The Library is listening! We are currently putting together a comprehensive list of Frequently Asked Questions. If you have a question that’s not listed here, please submit it to librarybuildingproject@library.illinois.edu. We realize that a project of this significance will also result in concerns and, well, even occasionally unusual rumors! To that end, we also include a section of Occasionally Expressed Fears (OEFs). Please check back often for more information.


No, the collection in the Main Library will be more focused on the humanities and social sciences and will be equivalent to or larger than that currently held within the building.

No, the sixth addition of the Library’s stacks will remain browsable collection space, gaining approximately 25% for general collections once the Rare Book and Manuscript Library’s vault relocates. Shelving in the newest part of the building should make parts of the collection even more accessible than present. Indeed, in the conceptual design, the entire basement level is devoted to collections.

If only this were true! The plans in the Feasibility Study are only meant to demonstrate that the project is…feasible. The Library worked with Chicago-based Johnson, Lasky, Kindelin (JLK) Architects to develop a conceptual design. Following this year-long process, the next step in the design process will be to engage an architectural firm to develop schematic designs.

The only new structure will be a building that replaces the oldest stack ranges in the Main Library. The Undergraduate Library building will need to be adapted, but the height of the building will not change. The conceptual design for the special collections facility includes a single floor addition which will not shade or shadow the Morrow Plots.


The program envisions replacing the five stack additions located between the older portions of the Main Library Building and the remaining Sixth Stack Addition. The new space will have approximately five floors (basement plus four floors), allowing for the construction of adequate study and collaborative working spaces for students and faculty, departmental library spaces, new shelving, and spaces that will both promote collaborative scholarship and individual study in the humanities and social sciences.

The vision outlined supports that mission. The strength of our collections is a foundation of the proposed project. From the earliest announcement of this project, we intended that the University Library will deliver fully as many volumes as it does today. We also plan to offer a suite of services to enhance our support of scholarship in the humanities and social sciences. The conceptual design outlined in the project’s first phase provides the framework to meet both of those goals. In the next phase, we will utilize that framework to advance our goals.

The University of Illinois built fantastic collections that serve as a magnet to attract the very best teachers and scholars. The vision and conceptual design support the development of an equally fantastic library facility, one that will support undergraduate education, showcase and promote extraordinary collections, and make them available to scholars, faculty, and students in a manner entirely consistent with the University Library’s long history of supporting and bolstering scholarship in all disciplines.

Illinois remains one of the few campuses of its stature without a dedicated facility to house, preserve, and showcase its unique and scarce materials. The vision for a special collections facility located in the current Undergraduate Library Building dates to a feasibility study completed in 2009, which identified that location as an ideal place to be converted into the type of stand-alone facility that will provide the of security and environmental control necessary to preserve those collections. The University Library and members of its special collections units engaged a consultant in 2019 to help determine the exact scope of programming to be supported in this facility. Once this scope was determined, the Library worked with JLK and brightspot to develop a conceptual design that includes the Illinois History and Lincoln Collections, the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and the Student Life and Culture Archives, and significant elements of the University Archives.


Everyone on campus knows that the University Library holds over 14-million volumes. However, many are not aware that only 8.7-million of those items are bound, printed volumes or even where those volumes are located across our system. This chart below provides a fairly concise accounting of the print books, bound journals, musical scores, and other print collections in our holdings. These numbers do not include archival and manuscript collections, microforms, recorded sound collections, maps, or electronic resources. Library personnel gathered significant information in support of the efforts of the Managing the Library’s Collection Working Group. Those recommendations were referred to the Library’s standing Collection Management and Planning Working Group, a body that regularly works with unit heads and subject specialists on various collection management projects.

Locations of Collections Chart

The Main Library Building’s Stacks consist of six additions. These additions are referred to in the University Library as the East Stacks (Additions 1 – 5) and the West Stacks (Addition 6).

While the Library secured funding from the campus to install fire suppression a decade ago, addressed the chimney effect created by the lack of fire barriers in the East Stacks, secured screens for the windows, and addressed the worst effects of the overcrowding, the East Stacks lack effective environmental controls, resulting in an environment that accelerates the deterioration of the collections. Moreover, the space is inaccessible to those that are mobility challenged, lacks basic amenities conducive to the sort of quiet study and scholarship that is valued by so many of our scholars, and is otherwise substandard when compared to the facilities that many of our peer institutions support.

Dating to the mid-1980s, the West Stacks are less challenging. The whole addition possesses solid environmental controls with an exceptional system installed in the two levels occupied by the Rare Book and Manuscript Library’s vault. Fire suppression exists throughout the West Stack addition, as do adequate fire exits and solid environmental controls.

The capacity created by relocating the Rare Book and Manuscript Library from the West Stacks will accommodate a significant portion of the printed volumes within the East Stacks. As the project is completed, we anticipate that a significant portion of the collection will also move into the newly constructed Main Library Building spaces. While the Stacks are being removed and the new building is being constructed, the University Library will need to determine how it will best service the collections. Portions may be moved temporarily to an alternative site on campus or in the local community. That will be determined as the project moves from a conceptual phase to implementation.

The University Library has no intention of withdrawing books expressly to diminish the overall collection size.

The policies that govern the management and deduplication of collections include:

Retention Policies in the Digital Age
This policy has remained unchanged since its initial approval in 2001, and with the notable exception that the State Procurement Code was amended to permit sale of surplus collections, the policy remains in effect and without amendment. It remains a keystone for managing the Library’s collections.

UIUC Library Withdrawal Policy and Procedure
Approved by the Library’s Collection Development Committee in 2010, this policy has also remained unchanged since its initial approval. It details existing policies that govern how we make many decisions about which materials from our collection may be withdrawn and what procedures are utilized to ensure that they are properly accounted for and handled.

The Library is party to three primary programs that leverage our historic strength as a repository while helping to ensure continued access to collections.

CARLI Last Copy Program

Nearly a decade ago, the University Library partnered with CARLI to develop and implement a mechanism to ensure that printed monographs of scholarly import will remain accessible to our patrons. Over the last decade, the University of Illinois added an average of 1,879 different monographic titles per year to its holdings through this program.

HathiTrust Shared Print Program

Following initiation of the program’s operational phase, the University Library made a commitment in early 2018 to retain 1.5-million monographic titles in its collection that corresponded to monographic titles digitized and available via the HathiTrust. This program provides a mechanism for ensuring that research libraries can continue to provide access to printed monograph collections into the future.

Big Ten Academic Alliance (BTAA) Shared Print Repository 1.0 & 2.0

In an effort to ensure that access to journal content is preserved as libraries deduplicate highly-redundant journal volumes when online backfiles are available, in 2011 the BTAA initiated planning around a Shared Print Repository program. By 2013, the BTAA outlined a program and began implementing its first phase, with Indiana University serving as the hub for approximately 250,000 volumes retained on behalf of the membership.

In 2015, the BTAA began a second phase of this program, proposing to retain a further 250,000 volumes at Illinois. With many of the larger, STEM-oriented publishers’ journals being retained at Indiana as part of the first phase, the second phase focuses more heavily on key humanities and social sciences publications published by societies and currently available via JSTOR and other online content providers. By March 2020, the University Library added over 150,000 volumes that are held locally and are also available online in full text. By focusing on locally-held items, personnel in the library maximized the local impact while minimizing our commitment to housing materials not part of our existing holdings.

There are no plans to decrease the size of the collection to fit into the proposed facility. Retention and collection management decisions are governed by the aforementioned policies. The University Library is committed to preserving collections and sharing them generously with our local and consortial patrons.

The net assignable square feet in the Undergraduate Library is equal to 68,623 square feet. The net assignable square feet in all of the spaces occupied by the Illinois History and Lincoln Collections, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, and University Archives is 71,410 square feet. However, this volume includes storage locations in the basement of the Child Development Lab and at the Horticultural Field Lab totaling over 13,000 square feet.

The existing square footage of the Undergraduate Library exceeds the space allocated to the Illinois History and Lincoln Collections, the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, and the University Archives by over 10,000 square feet.

The University Library is committed to supporting the mail option for delivery of materials on campus. While the construction will result in materials being moved during construction, plans will be developed that seek to maximize access to the collections.

Currently, economical expansion of the Oak Street Library Facility (where approximately four million items are currently housed) is not feasible as the building has nearly reached the limits of the site and the surrounding properties are occupied by other buildings. Preliminary discussions have started with other units on campus and among libraries on the other UI-system universities about the possibility of a shared storage facility. Such models exist at other academic institutions, and the potential exists for a similar facility to develop on the Urbana campus in the coming years.


The University Library will attempt to meet all environmental standards in the construction as employed on this campus.

During construction, it is likely that the project will impact adjacent parking. The long-term impact will be determined as the project is more fully fleshed out.

In the conceptual design, the first floor is reserved primarily for lively collaboration, group study, and public event functions. Courtyards are enclosed at the first floor for spill over space from adjacent areas and to allow for more direct circulation between spaces that are otherwise disconnected. Within the Hub, the first and second floors are connected via a 2-story space that surrounds the main circulation area. Departmental libraries are co-located on the second floor, allowing adjacency and ease of access to users on first and third floors. The Media Commons, Scholarly Commons, and Cooperative Research Commons are located on the third floor while quiet study areas and staff offices are on the fourth, isolated from noise on lower levels.

A café is envisioned in the new building space.

No. In fact, we will be reducing the overall space footprint.

The primary focus is on the spaces corresponding to Stacks 1 -5. It is the Library’s intent to integrate programs when appropriate without necessarily changing the character of the historic portions of the Main Library Building.

Yes. Any project of this nature requires that all renovated or newly constructed spaces meet the legal requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Library’s Programming the Main Library Working Group encouraged the architectural firm to consider incorporating universal design principles into their planning, and the resulting conceptual designs sought to address as many accessibility issues of the existing building as possible. This includes suggestions for looking at the north and south entrances to the Main Library Building, examining how construction can ensure that floors in the historic Main Library and the infill construction line up, and determining how we might improve access throughout the building.

There are no plans to consolidate departmental libraries as part of this process.

Yes, additional details will be determined during the project’s next phase, but there shall be improvements to accessibility to, at minimum, comply with campus guidelines and ADA requirements. In the current conceptual design, main access points to the stacks will be from the first and second floors while secured access is available at all floors. The loading dock has been moved to the southwest corner of the building with the intention of sharing this space with the future instructional facility. Relocation of this service area to the south elevation of the building will allow the north elevation to be further beautified and become a more prominent entrance to the library while also addressing some the inaccessibility of the current entry.

The University Library will endeavor to ensure that construction is minimally disruptive; however, it’s hard to imagine a program such as this being implemented with absolutely no impact on patron services.

Some of this is, of course, to be determined. As we work through the conceptual model and begin solidifying details with the programming team, the steps toward implementation will become increasingly clear, allowing us to determine where these services will be located during an interim period.


Funding is likely to come from a number of sources, including state capital budget allocations, private donations, and university funding.

Although we will not embark on an active fundraising campaign until 2020, early gifts and capital funding have helped us to get a solid start on fundraising efforts.


At present, the project scope is best understood by reviewing the project vision. As the project is advanced, additional information will be provided on this website.

If the stars align, the Gies College of Business will lead in building a separate structure that will serve as a shared campus instructional facility. That effort is entirely unrelated to, and in no way affects, the Library’s building project.

A reasonable timeline for this project is that it will take approximately five years from the project kick-off until the project completion.

The University Library is working among its own personnel to establish working groups focused on programming the facility.

Dean Wilkin and others in the University Library have been actively working with members of the University’s faculty and is soliciting input from members of the campus community via direct communication, informal conversations, and formal.

More discussions are being planned and we are hoping for vigorous engagement from the faculty.