Detailed History of the University of Colorado Medical Library Collection: 1912 - 2007

image of the first Denison Library reference deskThe medical library collection of the University of Colorado began as a department of the Buckingham Library on the Boulder campus. In 1912 this collection numbered 1715 volumes, consisting of dictionaries, encyclopedias, indexes, textbooks, and bound periodicals. Books on bacteria, histology, and other subjects related but peripheral to medicine were part of the main library collection. Students had access to the medical books during the hours that Buckingham Library was open.

When the medical school was transferred from Boulder to the new medical center location in Denver in 1924, a medical library was established in a room above the old outpatient clinic (now a part of the School of Nursing).

The original collection numbered 5,000 volumes brought from Boulder. Many of these volumes may still be seen on the shelves marked with a "Buckingham Library" bookplate. Additional books were gathered from doctor's offices in Denver. In November 1924, Mrs. Ella Strong Denison, wife of physician Charles Denison, entered into a memorandum of agreement with the regents of the University of Colorado to provide an initial $5,000 and subsequent annual payments of $1,000 to support the library. It was to be named the Charles Denison M.D. Memorial Library.

She also furnished a bronze memorial tablet, engraved book plates bearing the library name, and portraitsof her deceased husband and son, Henry Strong Denison. Mrs. Denison also contributed money for library furnishings.

image: Dr. Charles DenisonCharles Denison, M.D. was a prominent Colorado physician and Professor of Chest Diseases and Climatology at the University of Denver from 1881-85. Dension came to Colorado in 1873 with tuberculosis and was so impressed with the therapeutic effect of the Colorado climate he developed a strong interest in the effect of climate on health and disease. He published several classic articles and books on this subject.

In spite of Mrs. Denison's generous contribution, building a medical research library was a difficult task. In a letter to former library director Dr. Frank B. Rogers dated August 20, 1971, Mrs. Eleanor Repass, assistant to the first librarian Mrs. Esther Brunquist, said there were so few current periodicals then that free material and pamphlets were placed on the periodical display shelves to make it look as though "we had a library."

image: Construction of the 30s-era Denison LibraryRules for the use of the Charles Denison M.D. Memorial Library adopted by the Executive Faculty on September, 1932 stated that the library was primarily for the use of the faculties of the University of Colorado and of students resident in Denver taking work in the School of Medicine, the School of Nursing, and the Graduate School. Administrative officers of the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Hospitals, technicians employed in the institution, and students in other schools or colleges of the University were also entitled to the use of the Library. Regularly licensed physicians of the city or state could use the Library and secure the privilege of loan of books by mail or otherwise on payment of transportation charges, provided consultation with the departments most concerned showed that the books desired were not needed for reserve or special reference at the Library. All others could use books and periodicals in the reading room only, unless given special permission by the Dean or Librarian. These guidelines have changed little to the present day.

image: Denison facade (out front of Denison Auditorium)

In 1935 Mrs. Denison donated over $90,000 for a new library building, including a much-needed auditorium. Noted architect Maurice Biscoe was responsible for design and medical school dean Maurice Rees superintended the building project. The formal dedication of the new Charles Denison, M.D. Memorial Library was made on May 28, 1937 at the Denison Auditorium. The dedication address was given by Florence Sabin, M.D.

pictured: the Reading RoomBy 1949 the collection was said to number 40,000 volumes and unmet space needs were becoming a serious problem. It was in this year that plans were made to replace the east window in the reading room with a stained glass window bearing the Denison family coat of arms. The window was taken from the former home of Charles Denison at 1625 Logan Street at the request of CU President Robert Stearns and through the generosity of owner Walter Neill.

image: stained glass window

The first addition to the Charles Denison M.D. Memorial Library was made in 1962 as a part of major expansion of the medical center. The library addition to the north and east of the original building provided new reader space, book stacks, and the Humphreys Postgraduate Center. An anonymous gift at that time enabled the construction of the James J. Waring Room for the History of Medicine. It appears that library planning was overshadowed by the other major projects underway on campus and that the library lacked strong campus support. The result was an expanded facility that was inflexible and outdated shortly after it was built.

image: Denison Library before the 1962 addition

Nineteen sixty-three was a year of major transition for the library. Mrs. Lillian Dumke retired, after serving as librarian for 36 years. Dr. Frank B. Rogers was appointed Librarian and Professor of Medical Bibliography in September 1963. Dr. Rogers was the planner and first director of the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland. He realized quickly that the 1962 addition was inadequate and that the library would soon grow to fill all available space. The library annual report for fiscal year 1965 states as a priority "development of a detailed plan for construction of an addition to the library, including remodeling of existing space, to augment stack, staff, and reader areas."

The collection numbered 99,062 volumes by 1970 but a combination of inflation and dollar devaluation began to have serious consequences for library resources. In Dr. Roger's words "it is a bleak task to have to cut away collections which only yesterday were being built with so much effort". And "the support of a research library cannot be turned on and off like a faucet, except at peril. If the clinicians, investigators and students at this medical center are to have first-class facilities, then high on the list must be a first-class library resource, adequately funded." Space needs were critical but library building plans were jeopardized by several unsuccessful attempts to find federal funding. It was a bitter disappointment to Dr. Rogers to retire in 1974 without realizing a new building for the library.

exterior image of libraryIn 1976, after eight years of planning, the state legislature passed an appropriations bill for an addition to the library. New construction, which added 35,000 gross square feet, was designed by architects Kilham, Beder, and Chu of New York, in association with Victor Hornbein and Associates, Denver. The building was dedicated April 26, 1977 with Dr. Rogers as the keynote speaker. The ceremony was well attended with about 250 individuals from the community and many distinguished guests.

The new library facililty had 84,376 gross square feet and 55,718 assignable square feet for an efficiency factor of 66 percent. The total project cost was $2,066,019 with $1,701,900 for construction and $211,700 for equipment. The state funded $2,038,339 with the remainder coming from library and other medical center funds. The square foot cost was $45.17 for construction only, including the cost of remodeling. The new facility was originally planned to house approximately 244,000 volumes. Based on estimates made at that time, this growth would be reached by the year 1995. Subsequent to the original plans, the decision was made to use the third floor of the new area to house a Learning Resources Center for audiovisual materials and computer-aided instruction which was to be jointly managed by the library and the Office of Educational Services. This reduced available shelving space to an estimated 220,000 volumes. By 1992, in order to accommodate a collection size of 227,000 volumes, reader seating area was displaced by book stacks. The library had once again exceeded capacity.

image: Denison Library as seen from 9th Ave. A program plan for library renovation and expansion was completed in 1993 by Pouw & Associates in association with HBW/Providence Associates, Inc. and Paulien & Associates. This expansion would have increased the size of the library to 95,000 gross square feet and included space for 20 years of collection growth, an increase in reader seats, specialized learning and education spaces, and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. This plan was revisited in 1994 as part of design for a new Health Sciences Campus Center at Ninth Avenue. A new Education Center, Campus Union and Recreation Center were proposed and some elements of the 1993 library program plan were incorporated into new library design and renovation. Local architect Davis Partnership teamed with Centerbrook of Connecticut for design of this project.

The opportunity to acquire property as part of the military base closure at Fitzsimons put the Ninth Avenue Campus Center plans on the shelf. The University of Colorado Board of Regents approved plans in 1996 to move the Health Sciences Center to a new 217 acre campus at Fitzsimons. A program plan for a new Library @ Fitzsimons was completed in 2001 by H & L Architecture and Shepley Bullfinch Richardson Abbot of Boston. Regents approved the plan but no construction funding was available so the Colorado Commission on Higher Education withheld approval.

image: architectural artwork, Health Sciences Library at Anschutz Medical CampusIn spring 2003, the Colorado legislature approved and Governor Bill Owens signed HB-1256 which provided funding through Certificates of Participation (COP) for seven education buildings at Fitzsimons, including a new library. COP funding also provided for a new prison. The Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition opposed new prison construction and filed a lawsuit in fall 2003 against the state claiming that the COP legislation was illegal.

With the lawsuit pending, plans moved forward to design the new library. The architectural team of Davis Partnership/Centerbrook was selected and Mortenson was chosen as the contractor. Conceptual design began in July 2003. Final construction documents were completed in December 2005 when the lawsuit was denied by the Colorado Supreme Court and funding released.

Construction of the new building began in March 2006 and doors opened to the public on 15 October 2007. The new building is referred to as the Health Sciences Library of the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center.

Pat Nelson
Revised 22 October 2007

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