The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.
General Library Building

For many years the old library building, with its semicircular apse and twin towers, was adequate for the needs of the University. It stood at the center of the campus, and throughout a period of thirty-seven years the life of the University revolved around it. Eventually, however, it became too small and too crowded and because it was partly of wooden construction it offered a grave fire hazard to the University's book collections which were increasing in value every year. In January, 1915, therefore, the Regents asked the legislature for an appropriation of $350,000 to build a new library building. This request was granted, but the amount proved to be inadequate, and in 1919 an additional $200,000 was appropriated to which the Regents added $65,000, the final cost of the building and equipment being $645,000.

In 1915 William Warner Bishop became Librarian. He gave extended study, based on his long experience as a professional librarian, to the type of building which would best fill the needs of a rapidly growing university. The design evolved by the architect, Albert Kahn, of Detroit, in co-operation with Bishop, followed the plan of the University of California and the Harvard libraries and included many features unique at that time.

The contract for the construction was authorized by the Regents at their June, 1916, meeting. The University Buildings and Grounds Department served as general contractor, and Professor John F. Shepard represented the University as superintendent of construction. The Library was dedicated at exercises held in Hill Auditorium on January 7, 1920. Bishop, as Librarian, and Kahn, as architect, spoke preceding the principal address by R. R. Bowker, of New York, editor of the Library Journal.

The Library Building, which stands on the site of the first Library, is 177 feet long, 200 feet deep, and four stories high, with two bookstacks built at right angles to the old stacks, which were retained in the new structure. The two "new" stacks, the first part of the building to be crected, were used as reading and study rooms as well as for library administration during the construction of the main part of the building Page  1634By utilizing the old stacks, some $150,000 was saved, and it was possible to delay moving the books until the new stacks were ready to receive them. The old fireproof bookstacks were five stories high; the eight floors of new stacks on either side are so constructed that they may be extended to fifteen stories, bridging the old stacks by girders carried on specially designed columns.

The gross floor area of the Library Building is given in the University records as 151,206 square feet. It was so designed that the books were housed in the center and rear, with the reading rooms in front and special reading rooms and workrooms at the side. This brought the focal point for the delivery of books to the center of the building, where a book carrier was installed to take them to the delivery corridor on the second floor.

The building is constructed entirely of reinforced concrete and employs a system of regularly spaced concrete piers which afford an unusual amount of light as well as the necessary strength and protection against fire. These advantages were obtained at twenty-five cents a cubic foot, a very small cost, even in that period. Further protection from fire was secured by enclosing the stairways in the stacks with glass and steel, with every other floor cut off from those above and below. The stacks in the "new" part at either side were designed for workrooms as well as for book storage, and 122 cubicles or carrells containing shelves and tables for the use of research workers were provided. In the stacks are the Rare Book Rooms, and distributed among the carrells and book shelves are specially constructed cases for the folio material.

The basement of the building houses a receiving room, machinery room, and staff quarters; it also accommodates one study hall.

On the first floor the wide main entrance hallway, with floors and walls of marble, is attractively decorated in a Pompeian motif and lined with exhibition cases in which various selections from the Library are shown.

At the right of the main entrance is a large study hall. On the east side of the main hall are the offices and workrooms of the ordering, classifying, and cataloguing departments of the Library. This room affords flexibility of arrangement and avoids congestion. On the first floor, near the west entrance, there is also a lecture room, while beyond, on the lower floor of the west stack wing, is the study hall and library for graduate students registered in the Department of Library Science.

Broad marble staircases on either side of the hall lead to the main delivery corridor on the second floor, the heart of the Library, which contains the card catalogues, the circulation desk, and the delivery counter. An elevator is also available.

Opposite the delivery counter on the north side of the building, is the main reading room, which measures 175 by 50 feet, and is 50 feet high at the center of the barrel-vaulted ceiling. Huge windows 9 feet wide and 19 1/2 feet high afford ample light. The room seats about 300 readers. The general lighting system is indirect, with lights over the study tables and above the bookcases which line the walls. These bookcases contain a careful selection of reference books, available to all readers for consultation. In the lunettes above the windows at either end of the reading room are frescoes by Gari Melchers, "The Arts of War" and "The Arts of Peace," painted in 1893 for the Manufactures Building at the World's Fair in Chicago, and later presented to the University.

The administrative offices of the Library are at the east end of the delivery corridor, and at the west end Page  1635is a periodical reading room. On the third and fourth floors, three graduate reading rooms with libraries of 8,000 volumes are open to students. The fourth floor, in addition to the graduate reading room for history and political science and several seminar rooms, also houses the library and reading room of the Center for Japanese Studies. The seminar rooms on these two floors are used by the Department of Library Science and also, because of the shortage of classrooms, by other departments of the University as well. The Library Extension is also housed on the third floor. Altogether the Library, with its study halls, seminar rooms, and carrells, has seats for 1,000 readers.