Louis Geiger was a member of the UND History Department in the 1950s and 1960s and was a central figure in the creation of the Department of Special Collections at the University of North Dakota. For the seventy-fifth anniversary of UND, Geiger wrote The University of the Northern Plains which remains an important examination of the University’s history from 1883-1958. This installment reflects Geiger’s interpretation of the library facilities at UND through seventy years. The majority of content recited here is taken from Geiger’s The University of the Northern Plains.
In Part 1 of “UND Libraries Through the Eyes of Geiger,” we reviewed the history of library facilities on UND’s campus from 1883-1908. Before 1908, the newly founded University committed few resources to the establishment of a library; mainly because it struggled to remain open and barely received sufficient funding from the state legislature.
However, by 1908 UND experienced a small amount of prosperity and began rapidly expanding. Not only were student and faculty populations increasing, but also more departments were created and more courses were offered. This growth demanded the construction of new buildings. With over 5,000 volumes in the reading room in Old Main, there was an obvious need for a separate library building. In 1906 a $30,000 dollar grant for the library was approved, and in 1908 the new library building was donated by Andrew Carnegie.
Carnegie (1835-1919) was one of the most successful businessman in the steel industry, and conveniently lived at a time when the steel industry was enormously prosperous due to railroad development. Later in life, Carnegie became a philanthropist, donating millions of dollars to build over 1,500 libraries across the U.S.! In North Dakota alone, Carnegie donated funds for eleven libraries.
The new UND Carnegie Library was a vast improvement compared to the old reading room, however Geiger explains that it “was to prove inadequate almost from the beginning. [President Webster] Merrifield was fully aware of this but was unable to persuade the legislature of 1907 to add $30,000 to the Carnegie gift.” (143) The building’s original blueprints had a third floor, however limited funds prevented such construction, and space was always limited. In addition, President Merrifield donated the land on which the Carnegie Library was built, and he funded the book stacks.
The red brick and stone trim style of the Carnegie Library, designed by the architectural firm Patton and Miller of Chicago, set a precedent for the appearance of buildings on campus that is still followed today. The Carnegie building housed UND’s book collections until 1928, when, over 60,000 volumes were moved to the Commons. Since 1928, the Carnegie building has been used for multiple purposes; today it houses the Office of Enrollment Services. This ends the second installment of “UND Libraries Through the Eyes of Geiger.” The next installment will discuss more about the Carnegie Library between 1908 and 1928, as well as introduce the Commons, the third building used as a library at UND.
To visit the Carnegie Building, set up a tour of UND’s Campus, or to speak with Enrollment Services call (701) 777-4463, visit firstname.lastname@example.org, or stop by Carnegie Hall Room 100, 250 Centennial Drive.
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