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Redesigned Lamar Soutter Library ready for school and COVID-19 precautions

By Susan S.W. Spencer

UMass Medical School Communications

August 03, 2020
 
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The lower floors were redesigned with new
furniture to maximize workspace

The Lamar Soutter Library is reopening its doors at UMass Medical School on Monday, Aug. 3. Library staff have been working remotely through the pandemic, but one big project has taken place on site: completion of a long-planned interior renovation. In a serendipitous stroke of good timing, the redesigned work area also lends itself well to accommodating social distancing for COVID-19 precautions.

Mary Piorun, PhD, director of library services and director of the Network of the National Library of Medicine, New England Region, said planning for the renovation started last summer, with winnowing and rearranging of 100,000 journal volumes to a consolidated space on the eighth floor and moving the book collection to the second floor.

Lower floors have been redesigned with new furniture to maximize workspace.

“What we were looking for in furniture were things that would give the students plenty of space to spread out,” Dr. Piorun said. “We were looking for larger work surfaces, but also areas that afforded some privacy because students are very intense in their studies, yet also want to balance being with their colleagues and fellow students.”

Work desks now have large frosted-glass partitions, which Associate Director Regina Fisher Raboin said was “prescient on our part because we requested it be designed taller than it usually comes. And that’s great because it helps with social distancing.”

The partitions also serve as white boards and can be written on.

Also new in the workspace are cozy pods, cubicle-like seats and desks tucked into curved partitions. Piorun said alternate pods would be blocked off for increased social distancing.

Piorun said that facilities staff have been able to get the work completed without disrupting students this summer. Library services went on remotely.

“While all this was happening, all of our services continued, except for being able to come into the library,” said Raboin. “The library staff continued to work with faculty, assist the students with their curriculum and research needs and provided information services to our community.”

Piorun said librarians taught 62 educational sessions with 757 attendees online between mid-March to the end of June.

“Some sessions were orientations for new residents, introduction to library resources, and some were more in-depth, like searching strategies for the new PubMed,”  she said. Library staff also volunteered to support other programs, such as proctoring Step 2 exams for students, Zoom support for online classes and the multiple mini interviews (MMIs) for admissions.

Lisa Palmer, institutional repository librarian, curated a special collection of COVID-related documents and publications from the Medical School, Piorun added. The collection has close to 100 papers, which have been downloaded almost 22,000 times.

Raboin said a company was brought in shortly before reopening to do a deep post-construction cleaning and then another company provided a sanitation application for COVID-19.

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure that our staff, faculty and students will feel comfortable in the space,” she said. “We’ve had to make a few policy changes, per the directions of the UMass Med COVID-19 policies, but they shouldn’t be too disruptive.”

Piorun said, “I am excited to be re-opening the library space. On behalf of all the staff of the Lamar Soutter Library, welcome back, and know we are here to support you throughout the academic year!”