Library Buildings: Altgeld Hall, University of Illinois

University Library, 1907
“University Library, 1907,” RS 99/1/15

Another significant collection at the American Library Association Archives is the Library Building Photographs, Record Series 99/1/15.

Compiled from numerous creators and spanning over one hundred years of documentation, these images offer both a broad geographic and historical perspective of libraries.  These buildings range from magnificent classic libraries to quirky traveling book mobiles.

As a graduate student at the University of Illinois, I was intrigued to find a photograph of the University Library.

With sweeping columns and arches, it bears no resemblance to our current Library.  Was it before a remodel?  According to the Mathematics Department’s history page, the University Library moved to its new building (our current Library) in 1926 and Altgeld Hall was divided between the Department of Mathematics and the Law School, before completely transferring to the Mathematics Department in the mid-1950s.[2]

Undergoing several additions and renovations, the original stained glass dome of the rotunda was replaced in the early forties by a plaster dome inscribed with the names of U. S. Chief Justices of the Supreme Court to that date.  In the final 1956-57 addition, additional classrooms were added, “resulting in the blocking of many windows of the original structure and the enclosure of the East Reading Room.  The skylight that had been over the stained glass dome was also removed at that time.”  The Librarian’s Office was also converted to a Men’s Room and hallway.[3] Although compromising the original opulence of the building, the renovations itself serve as a testament to functional demands of a growing university.

For more information:

Department of Mathematics’ History of Altgeld Hall

Altgeld Past and Present Interior and Exterior Photographs

Library Building Photographs Digital Collection at the ALA Archives

Other Digital Collections at the ALA Archives