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Week of August 12, 2013

Clements Library undergoing two-year transformation

Like the many books, collections of papers and historically significant artifacts that found a home inside its walls for the last 90 years, it’s now the William L. Clements Library’s turn to undergo the process of historical preservation.

The library, located on South University Avenue across from the Law Quad, is closed for a two-year renovation and expansion. Many of the library’s books, manuscripts, artwork and other historical items will be stored and available to scholars and students at an alternative site, 1580 Ellsworth Road.

The alternative site and reading room will open Oct. 1.

“We will physically unite and reorganize large collections currently scattered, and catalog and digitize hidden treasures,” said J. Kevin Graffagnino, director of the Clements Library. “Our goal is to return to main campus in two years a better-organized, more accessible library.”

The Clements Library houses one of the nation’s greatest collections of writings, books, maps and other revealing cultural items from early exploration of North America through the Revolutionary War to key historical developments of 19th-century United States.

The renovation includes a two-level underground addition, improvements to the climate control, fire suppression and security systems, and other infrastructure updates. Funds for the $16.8-million renovation have been raised through the university, a private foundation and a donor group from the Clements Library Associates.

Renovations to the Albert Kahn-designed building aim to enhance the original architecture of the library, which is constructed of limestone, Graffagnino said. The building’s interior, distinguished by oak paneling, ornate ceiling and bronze doors, is among the most popular and iconic landmarks on campus.

Upon completion of the renovations, the Clements will reopen with its reading room upstairs in the Avenir Foundation Room.  

The library staff will continue classroom presentations, and make available an on-campus reading room for students. Meanwhile, the annual lecture series will be held at the Hatcher Library. Details will be announced on the Clements’ website in the near future.

“We have a talented, dedicated staff with a range of expertise, along with a growing roster of donors,” Graffagnino said. “Toss in early American history collections to make the angels weep with envy and an international reputation that is gaining luster every day, and it’s clear the future is bright indeed.”

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