By Erin George
If all goes well, a new library will be underway
Plans for the West Bank library were announced in the March 1964 issue of the University of Minnesota Staff Bulletin with a somewhat hopeful tone, “If all goes well, a new library will be underway on the Minneapolis campus west bank within three or four years.” The Minnesota Legislature had appropriated $4.2 million – about half of what was needed – for the library.
Plans for a library on the West Bank campus had been discussed and debated for years, but financial and other support for a new library finally came together in June 1965. Funding was a combination of federal grants under Title I (funds for construction of undergraduate facilities) and Title II (funds for construction of graduate research facilities) of the 1963 Higher Education Facilities Act and appropriations from the 1963 and 1965 state legislatures. Additional funding needed to complete the entire structure above and below ground was secured in 1967.
Wilson Library opened to the campus community on September 23, 1968.
In May 1967, the Board of Regents approved naming the new West Bank library in honor of President O. Meredith Wilson. The building dedication was held May 13, 1969, and the event program noted, “Naming the new library for O. Meredith Wilson is an act of singular felicity. Without Dr. Wilson’s creative foresight and his creative energy, this great implement of education might be a ‘need’ or a ‘hope’ rather than an already-used and valued facility.”
What was student reaction to the “new” library? Random Magazine began publication in 1969 as a journal of student literary and artistic expression. A photo essay by Richard Olsenius entitled “Lost in Space: Impressions of Wilson Library” was featured in the January 1970 issue.
—Erin George is the University Archives Research Services Archivist. To learn more about the University of Minnesota Archives, please visit www.lib.umn.edu/uarchives.