Undergraduate Library celebrates 40 years

Library archive photo of the Undergraduate Library after its construction. The library is now celebrating 40 years of service. Undergraduate Library

Library archive photo of the Undergraduate Library after its construction. The library is now celebrating 40 years of service. Undergraduate Library

By Wesley Deberry

Sept. 21, 2006, marked the 40-year anniversary of the groundbreaking to build the Undergraduate Library. In 2009, another celebratory day will take place in its history, as it marks the 40th anniversary of the grand opening of the library. In the east lobby of the Main Library, an exhibit opened on April 4 commemorating the Undergraduate Library’s 40 years of service to students at the University of Illinois.

With 50,000 visitors in the month of March alone, the Undergraduate Library has served as a late-night second home to many University students. For Ron Westbrooks, senior in LAS, the Undergraduate Library was the first library that he was introduced to as a freshman.

“It’s the premier library,” Westbrooks said. As a senior, he still spends two or three days out of the week at the Undergraduate Library.

The storied history of the Undergraduate Library began with a discussion of the “Undergraduate Climate at the University” during the third President’s Faculty Conference in 1959, according to the UIHistories Project Web site. This discussion lead to the resolution to construct a library specifically for undergraduates. The total cost to build the 98,689 square foot library was over $4.2 million.

While the Undergraduate Library is getting older, it still serves undergraduate students. Since Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe took over as head of the Undergraduate Library in 2003, there have been many innovations. Ten iMac computers, 20 laptops, a number of portable hard drives and portable DVD players are all at students’ disposal at the Undergraduate Library.

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    “Students need access to much more technology than in the past, so we have improved our media offerings as well as added to technology,” Hinchliffe said. “What we’re trying to do, both informally and through more formal mechanisms, is gather feedback from students and then act on that.”

    Mi Jeon, freshman in LAS, admits that the technology is a big part of the reason why she chooses to study at the Undergraduate Library rather than others. However, to Jeon, the Undergraduate Library offers her something that no technology can give: a good atmosphere to study.

    “I don’t like to study in a quiet place, and here you can talk with your friends,” Jeon said.

    Despite the technological innovations and the atmosphere of the Undergraduate Library, there are still areas that need improvement after its 40 years of servicing students. The furniture of the Undergraduate Library has been there since the grand opening in 1969, and there is a limited amount of power outlets for laptop computers, Hinchliffe said.

    She is working with the funds budgeted to the Undergraduate Library and the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics to remedy these issues to ensure that the library keeps serving the needs of the students.

    “It’s a serious academic space,” Hinchliffe said. “But it’s there for the students.”