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Abbott Hall boasts rich history of medicine, architecture

Health Sciences Library provides study services with a relic approach


The library at Abbott Hall is still in operation over a third of a century since it opened, preserving its history in its collection and architecture. The building features vintage woodwork study areas, like the Austin Flint Reading Room’s carved interior lit up by chandeliers. The library houses students in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences as well as dental students and others.

Amongst the library’s study spaces and computers is an extensive collection of medical and dental instruments. The Robert L. Brown collection is equipped with pieces from medicine’s past, some of which date back to Roman times. The collection features everything from 13th century texts on health regimens to pieces on homeopathic treatment.

“We have things in the collection like old treatment machines and blood pressure gadgets from the ‘60s,” said Linda Lohr, a librarian with the collection. “So history is always moving, so what you think is new suddenly becomes historical. It’s representative of all the health sciences.”

On the building’s front, a stone still notes Lockwood Library. Before Lockwood’s name shifted to North Campus in 1979, Thomas Brown Lockwood made a $500,000 pledge toward the original library in 1929. Some of Lockwood’s collection of rare books and manuscripts were held, preserving the collection for future use.

Also intact is the building’s main reading room, which has Kittinger craftwork and timed table lamps from decades past. The room, designed by library architect E.B. Green, takes notes from the Hatfield House in Hertfordshire, England. The room’s mantel was lifted from England’s Canonbury Tower.

“All of that imagery on the mantel was done by craftsmen who worked for the Kittinger Company,” said Pam Rose, a librarian at Abbott Hall for over 50 years.

“The people who were staff here during the ‘80s fought hard to make sure the reading room was not damaged when renovations were taking place. The architect was on our side. He listened to the concerns.”

On the third floor is the James Platt White reading room, reserved for special occasions. The room –– which officially belongs to the president’s office –– overlooks the city of Buffalo and Ontario, Canada. The room originally was the librarian’s office, but has now been used for everything from wedding engagements to a filming location for local Super Bowl ads.

The room also serves a special purpose for international students, who are invited to visit the library as part of a program run by Dr. Mary Hurley of D’Youville College. Hurley co-founded the school’s annual anatomy conference, which involves medical students from Italy.

“The books in the room were originally here for atmosphere, but Hurley thought she could give each student a book,” Rose said. “In Italy, students learn about gross anatomy through things like books, so having a book from here is like gold.”

Aside from the reading room, the hall hosts the library for the school of Architecture & Planning. There, students can explore the works of local figures like Frank Lloyd Wright to Frederick Olmsted.

Matthew Gadziala, a graduate assistant working in the history of medicine collection, relishes the opportunity to work hands-on at the library.

“It is not enough to just learn about working in a library in a classroom. You have to go and experience it yourself,” Gadziala said.

“Not only have I gotten the chance to gain experience working in a special collection, I have also gotten the chance to see how the various sections of the library work. I’ve [obtained] a newfound interest in special collections which I would have never known without this experience.”

Both Lohr and Rose see working in the library as one of the most rewarding experiences in their lives.

“I could have retired by now, so there must be something keeping me here,” Rose said. “We have all served on reference at a time when we’ve gotten a call from a physician who has a patient in front of him, saying I need this article and I need it right now. You’re affecting patients’ lives at many levels and to think that you might have a part in making someone well is immeasurable.”

Benjamin Blanchet is the senior features editor and can be reached at

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