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Du Bois Library

Constructed: 1971-1973

Architects: Edward Durrell Stone, New York, N.Y.


Du Bois Library
Du Bois Library
Library reflected in pond
Du Bois Library interior, Oct. 1974

Design and construction

Rising twenty-eight stories into the Pioneer Valley sky, this monumental building is one of the defining architectural features of the UMass landscape. The outer surface of the Library is clad with a brick veneer intended to harmonize with its surroundings. The original entrance to the Library was through doors on a lower level that opened to the Campus Pond; this floor now houses the reference area. A beautiful courtyard at this level was refurbished by library staff and volunteers in 1998. Take the elevator to the 23rd floor for a spectacular view of the campus and surrounding hills, and for an appreciation of the architect's gridded design: the sunken courtyard and surrounding pavement provide a visual counterpoint to the tower. In the Department of Special Collections and University Archives on the 25th floor, you will find a superlative collection of the noted Civil Rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois, for whom the library was named. Recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the tallest library in the world, the W.E.B. Du Bois Library houses over three million volumes.

Du Bois Library Building History

Ground for the new library was broken on April 1969. The initial $14.4 million budget ($16.8, including the cost of equipment and furniture) covered the costs of constructing a 27 story building to accommodate over 4,240 occupants. Designed by the noted firm of Edward Durrell Stone, the 296.5 foot tall Library has been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's tallest library building.

Naming of the building

From Trustee Document T94-096:

"As we march into the Twenty First Century we feel that it is time to go beyond the colorline and appropriately name the tower library in honor of one of the finest heroes, not only of Massachusetts but of the world--William Edward Burghardt Du Bois."

The dedication events, February 20-23, 1996, included student and faculty teach-in activities on the life and times of W.E.B. Du Bois; a concert of spirituals and readings from The Souls of Black Folk, arranged by Professor Horace Boyer; a lecture by David Levering Lewis, Pulitzer Prize winning author of W.E.B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868-1909; a dedication ceremony in Special Collections and Archives; and a convocation celebrating the life of W.E.B. Du Bois, with the awarding of honorary degrees to Herbert Aptheker, Rachel Robinson, and Randall Robinson.

Myths and legends

Since its earliest days, the Library Tower (as it was originally called) has been the subject of speculation, rumors, practical jokes, and the occasional structural problem.

  • Was the building actually designed as a library? Yes. The architects had a highly theorized view of how it would function, with floors organized into groups of three. For every floor of offices and carrels devoted to a single department or subject area, the floors above and below would contain books to support research in that area. The plan never came to full fruition.
  • Are the bricks falling? Well, yes. Within two months of the opening of the new Library Tower, brick chips began to fall from the side of the tower.
  • Is the Library sinking into the ground? Not so much. According to one version of the rumor, the architect did not account for the weight of the books when designing the building and as a result, the heavier than expected library was subsiding slowly into the earth. A different variant of the rumor maintains that the building was built on pond-saturated ground, leading to sinking.

Source

  • From Three Architectural Tours: Selected Buildings on the Campus of the University of Massachusetts Amherst (Amherst, 2000)
  • For additional information of the Library, consult the University Archives (RG 8). Information on the design and construction of the various library building is located in RG 8/5.
buildings/d/duboislibrary.1306416099.txt.gz · Last modified: 2013/12/18 13:25 (external edit)
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