$150 million set aside for two research buildings

by Matthew McNierney and Amelia Acosta | 7/5/12 10:00pm

At its spring meeting on June 8, the Dartmouth Board of Trustees finalized a $150-million building construction plan that will create the new North Campus Academic Center in Hanover and the Williamson Translational Research Building in Lebanon, according to a college press release. Although construction planning is still in its earliest stages, community members are hopeful that its interdisciplinary aims to increase space and resources for College programs will be realized.

The North Campus building will constitute approximately 122,000 square feet, filled by 18 new classrooms, research facilities and academic centers for two social sciences departments, the release said. The building will be located on campus at the current location of Gilman Life Sciences Laboratory and Dana Biomedical Library while the WTRB will be built at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center next to the Borwell Research Facility, according to Director of Media Relations for the College Justin Anderson. Anderson declined to comment on when the construction will start, and on which social sciences departments will be located in the new space.

The College also plans to move the Dana Biomedical Library, currently located adjacent to the Geisel School of Medicine, to North Campus with the goal of increasing dialogue between multiple facilities on campus, including the medical school, The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice and the Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science, according to the release.

Moving the Dana Biomedical Library to North Campus will enable the space to embody a "more modern idea of a library," with spaces for individual and group study alongside the library's collection of journals and books, according to Laura Cousineau, the director of the biomedical libraries. The close proximity of faculty and students from different departments will make the building a "collision space," Cousineau said.

"It's really a perfect physical opportunity for people to get together and collaborate," she said.

When the construction of the North Campus facility is complete, Cousineau said she hopes the study spaces will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for students. Although keeping the library open at all times will not require hiring any additional staff, the College will need to address issues of security, according to Cousineau.

TDI Associate Director Rick Johnson said that the shared space will solidify existing relationships between the health care-focused areas of the Dartmouth community.

"We already work closely with the [Center for Health Care Delivery Science] now, so having them and most of Geisel in the same building will be great for communication on health policy and clinical practice," Johnson said. "In addition, we're trying to figure out what the synergy will be with the social science departments. I expect there will be a lot of collaborative work."

In order to effectively move the library without interrupting the services it provides, Cousineau said that the library and its collections will be moving to temporary locations while the North Campus building is still under construction. Classrooms and office space will be relocated to "the heart of where medical students are now" at 37 Dewey Field Road, while the print collection will be moved to climate-controlled storage close to campus, she said. Books stored off campus will be available to students within 24 hours of any request, according to Cousineau.

The construction of the Williamson Translational Research Building will hopefully help the Geisel School become more prominent as a medical school, with a focus on interdisciplinary medicine, problem solving and laboratory work in neuroscience, cancer and immunology, according to the release.

Alhough much of the increased space is designed to benefit Dartmouth's graduate programs, the closer physical connection will also make undergraduate collaboration more common, Johnson said.

"The institute already has two master's programs and we do a lot of work with graduates, but having the ability to actually be down on campus will benefit both us and undergraduates," he said. "The larger space will mean increased educational offerings."

Johnson cited the increased space and proximity to the center of campus, as well as to other College organizations, as some of the main benefits of the move. While TDI will remain committed to research, education and engagement, it will be able to increase the "scale and scope of these commitments," Johnson said.

Johnson called the opportunity for a central location on campus "very exciting" for TDI.

The North Campus facility and the Williamson Translational Research Building will be the College's second and third major construction undertakings this year the Black Family Visual Arts Center, which will be the new home of the studio art department, film and media studies department and the recently established digital humanities program, is scheduled to open in September 2012.

Staff writer Jenny Che contributed reporting to this article.

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