History of the Museum Building

June 6, 2016

Editor's Note: The ASM Library is located in the historic reading room of the University of Arizona's former Main Library. The article that follows gives a description of the building a few years after construction was completed in 1925.

By Estelle L. Luttrell,  Librarian
The Library Journal, November 15, 1927

The new library building at the University of Arizona at Tucson was partly occupied two years ago. The decoration of the main reading room was finished and the equipment procured last spring, the heating apparatus for the stacks was not installed until the summer just past and the dedication exercises were held in the outdoor reading room and patio on October 23.

Lyman & Place, local architects, designed the building which is modern Renaissance in style. It is of steel frame construction, with reinforced concrete floors and roof slabs, the latter covered with Spanish tile in harmony with the other buildings of the University. It is a three story building of red, rug-faced brick with terra cotta trim. It covers a ground area of one hundred and ninety-five by one hundred and ten feet, and cost about $175,000 with equipment. The woodwork throughout the interior is of Mexican amapa.

Three arched doorways open into the main lobby from the front. The side walls of the lobby are finished in Italian Tavernelle claire marble with Tavernelle rose base, the floor and stairways in pink Tennessee marble tile. Two exhibition cases form insets in the front wall. To the right of the entrance is the reserved book room seating one hundred twenty-five readers; this in turn opens into an outdoor reading room, which provides for thirty additional readers. This room is well adapted to the needs of an Arizona climate, is used throughout the year, and is unique of its kind in college libraries. On the left of the entrance is a large room temporarily assigned to the law library, but intended to supply further space for the reserved books as the demand increases.

Two rooms, assigned for the present as class rooms, complete the ground floor. In the center, is the stairway leading to the loan desk and the main reading room.

The main reading room, one hundred twenty-five by forty feet is especially inviting with its nine large arched windows which look to the south, framing pictures of the surrounding mountains; its woodwork in dark tinted Mexican amapa and beamed ceiling decorated in dull, rich colors suggest an Italian court room of the sixteenth century. Bookcases around the room will shelve about eight thousand volumes. Opening from the eastern end of this room is the special reading room.

The periodical room opens from the west end. Further expansion of space for periodicals is provided for in the use of the entire west end of the second floor for this purpose. The card catalog is in a room to the right of the delivery desk and near the reading room. The delivery desk, also of Tavernelle marble, is opposite the entrance into the reading room, with doors into the stacks directly in the rear. The administrative offices and divisions for the staff are at the north-east of this same floor, the catalog room being immediately above the receiving room in the basement and connected there by an electric elevator. The basement containing three rooms and a fire-proof vault, provides an unpacking room, storage for duplicates, and a room for the ventilating apparatus.

On the third floor are the staff rooms and fifteen seminar rooms with shelves for books especially assigned to students doing advanced work. The steel stacks have five tiers connected by an electric elevator and afford space for the shelving of 225,000 books with ample ground space at the north for a stack extension. The floors of the stack are of Vermont marble, with alcoves on each tier. On the fifth tier are locked cases for valuable books, and a map case. Label holders project from the stacks into the aisles for the easy location of books. The windows lighting the alcoves down each side are of wire plate glass. Automatic fire doors safeguard against the approach of fire from the interior of the building.

The library houses at present about 69,000 volumes and contains a special collection of Arizonianna and of books by Mexican writers.

Technical equipment is provided by the Library Bureau and the stacks are by Snead and Company.