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University of Iowa News Release

April 5, 2004

Hardin Library For Health Sciences Celebrates 30 Years

When the new University of Iowa Health Sciences Library opened in May 1974, it marked something new for people looking for health-related information -- they could find it all in one place.

"Before 1974, the university's health science collections were in buildings scattered all across campus," said Ed Holtum, assistant librarian and unofficial Hardin historian. "The medical, nursing, dentistry, pharmacy and speech pathology collections were all housed in separate facilities. But when the Hardin Library opened, the entire collection was finally in a single building."

Now in its 30th year, the Hardin Library for the Health Sciences has a well-earned reputation for service and dedication to its users. But beyond that, the library has an outstanding reputation nationally as an innovator in providing health care-related information services in new and technologically innovative ways.

"In my library career, I've never worked with a staff as able and as dedicated to helping the user as the staff at Hardin," said Jean Sayre, the library's director. "We have an outstanding national reputation for our staff and for our collection. Even outside of Iowa, people use Hardin's resources regularly and appreciate the services we provide."

The building is immediately notable from the outside because of its distinctive architecture. Designed by Water Netsch of the Chicago architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the Hardin Library is based on the architectural "field theory" popular in the 1960s and 1970s that used shapes like triangles, octagons and other polyhedrons as the basic building structure instead of the traditional rectangle. Netsch also designed the Lindquist Center and the Bowen Basic Sciences Building on the UI campus at the same time he designed the Hardin Library, all of them using the same field theory. His most notable work is the chapel at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Hardin's construction costs totaled $4.1 million, of which $2.3 million came from federal grants.

The building was renamed the Hardin Library for the Health Sciences in 1988, in honor of Dr. Robert C. Hardin. Hardin was a long-time dean of the Carver College of Medicine and vice president for health affairs who oversaw significant expansion of the college of medicine. In addition, he was also a nationally noted scholar in diabetes research and, as commander of Allied blood banking operations in Europe during World War II, developed a new method of preserving blood that is credited with saving the lives of thousands of injured soldiers.

Holtum said that the Hardin Library's collection of 130,000 volumes was almost entirely made up of books, journals and other ink-and-paper media when the building opened. Today's collection of 367,000 volumes, however, contains many that are found in electronic files or electronic databases.

This commitment to new technology is found in other ways, too. The Hardin Library is home to the Information Commons, a facility that supports and delivers courseware development, classroom instruction, health-related research and two 50-seat electronic classrooms. The Hardin Library is also a leader in making information available electronically. HardinMD, the largest medical information meta-directory on the Internet, logs more than 1.5 million hits a month. And in March, the Hardin Library unveiled the Iowa Public Health Information Web site, designed to help Iowans prepare for public health emergencies and find information quickly on the Web.

In fact, the library has such advanced technology that many users no longer need to visit the building to access its collection.

"Although my use of materials from Hardin is significantly greater than a decade ago, I actually go to Hardin much less frequently," said George Bergus, M.D., associate professor of family medicine. "Our library staff has been extremely successful in transitioning the resources I routinely use to an electronic format so that they are available to me from any location with a computer."

Other regular visitors also point to Hardin's staff as the reason for its success.

"Strong leadership, dedicated librarians, and hardworking staff set the Hardin Library apart in doing so much," said Vern Duba, assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy.

Tom Schulein, associate professor of operative dentistry in the College of Dentistry, has recently begun studying and publishing in the field of dental history, focusing particularly on 19th century dentistry. One reason, he says, is Hardin's collection and staff.

"I have been fortunate to have the Hardin Library's vast collection at my disposal, as well as a large collection of periodicals pertaining to dentistry," he said. "And the staff all have been most helpful. I can tell that they love their work as librarians. I think if I came back after this life on earth, it could be as a librarian and I would be most happy."

However, now at 30, the structure is starting to show its age. Sayre said the library staff is in the early stages of planning a redesign of the building to make it friendlier for visitors and more compatible for storing computerized information.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010,