MU celebrates 100-year anniversary of Ellis Library

“The library is the cornerstone of this great institution of higher learning,” Head said.
MU student Kelly Dobbs studies at Ellis Library on Feb. 17, 2015, in Columbia, Mo. Ellis Library celebrated its centennial birthday Sept. 23, 2015.

Ellis Library is quite possibly older than your grandpappy.

The Library was around for the rise of the Internet, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the rise and fall of the Soviet Union.

Now, it’s celebrating its centennial birthday. Students and faculty were invited to Lowry Mall for traditional MU fare such as Shakespeare’s Pizza and Tiger Stripe ice cream. Attendees were also treated to live music and cornhole. It was also a day to celebrate those who helped make the library possible.

In addition to the food, students were treated to bottled water, popcorn and a live band playing jazz music. There were free giveaways of sunglasses, and the “plates” that the pizza was served on were actually MU Library frisbees.

“The student experience is what Mizzou is all about,” Gaunt said. “To have a day like today, where the sun is shining, people are smiling, and there’s good music and food and it’s all centered around the library, as somebody who works at the library, that’s awesome.”

When Ellis Library first opened in the fall of 1915, it was the first free-standing library building on campus.

After a fire destroyed Academic Hall in 1892, the few books that MU had left were housed in the ground floor of the new Academic Hall. But in the early 1900s, James Gerould, MU's first professionally trained librarian, petitioned for the construction of a large building on campus where textbooks could be stored and students could come to study.

It took a decade of campaigning, but Gerould eventually got his wish, and in 1915, Ellis Library was opened to the public.

“Today is a day where we are really celebrating and recognizing the leadership of this state 100 years ago,” said Matt Gaunt, director of advancement for the MU Libraries. “We wanted to honor the people that helped to create our library, as well as what it has become today, a central part of our university.”

The MU Libraries consists not only of Ellis, but also eight other branch libraries as well. All together, they hold nearly 4 million books, 1 million e-books and 7.5 million microfilms.

Library officials have proposed a $5 per credit hour student fee to the Missouri Students Association that would incrementally increase to $15 per credit hour over the next six years. The fee would fund improvements to the library including renovations, increased staffing and new services. A student referendum will be held for the fee in November.

The most popular room in Ellis Library is the Grand Reading Room, where hundreds of students can relax or study at large tables in a quiet environment. The high ceiling and natural sunlight create a very inviting and welcoming atmosphere, Gaunt said.

Missouri Students Association President Payton Head and MSA Vice President Brenda Smith-Lezama made history in January by becoming the first slate to hold their inauguration ceremony in the Grand Reading Room.

“The library is the cornerstone of this great institution of higher learning,” Head said. “With all the wonderful organizations here on campus and extracurricular opportunities, it can be easy to forget that the No. 1 reason why we are here at Mizzou is to get an education, and so I think the library is symbolic of that academic priority.”

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