MCV Campus library to be renamed the Health Sciences Library

December 16, 2020
A photo of the front of the Medical College of Virginia campus library with the words Tompkins-McCaw Library engraved over the door with flags of black and gold with Tompkins-McCaw Library.

As part of Virginia Commonwealth University’s efforts to de-commemorate buildings and monuments on campus that honor historical figures with ties to the Confederacy, Tompkins-McCaw Library for the Health Sciences on the MCV Campus will be renamed the Health Sciences Library, starting in January.

Changing the library’s name was one of 18 actions recommended by the VCU Committee on Commemorations and Memorials. The Board of Visitors voted in September to de-commemorate the name of the building, and the Virginia Arts and Architecture Review Board subsequently approved VCU’s proposal to remove Confederate names from university facilities. This month, the Board of Visitors affirmed the library’s new name.

“VCU Libraries leadership fully supports this change as we aspire for the VCU Libraries to be safe, inclusive spaces where all are welcome to explore, reflect, learn and more,” said Teresa L. Knott, interim dean of libraries and university librarian.

Emily Hurst, interim associate dean and director of the MCV Campus library, said the new name is more inclusive not only of the community the library serves, but also of its collections and services.

“We are proud to support the students, faculty and staff of all VCU health sciences programs, as well as the important work of health care professionals, including VCU Health employees,” Hurst said. “It is important that the library is a place where our users and employees feel represented and included.”

The library had been named Tompkins-McCaw Library since 1950, when it was named for five members of the Tompkins and McCaw families. One of the namesakes, Sally Tompkins, operated a hospital in Richmond during the Civil War and received a formal commission in the Confederate army. Another namesake, James B. McCaw, served as commandant of the Chimborazo army hospital at the east end of Broad Street.

VCU Facilities Management last week began removing selected plaques, lettered signs and other items in accordance with the Board of Visitors’ resolutions, which also called for the de-commemoration of McGuire Hall, Baruch Auditorium, Ginter House, the Jefferson Davis Memorial Chapel, and the Wood Memorial Building.

In August 2017, VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., charged a work group to conduct an extensive audit of symbols of the Confederacy, racism, slavery, white supremacy and other items of an exclusionary nature on VCU’s campuses following the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The group’s efforts led to the formation of the Committee on Commemorations and Memorials to make recommendations to approve memorials, commemorations and de-commemorations to the president.

On July 7, the committee voted on 18 recommendations and solicited public feedback. The committee received more than 3,000 comments. The recommendations and comments were shared with Rao and then sent to the Board of Visitors for final approval.

VCU Libraries is planning to begin transitioning to the new name in January, and will work to update it on the VCU Libraries’ website, social media, library content management systems and more.

“I hope that our user community will bear with us as we transition to the new, more inclusive name. It will take time to change every use of Tompkins-McCaw Library/TML to Health Sciences Library/HSL,” Knott said. “However, we are happy to be a part of VCU's journey toward being a more inclusive and equitable organization that celebrates the diversity of our community.”

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