U.Va. Library Background & History
1904 - The Board of Visitors and faculty appoints Edwin Anderson Alderman the University’s first president. Alderman increases appropriations for the library and encourages the expansion of library services.
By the early twentieth century, the library has outgrown its facility in the Rotunda. Alderman proposes the solution in his 1924 Founder’s Day address—the construction of a new million-dollar library.
Late 1920s - Formal planning for the new library begins, but the economic conditions of the Great Depression prevent any significant progress.
1931 - President Alderman dies. John Lloyd Newcomb becomes University President.
1936 - President Newcomb secures assistance from the Public Works Administration, which allows construction of the new library to start. Alumnus R.E. Lee Taylor, partner in Taylor & Fisher, is the building architect.
Over the course of construction, two structures adjacent to the library site were demolished --“Chateau Front-and-Back,” a lodge built in 1850s, and the Anatomical Theatre, which had been designed by Jefferson.
1938 - Alderman Library opens.
The new library is completed at a cost of $950,909. It was designed to accommodate 1000 readers, 100 staff members, and 600,000 volumes. Alderman Library, named in memory of the University’s first president, is formally dedicated during Final Exercises in June 1938.
A major gift to the University, the Tracy W. McGregor Library, is announced at the Alderman Library dedication ceremonies. This significant collection of 12,500 items in American history, geography, and literature helps establish the University as an important research center of American history.
World War II - During World War II, valuable materials from the Library of Congress are moved to other locations that are considered less vulnerable. While the greatest treasures are secretly moved to Fort Knox in Kentucky, the University of Virginia Library, along with several other institutions, accepts other portions of Library of Congress collections in early 1942, including military maps and important manuscript collections such as presidential papers.
1960 - Clifton Waller Barrett, an alumnus, presents his significant literary collection to the University. The Barrett Library comprises 750,000 books, letters, and manuscripts covering nearly every American author writing between 1775 and 1950.
Early 1960s - Library collections number nearly a million volumes. This growth is fueled by the substantial increase in scientific and technical publishing, and the Library’s designation as a depository for numerous governmental programs. Alderman Library, designed for 600,000 volumes, is severely overcrowded.
1963-1967 - Library officials develop a long-term plan for library expansion. This includes the construction of a “New Stacks” addition to Alderman, an undergraduate library, and a special collections library. “New Stacks” (almost full from the time they are completed) open in 1967, but the other plans were tabled indefinitely for lack of funding.