McMaster University

About the Health Sciences Library

The Health Sciences Library (HSL) is one of McMaster University’s four libraries, and while it reports to the Faculty of Health Sciences, there is a close working relationship with the other three libraries in the library system. The HSL plans and offers information services, resources and expertise in support of the Faculty’s commitment to knowledge based health care practice and life-long learning. The librarians and staff work as a team, providing a full range of public and technical services.

e-tables under the stairwell on the lower level Looking at the library from outside Students talking in the C. Barber Mueller History of Health and Medicine Room


McMaster University is one of Canada’s top research-intensive universities and the Faculty of Health Sciences is a major contributor to this, with more than $100 million in research funding overseen by health sciences investigators.  The Faculty’s educational programs include schools of medicine, nursing, rehabilitation science, midwifery and the unique Bachelor of Health Sciences Program. These programs are known worldwide for their innovations in education, emphasizing small group, problem-based, self-directed, lifelong learning. Graduate studies include a wide range of medical residency programs and master’s and PHD level training. The HSL has an active librarian liaison program, particularly with the various educational programs, to integrate information literacy into the curriculum.

The HSL is located on the beautiful McMaster campus in the Health Sciences Centre, which also contains the McMaster site of Hamilton Health Sciences, the largest teaching hospital in the city. The hospital is a separate institution and the HSL has a contract to serve as the library of the McMaster site of the hospital.  The HSL also collaborates closely with the other members of the Hamilton & District Health Library Network.

The HSL celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2006. The first director of the library was Bea Robinow, who in 1966 joined the team here at McMaster to  develop a new medical school based on radical educational principles. Her contribution to that development was recognized by the Faculty at a ceremony in 2005.

The HSL has recently been completely renovated to meet the needs of the 21st century learning environment. The focus of the design is on “people space”, with areas zoned for group and individual learning.

The main entrance to the library

Elegant design elements, art work and lighting provide a welcoming ambiance, and the café at the dramatic new entrance is a popular gathering place. The "Tree of Knowledge" Donor Wall, by Newfoundland artist Conrad Furey, looks spectacular just inside the library entrance. More art work is found throughout the library, including  etched glass panels and a large Inuit whalebone sculpture in the Heersink Reading Pavilion.

The "Tree of Knowledge" artwork on the donor wall

The circulation and information desks

The elegant cherry wood Circulation/Information Desk serves as a single-service point for the convenience of library users.

The reserves room

The reserve (short-term loan) material is housed in the  Reserve/Multimedia Room, allowing students to browse this very high demand collection of books.

The e-classroom

Reflecting the critical need for digital access to information in health sciences, the latest in technology has been incorporated into the design, including wireless access throughout, hundreds of electrical and network connections to accommodate personal and library laptops, a Learning Commons and an e-Classroom with 24 laptops. There are approximately 90 computers available for library users.

The Learning Commons on the upper level

History of Health and Medicine Room

Recognition of the importance of the library’s historical collections is another highlight of the design. The elegant C. Barber Mueller History of Health and Medicine Room, with its cove ceiling and recessed lighting, together with a gas fireplace, comfortable leather chairs and warm cherry wood bookcases around the perimeter of the room, make this a very popular place for quiet study and reflection. The Rare Book Room and the Archives, rooms located adjacent to the History of Health and Medicine Room, are lovely spaces for those who need access to these special collections.

Students talking in the C. Barber Mueller History of Health and Medicine Room

Fireplace in the C. Barber Mueller History of Health and Medicine Room

C. Barber Mueller History of Health and Medicine Room

Sitting in the reading pavilion

The two-storey Jan and Mien Heersink Reading Pavilion not only provides comfortable and flexible study space  to the lower level of the library, but because the upper level overlooks this new space it provides a spectacular view of the campus.

The reading pavilion view


The Reading Pavilion is separated from the rest of the lower level by a wall of etched glass panels by artist Mark Raynes Roberts; each of the 12 etched panels represents a province or territory of Canada.

The silent study area of the Health Sciences Library

All window space has been designated as “people space” and the much reduced print collection of books and journals is now located in the centre of the lower level. The library has been zoned for quiet and silent individual study and group study.  Fifteen group study rooms are available for booking.

A group study room


The concept of “library as presentation space” has been incorporated into the design, so that both the Reading Pavilion and the History of Health and Medicine Room  are used for special Faculty events such as recognizing major gifts and new Chair announcements. The Dedication of the Jan and Mien Heersink Reading Pavilion took place on April 20, 2007 and the Opening of the C. Barber Mueller History of Health and Medicine Room took place on April 24, 2007. The party to celebrate the completion of the library renovations was held on May 23, 2007. There are a number of donor recognition opportunities in this beautiful Health Sciences Library.
 The Health Sciences Library is a warm and inviting destination that is client-centered, in keeping with McMaster’s commitment to innovation, lifelong, student-centered learning and scholarly excellence.

Liz Bayley
August 2009