The workers are gone, earplugs are no longer a required study aid, and the air is clear of construction dust. At long last, the Countway Library of Medicine renovation project is finished. It took two and a half years, $28 million dollars, and enormous amounts of patience on the part of the patrons and staff, but, looking at the final product, all will agree that it was well worth the effort.

The renovation entailed not only an overall face-lift for the Library, but also many infrastructure improvements and a reconfiguration of departments and services to make them more user friendly. The most aesthetically striking feature in the renovated Countway is the graceful new stairway that takes users up through the open atrium to the reference area on the second floor. From the perspective of the reference desk, users have an unrestricted view of the Library entrance and of the Aesculapian Collection of leisure reading on the L1 level. Comfortable furniture, group study rooms, more computer workstations, and attractively painted walls throughout the Library invite users to settle in and stay awhile.

Infrastructure improvements include a state-of-the-art climate control system, networked computer jacks throughout the Library, and better lighting. The relocated Reference and Education Department on the second floor boasts several banks of computer workstations, an open and airy atmosphere, and an expanded stack area to house the reference collection. Historians and other scholars can work in the quiet of the Holmes Reading Room in the Rare Books and Special Collections Department on the L2 level. Once spread over three floors, the Department’s historical treasures are now stored in a single stack area adjacent to the staff offices.

The Russell Current Journal Reading Room on the first floor provides users with easy access to the most current issues of journals. Previously, these journals were kept with the bound journals on the L1 level and could be removed from the floor and left in locations throughout the Library. Searching for a current journal was often a difficult and time-consuming task. In the new configuration, current journals remain in the Russell Reading Room where they can be promptly reshelved for the next user. Copy machines are also provided in the Reading Room.

Written descriptions cannot do justice to the many changes, renovation brought to the Countway Library. Library Director, Judith Messerle said, “Words can only convey so much. You need to visit the Library to fully appreciate the transformation that has occurred.” On May 16 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Library will host a User Appreciation Day to reintroduce users to the Library and department locations. At 3:30 p.m. on May 16, the Communications & Orientation Committee of the HUL Librarians’ Assembly will host a tour of Countway for library professionals. For more information on either event, contact Kathy Wahl (432-4807;

Copyright © 2000 The President and Fellows of Harvard College