Dreary...few students...typical 1960s... These phrases may have once described the University of Utah's Library, but that is no longer the case. J. Willard Marriott Library broke ground on an $80 million renovation project in 2005 and now the Library is a vibrant state-of-the-art center for the University's students and faculty. The forty year-old building is now a bright and inviting center that contains nine new electronic classrooms, a Digital Scholarship Lab, a Knowledge Commons containing more than 250 computers and staffed by librarians and technical help, spacious student "living room" areas and group study rooms, a grand reading room, and a Special Collections Reading Room. These new areas provide spaces for students to collaborate on group projects or study alone and for faculty to engage in exciting research ventures. In addition, a café was part of the concept of a "modern" library; Mom's Café has proven enormously popular with students, allowing them to spend longer periods of time in the Library. To allocate more Library space to study, research, and collaboration, a high-density automated retrieval center (ARC) with a two million item storage capacity was installed; this allowed the Library to move low-use books out of high-demand public spaces and also provided room for long-term collection growth. Furthermore, the renovation project brought the 500,000 square-foot Library up to seismic code. In 2009 the renovation project culminated in a campus wide re-dedication celebration for the Marriott family.
The project received funding from state, federal, and private sources. Extraordinary support from the Marriott family and other major donors provided the touches that truly make the building student-centric. The J. Willard Marriott Library attracts more than 1.8 million visits each year. Although the majority of users are University of Utah students and faculty, the Library also proudly serves individuals from the local community and state as well as national and international visitors.
During the campaign period, the Marriott Library's Special Collections Department received more than $14 million in in-kind collection donations. Original materials such as the papers of Willem Kolff ,one of the inventors of the artificial heart, as well as vintage photographs, the Overland Trail maps and diaries, and rare books including a first edition Book of Mormon are just a few examples of the gifts given to the Library. Other collections added during the campaign include those of Everett Ruess, Philo Farnsworth, Ballet West, Edward Abbey, James Fletcher, Borge Anderson, the Mitsugi Kasai Japanese American Archives, the Salt Lake Tribune, the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, and rare editions of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. These and other items found in the Marriott Library's Special Collections provide University of Utah students and scholars an opportunity to study truly rare and one-of-a-kind materials for research as well as allowing access to scholars world-wide.
The Marriott Library employs approximately 175 part-time employees, nearly all of whom are student workers. Emeriti librarians campaigned to fund six $1,000 scholarships, and a gift from the estate of an emeritus librarian established the Library's first endowed scholarship fund which provides one student scholarship each year.
Extraordinary...many students...innovative... These phrases now describe the University of Utah's J. Willard Marriott Library. Extraordinary….helping many students…innovative. These words also describe the Library donors who made this change possible.