The medical library has been central to the healing profession for thousands of years, with the most ancient collections recovered from excavations of the Assyrian and Babylonian civilizations. So too, throughout the nearly 125-year history of MCW and its predecessor institutions, the medical library has progressed and evolved to meet the information needs of students, staff and faculty members.
In 1913, the library within the Marquette University School of Medicine (MCW's predecessor) contained 3,000 volumes. When the library was moved to what is now the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center (MRMC) campus in 1978, the collection had grown to 90,000 volumes – bolstered in part by a generous gift of $600,000 from the Todd Wehr Foundation (which had been announced two years earlier).
Upon his death in 1965, C. Frederick "Todd" Wehr, an executive of Wehr Steel, had left the bulk of his estate to a foundation focused on charitable religious, scientific and educational purposes. Over the past 50 years, Wehr's philanthropic legacy has benefited many Wisconsin universities and cultural organizations, including Marquette University, Ripon College, Viterbo University and the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Milwaukee.
With the help of the Todd Wehr Foundation, MCW's library footprint expanded from 18,000 square feet to 44,000 square feet during the move to the MRMC campus – allowing for significant room for MCW's collections to eventually grow to more than 200,000 volumes. In a 1978 letter to the Todd Wehr Foundation's president, MCW library director Bessie Stein wrote, "The ultimate goal of all health professionals is improved patient care, and we in the library will do our utmost to help realize that goal."
Also in the letter, Stein shared that she believed the Todd Wehr Library would have an increased emphasis on disseminating information and educating individuals to efficiently and effectively access the scholarly record. She also saw the library as a key resource for implementing new learning technologies. Since Stein's retirement in 1983, the MCW Libraries (comprising the central Todd Wehr Library and branch libraries at Froedtert Hospital and Children's Hospital of Wisconsin on the MRMC campus) has realized her vision by working ever more closely with students, educators and researchers, including in support of the active learning model emphasized by MCW's Discovery Curriculum.
"It takes additional support, effort and teamwork to do active and self-directed learning well, but the reward in increased student engagement is absolutely worth it," says Ellen Sayed (pictured right), current director of MCW Libraries. "Librarians have learned instructional design and software, just as they have always adapted to changes in technology and the ways individuals interact with information."
One of the most significant changes has been the sophistication of tools to store and retrieve online information. By utilizing online systems and training MCW's faculty, staff and students in their use, MCW Libraries plans to provide access to its materials anytime, anywhere and on any device. "By focusing on building seamless systems and self-reliance, we are proactively empowering our users to find what they need – whenever and wherever they need it," Sayed adds.
– Greg Calhoun
Medical College of Wisconsin…8701 Watertown Plank Rd., Milwaukee, WI 53226
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