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Celebrating a Legacy of Knowledge and Compassion: The Preston Medical Library

The Preston Medical Library, nestled within the heart of the University of Tennessee Medical Center (UTMC), commemorates its enduring history that spans back to 1966. This year will mark a decade since its 2014 relocation to a 10,500 square foot area in the hospital's main lobby. As it celebrates its ten-year relocation anniversary, the library continues its unwavering service to the medical community and the public. It stands as a beacon of knowledge, offering a wealth of resources, innovative services, and compassionate support.

The Preston Medical Library was founded in 1966 thanks to the generosity of Hamilton National Bank. It is named after Howard Payne Preston, a distinguished figure in the banking world who donated $25,000 to transform a room of books and journals into the Preston Medical Library. Over the years, the library has evolved, expanding its services, and embracing innovative technology to meet the ever-changing needs of the medical community.

Currently, the Preston Medical Library offers a variety of services to meet the unique needs of physicians, residents, and medical students. Expert librarians are readily available to assist in literature searches, delving into research related to patient care, lectures, papers, and presentations. Additionally, the library facilitates article and book requests, ensuring that materials not available within its collection can be obtained through interlibrary loans. The library's services extend beyond the University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine (UTGSM) to encompass the broader UTMC team, catering to the diverse needs of healthcare professionals across the institution. In 2023, the library served a total of 4369 unique healthcare patrons: 886 from UTGSM, 3405 from UTMC and 78 other area physicians. For those seeking a quiet and conducive environment for study, the library offers individual and group study spaces, conference rooms, and computer labs, which are available for reservations. The library goes the extra mile by providing custom consultations, where medical professionals can receive personalized instruction and online tutorials on various topics, enhancing their research skills and knowledge base. Furthermore, in a unique collaboration with the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, the library hosts regular canine-assisted stress reduction visits as part of the Human Animal Bond in Tennessee (H.A.B.I.T.) program, enriching the library experience with therapeutic interactions. In 2023, 920 patrons came by to visit the H.A.B.I.T. dogs. These services collectively reflect the library's commitment to providing comprehensive support and fostering a nurturing learning environment for all who seek knowledge within its walls.

Dean Robert M. Craft remarked, "Preston Medical Library is such a beautiful and amazing resource, and its location in the most "prime" real estate of UTMC really exemplifies the campus-wide commitment to education of both patients and providers. The library also serves as a perfect representation of our campus’s history, commitment to excellence, vision for the future, and collaborative spirit." 

Beyond its role as a resource hub for medical professionals, the Preston Medical Library is deeply committed to the community and to the empowerment of patients to partner with their physicians. The library's Health Information Center, an easily accessible space within the hospital, is staffed by certified medical librarians and health information specialists. Here, patients, families, and the public find a wealth of health and wellness information. Any member of the community can request information on a health topic and will receive a packet of information compiled from trusted and easy to understand sources. In 2023 alone, the library welcomed an impressive 76,229 unique visitors through its doors, while interacting with 6,969 individuals to address inquiries. Moreover, the library performed 626 literature searches, answered 4,811 questions, and provided 3,019 articles requested by visitors. In addition to personalized health information, patients and their family members can check out books from the constantly updated patient level health information collection. Consumers value the accuracy and currency of materials and the helpfulness of the staff. Physicians can refer their patients to call, email, or stop by to supplement their own patient education.

"I am privileged to serve as the Director of the Preston Medical Library. This library has always been the heart of the campus, responding to the needs of our physicians, residents, staff, and students," stated Martha Earl. "We are also privileged to serve the nurses, leaders, and clinical and support staff of UT Medical Center, and consumers and patients statewide. Our library exemplifies the best in teamwork, sharing the commitment to healing, education, and discovery."

As the Preston Medical Library celebrates its 10-year relocation anniversary within the hospital, it continues to uphold its mission to assist the University of Tennessee Medical Center in providing excellence in healing, education, and discovery. The library is committed to ensuring access to clinical information through the acquisition, organization, and management of collections. The library also provides exceptional reference, research and instruction for faculty, residents, students and physicians and outreach to the community.With its commitment to advancing medical knowledge and fostering community well-being, the library remains a testament to the power of information and compassion in the healthcare landscape.

Preston Medical Library | The University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine, Knoxville (

Posted: February 14, 2024


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