History of Mass General

In September, the Warren Library will transition from a physical space in the Bulfinch Basement to a mobile source of paperback books, magazines and other materials operated by Volunteer Services.

A new chapter for the Warren Library

15/Jun/2012

HEALING WORDS: The Warren Library, shown in this archival photo, has transported materials directly to patients for many years.

MGH co-founder John Collins Warren, MD, said treating a patient’s ailment went beyond the physical. For a patient to properly heal, the mind also must be treated. This idea led the MGH in 1841 to form the Warren Library, the first general hospital library in the country. Since then the library has provided books, audiobooks, music, magazines and videos to thousands of patients, aiding in their healing process.

In September, the Warren Library will transition from a physical space in the Bulfinch Basement to a mobile source of paperback books, magazines and other materials operated by Volunteer Services. The decision was based on the changing needs of the hospital and the needs of today’s patients, says Jeff Davis, senior vice president of Human Resources.

“The patients of today come with their own sources of entertainment,” Davis says. “They have computers, eBook readers and smartphones with them when they arrive.”

Circulation numbers at the Warren Library have decreased dramatically. In the 1970s, the library circulated 50,000 books per year. Today, that number is less than 500 per year. In addition, concerns about infection control make it no longer safe for books to be circulated among patients over and over again. “We will continue to offer patients reading materials at the bedside, but the materials will be ones that they can take with them when they go home,” Davis says.

The transition will be complete by the end of September, and a celebration commemorating the library’s past and future will be held at that time. Changes to the space will be made throughout the summer.



Read more articles from the 6/15/12 Hotline issue.