News & Events

Two Firms to Design Archives, Special Collections Home

Two firms will lead the way in designing the new archives and special collections building, a decision that kicks off the first phase of the Library’s transformational, multi-stage Building Project.

“This news should delight all Library Friends,” said Douglas Fitzgerald, ’76 BUS, who serves on the Library Board of Advocates. “It ensures responsible stewardship of the treasures that are housed in archives and special collections.”

Added Andreas Cangellaris, vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Illinois’ Urbana-Champaign campus, “This is a vital first step forward to ensure that our University Library continues to provide the vibrant heartbeat our university needs to continue to be one of the most influential universities in the world.”

Champaign-based RATIO Architects and Boston-based Shepley Bulfinch will take the space currently occupied by the Undergraduate Library and reshape it into a home for Archives, the Illinois History and Lincoln Collections, and the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The two
national firms were specifically selected for their experience in designing and renovating facilities intended to house special collections materials, and for their appreciation for the input of preservation consultants. Read more about their work at

Of 25 proposals received after requests opened last fall, seven were selected to give presentations.

“The RATIO/Shepley Bulfinch proposal rose to the top,” said Thomas Teper, associate university librarian for collections and technical services, and project director of the Library Building Project. “The evaluation team was particularly impressed by the comprehensive expertise of the successful bidders.”

The Undergraduate Library has been a campus fixture since 1969, but 40 years later, plans began circulating to reconstitute it as an ideal site for archives and special collections. Delayed by the ensuing nationwide recession, those plans resurfaced in 2018. Following extensive campus consultations, discussions, town halls, committee work, and other feedback, the two architectural and engineering firms were selected for the renovation. Broad consultations will continue as part of the ongoing process, culminating in a 2024 opening.

The enterprise hosts a $46 million budget, of which approximately $40 million has been secured so far. The transformation of the Undergraduate Library space comprises the first part of the visionary Library Building Project, which will redevelop the
century-old Main Library into a rich hub of research and learning for the humanities and social sciences.

“Our extraordinary rare and archival collections have long deserved a home commensurate with their quality,” said John P. Wilkin, the Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Dean of Libraries and University Librarian. “The completion of this work will allow us to make them available and preserve them for future generations of scholars.”

Not to mention the sheer delight the renovation will generate among its users. “I just wish someone in the physics department would get busy and bend time so I could be an undergrad again when it is all finished,” Fitzgerald said.

For more information on the selected firms, visit and

This news should delight all Library Friends. It is collection-centric, it puts the library firmly on the path toward realizing the innovative plan that will benefit all users, and it ensures responsible stewardship of the treasures that are housed in archives and special collections.” ~Doug Fitzgerald, Library Board of Advocates Member

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