Hundreds tour Anderson Library at grand opening

V. Paul

For several years, Millie Vaccarella has been involved with the Immigration History Resource Center, which holds information on American immigration and ethnic history and used to be located just off campus on University Avenue.
Now, it is one of eight other archives housed in the Elmer L. Andersen Library on the West Bank. The center’s offices sit on the fourth floor of the library’s main building, while its collection sits among the 1.7 million volumes of books and documents currently stored in the library’s specially designed underground caverns.
“I can’t wait to see the Immigration History Center out of that warehouse and into a space that is going to continue to preserve it,” Vaccarella said.
Vaccarella was one of hundreds of people who toured the newly opened library during its three-day debut celebration. Library officials held public open houses Friday and Sunday and a black-tie gala event Saturday night that featured the library’s namesake, former Minnesota Gov. Andersen.
Within the multicolored atrium, Saturday’s guests, including former Gov. Arne Carlson, greeted Andersen and his wife, Eleanor, who donated more than $1 million to the library and his 12,000-volume collection of antique books.
In one of the archive offices, Mary Jo Pauly, with Minnesota for Book Arts, and Paul Maravelas ran a 1979 replica of a James Franklin Press, also donated by the Andersens.
Most guests walked the library’s halls to marvel at something they watched grow for the last two years. Located between Willey Hall and the Art Building, the Andersen Library rises four stories high and 80 feet deep.
“I’m interested in finding out how this structure really came to be,” said Bridget O’Connor, a University of Minnesota Foundation employee who toured the building for the first time Friday afternoon. “Driving up River Road and looking in, I was curious to know what everything looked like on the inside.”
The $46.5 million building boasts two underground climate-controlled caverns with a total capacity of 2.5 million volumes. With drilling equipment specifically designed for the project, the caverns were carved out of sandstone soft enough to have been dug with a pail and shovel, said Donald Kelsey, the University’s library facility manager.
The library’s architecture includes a building with a section shaped like a boat’s prow, facing the Mississippi River, intended to give its occupants maximum viewing up and down the river, said James Stageberg, the library’s principal architect.
But the weekend guests mostly ignored the library’s window views, too caught up in what the building had to offer.
“To me, it’s really interesting to see the architecture and the old books,” said Diego Rondon, a graduate student at the Carlson School of Management.

V. Paul Virtucio welcomes comments at [email protected]