Memorial Library exterior
Memorial Library exterior (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison, February 10, 2012)

Our February Library of the Month is Memorial Library! Constructed in 1953, Memorial is the principal research library on campus for the humanities and social sciences. With over 3 million volumes in over 350 languages spanning 80 miles of shelving, it holds the title as the largest single collection in the state of Wisconsin!

Filling 356,211 square feet of space (equivalent to 200 typical 3-bedroom homes!), Memorial Library houses an enormous array of diverse materials that spans books, journals, dissertations, newspapers, government documents, videos, and microfilms, among many other resources. As Beth Harper, Government Documents and Reference Librarian put it, “never assume we don’t have what you’re looking for.”

Numerous librarians work diligently to discover, select, and provide access to resources that meet the needs of the UW-Madison community. In fact, the majority of the library’s collections are unique to Wisconsin, meaning that many materials are not duplicated at other libraries in the state. These unique collections provide in-depth coverage spanning the entirety of the humanities and social sciences. Resources range from grants information, genealogy, and international government documents to books about language, literature and history that span the globe, and beyond. Patrons, whether for research or pleasure, can also find three floors of fiction books to browse and borrow, some of which are offered in several languages!

Memorial Library West Corridor
Memorial Library West Corridor (Photo by Eric Ferguson, April 29, 2007)

Aside from the collections, what does a 356,211 square foot library include?  A lot, it turns out. Several beautiful, historical, and interesting spaces surround the Memorial Library collections.  Whether patrons want to study, conduct research, or simply relax, the library offers over 2,500 seats nestled in a variety of spaces. Large reading rooms, group study rooms, and small study carrels (aka “cages”) all provide unique atmospheres for patrons to choose from.  Each of the infamous study cages (primarily reserved for graduate students) even come equipped with a personal desk, chair, and light for some serious study sessions! Needless to say, there are plenty of places to go for patrons to “get it done.”

The vast quantity of resources and spaces offered by Memorial Library require a large staff. Along with having scores of librarians, other professionals, and paraprofessionals, Memorial hires the largest library student staff on campus. They all collaborate to provide services that support its wide range of patrons, which include undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, alumni, community members, and visiting scholars.

Given the number of patrons (over 1 million a year!), Memorial Library’s librarians are prepared to offer numerous and dynamic services. As one example, reference services range from answering basic directional questions all the way to assisting with complex research inquiries regarding highly specific subject matter, and everything in between. Other great services include tailored workshops, grants appointments, graduate student assistance, as well as publishing and copyright support. Many important library services, including those listed above, provide patrons access to invaluable information resources, both in-person and electronically.

Undergraduates studying at Memorial Library (Image credit: ©UW-Madison University Communications.  Photo by: Jeff Miller, April 26, 2007)
Undergraduates studying at Memorial Library
(Image credit: ©UW-Madison University Communications.
Photo by: Jeff Miller, April 26, 2007)

Along with providing amazing information services, Memorial Library holds several fun and exciting exhibits and events throughout the year. This semester is no exception!

From February 3rd-17th the library will have a “Blind Date with a Book” shelf near the 1st floor circulation area. The enticing display holds wrapped books from the Memorial collections that are available to borrow and take on a “blind date.” Much like a real blind date, only a brief “personal ad”- style description of the book is visible when making a selection. Titles span a wide range of topics and interests and come with a set of instructions (including waiting until you get home to unwrap the book)! Borrowers then have the opportunity to “rate their dates” by dropping off the included form in the comments box near the display. You never know, you may find your book soul mate!

Also, on April 10th in Room 116, the library will be celebrating the worldwide Edible Book Festival. For this celebration, contestants are asked to submit an edible depiction of a book (anything edible works)! Judges from the Madison community vote on creations and give awards, and all attendees can vote for the “People’s Choice Award.” Everyone is encouraged to attend, participate, and show off their creation. For more information visit the Edible Books Festival website.

Memorial Library staff encourage everyone stop by, say hello, and participate in these events. As the Reference Staff say, “Memorial Library. A Memoriable experience.”

"Blind Date with a Book" display
“Blind Date with a Book” display
Edible book
“We Are On a Cake!” – 2013 Edible Book Contest winner for Funniest/Punniest creation by graduate student Stephanie Unertl

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