultations and access to past examination papers. The Library (as part of the School of Medicine) received two Building and Construction Awards (BCA) in 2013 for its environmental and sustainability efforts.

Print volumes: 91,377
Digital resources: 469,726
Public access: To medical affiliates only