By John Borghi
To walk into the Rita and Frits Markus Library today is to enter both an elegant space for members of the Rockefeller community to research and study and an establishment ready to meet the information needs of a twenty-first century research institution. After passing by the security desk in Founder’s Hall, visitors to the newly renovated library can either proceed down the stairs to the quiet study spaces and collaborative research areas located on levels A and B or up the stairs to the historic second floor reading room. In addition to the significant physical improvements, this latest renovation also marks a development in library services that reflects advancements in scientific inquiry on campus and in the broader research community.
During the renovations, which began in 2011, library services were continuously maintained from several cramped rooms on the seventeenth floor of Weiss. Now, with all renovations complete, the library finally has a physical space to match the goals of its staff—for the library to serve as the beating heart of knowledge and intellectual curiosity on campus. Accessible twenty-four hours a day with a Rockefeller ID, the library boasts an array of out-of-the-way study spaces and rooms equipped with projectors and computer monitors, designed to facilitate small group collaboration. In the centerpiece of the renovated library, the historic second floor reading room, visitors will find not only banks of computers, the circulation desk staffed by one of the library’s experienced staff members, and a significant portion of the library’s impressive collection of research material, but will also gain a sense of the university’s rich history of scientific inquiry and discovery. In the new café, adjacent to the reading room, visitors will not only find a space for casual conversation and relaxation, but also that device most paramount to the advancement of science: a coffee machine.
The origins of the library’s collection predate even the construction of Rockefeller’s first permanent laboratories. In 1903, while observing the activity of major European research laboratories, Simon Flexner and Christian Herter spent the entirety of the budget allocated for books for the library on scientific journals. Far from simply a collection of physical reference materials, the renovated library is set to offer a breadth of resources to research faculty, post-docs, and students. In addition to providing access to the databases of full-text electronic journal articles likely used by every researcher on campus, the library is also ready to provide access to the new, more highly functional faculty publications database, the DSpace repository for scientific documents and data, and information on The Rockefeller University’s collection of historical scientific instruments.
Beyond simply providing access to these resources, the library is also ready to now offer a more proactive form of research support than ever before. In the coming months, library staff members will offer personal instruction on the effective use of web-based databases and will endeavor to connect more fully with the other resources available to researchers at Rockefeller. Through the newly created Science Informationist staff position, the library will also begin to provide knowledge management support based on a model pioneered at the National Institutes of Health. The newly hired Science Informationist (who also happens to be the author of this article) comes to the library with a deep knowledge of neuroscience, one of The Rockefeller University’s major research areas, and will work with area laboratories to relieve the burden caused by the ever increasing amount of information, relevant and otherwise, made available to scientists.
Standing in the middle of campus, the renovated library not only reflects Rockefeller’s past and future as an outstanding research institution but also aims to fully support all ongoing research through its rich resources and to develop models of proactive knowledge management. Come for the study areas and the coffee, and stay to indulge your intellectual curiosity with the staff trained to help you do so effectively and efficiently.