Old General Library

The Old General Library opened in 1883. The completion of this library building marked the first time the University of Michigan had a building dedicated to its Library, which was necessary to accommodate the growing collection and rising University population. 

Before the Old General Library was built, the University Library was kept in the Law Building. In that space, only 6% of the University’s students could fit in the library at a time. A lecture hall sat above the reading room, causing noise and other disturbances several times a day. Furthermore, the Library was not in a fireproof building, which was dangerous for the 30,000-volume collection.

“If our library were destroyed, small as it is, it would be difficult, indeed almost impossible, to replace it,” wrote a group of University administrators to the Board of Regents, when making their case for a new Library building.

Old General Library Exterior

Exterior view of the Old General Library

Old General Library Exterior and Botanical Gardens

Exterior of the Old General Library

Once completed, the Old General Library had a round reading room with a dome-shaped ceiling. Though this room could fit more students than the previous library configuration, men and women were required to sit on opposite sides. 

Rotunda Reading Room of the Old General Library

Reading Room of the Old General Library

Reading Room of the Old General Library

Reading Room of the Old General Library

New General Library