The University Library

Sunny library facade with an open book in the foreground and pages curled into the spine to form the shape of a heart. The Main Library at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is the forward facing structure that represents the second largest university library collection in the United States. It was purposely built away from the center of campus, a break from traditional campus planning, to allow the building to expand. This proved necessary; the library's holdings grew from 649,924 volumes in 1926 to one million volumes in 1935. The structure was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 2000.

Beloved and ever-evolving, the University Library has drawn a range of gifts, including a $2.5M pledge for revisioning and renovation from the Shebik family (Steven E., ’78 BUS, ’78 BUS, and Megan M. Shebik, ’80 LAS). The planned Archives and Special Collections facility inspired a gift of $500,000 for a reading room from Richard, ’73 LAS, and Conna Oram, ’72 LAS, and $1M for an exhibition space from Jim, ’66 BUS, MS ’69 BUS, and Lionelle Elsesser, ’66 LAS, MS ’67 BUS. The Elsessers also donated $775,000 for the acquisition of Fields of Fire, an early 18th century book about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, and a manuscript by Sir Isaac Newton; these volumes are housed in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, which also received an archive that chronicles daily Jewish life in the Midwest. Other contributions include funds for upgrades to the Communications Library, the dedication of printer’s mark windows in the Reading Room, and support for the Classics Library and research in Greek and Roman antiquity.