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Background and history

Nationally, Tompkins-McCaw Library for the Health Sciences is a top-tier health sciences library. It holds one of the largest and most extensive collections of health sciences literature in North America. The library primarily serves the MCV Campus, which houses one of the oldest medical schools in the South, founded in 1838. The library, in one form or location or another, has been a part of the medical campus since 1897. Located on 12th Street—two blocks north of the Gateway Building at the VCU Medical Center and within easy walks to the schools of Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Nursing and Allied Health Sciences—the library is physically central to today’s health sciences campus.  It provides access to affiliated students, faculty, clinicians and practicing health care professionals on and off campus.

Find out the story behind the library's name.

Tompkins-McCaw Library is committed to continuous improvement in all aspects of service. Recent changes:

  • Extended hours better meet the needs of the MCV Campus graduate and professional community.

  • Renovated spaces provide collaboration and study spaces to meet contemporary student needs.  

  • Launched research data management services to provide resources to manage research data over its lifespan.

In 2012, the National Science Foundation ranked VCU 79th in research expenditures in a survey of more than 900 institutions  During fiscal year 2012, the VCU Libraries invested 54 percent of its funding in library materials. The majority of these collections funds were committed to journal subscription, as is typical of academic research libraries supporting a significant research enterprise with large life science and biomedical science programs. In 2012-13, VCU funded the first year of a multi-year plan to grow its libraries to meet the University’s Quest for Distinction goals.  Funds to acquire library materials were increased by $922,000, and the VCU Libraries projects expenditures for library materials to total about $9.6 million in 2012-13.  

Education and consultation

The Tompkins-McCaw Library’s liaison program embeds expert librarians in schools and programs. Tompkins-McCaw Library staff use one-on-one consultations, curriculum-integrated instruction, research team training, and open-enrollment workshops to meet the academic, clinical, and research needs of the MCV Campus schools and the VCU Health System. Requests are met in person and via email, telephone and webcast. Altogether, the VCU Libraries provides about 1,000 library instructional sessions each year.

Special Collections and Archives

Special Collections and Archives houses archives, artifacts, books, manuscripts, photographs, portraits and prints related to the history of health care in Virginia. Jodi Koste, longtime faculty member at Tompkins-McCaw, was named University Archivist in 2013, and she is developing retention and management policies for the University archives.

Community engagement

Beyond supporting the needs of researchers and faculty on the MCV Campus, Tompkins-McCaw Library has a strong tradition of outreach.

  • It hosts programs on topics of interest to the health sciences community.

  • Gallery space on the first floor showcases art or photographic exhibits with scientific and medical themes.

  • The only consumer health library of its kind in the Commonwealth, the Community Health Education Center provides reliable health-related information to VCU Health System patients and their families. Staff also provide programming on-site and raise awareness of health-related topics through health fairs across the region. It is housed on the ground floor of the Gateway Building and is a partnership between the VCU Libraries, the VCU Health System, and the MCV Hospitals Auxiliary.

  • Recent outreach projects include:

    • web portal created in partnership with the VCU Women’s Health Institute to showcase research on women’s health at VCU and to connect women’s health researchers.

    • A website, A Common Wealth of Public Health and Primary Care Information, designed to serve public health care and community health center physicians, nurses, and other providers not affiliated with an academic program. The site is a partnership between the VCU Libraries and  the Capital and the Rappahannock Area Health Education Center programs.



VCU Libraries

James Branch Cabell Library Monroe Park Campus
901 Park Ave., Box 842033
Richmond, VA 23284-2033
Toll-free: (844) 352-7399
(804) 828-1111
All Libraries
Tompkins-McCaw Library MCV Campus
509 N. 12th St., Box 980582
Richmond, VA 23298-0582
Toll-free: (844) 352-7399
(804) 828-0636

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