Student Life

University students spend much of their time in the library, and over time the library has changed to facilitate learning and accommodate student habits.

As shown in the photographs on the right, when the Undergraduate Library opened in 1958 patrons were allowed to smoke anywhere in the building. Students praised the Library for being “comfortable and home-like.”

This section details a some of the ways students have tried to shape the Library to fit their needs.


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Students making the most of the relaxed library environment

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Early Entrepreneurs


In the early days of the University Library, books could only be checked out for one night at a time, beginning at 9pm, and had to be returned by 8am the following morning. For books returned late, there was a fine of $0.25 per day.

In 1935, two enterprising students tried to cash in on this policy, starting a book return service for students unwilling to make the early morning trip to the library. The students, Charles Bleich and Murray Roth, would collect library books left out on doorsteps and bring them to the library, for a fee of $0.05 per book.

However, just four days after Bleich and Roth started their messenger service, the University revoked their automobile permit, effectively ending their business. Library authorities were behind putting an end to the scheme, citing library books as a “personal responsibility.”

The newspaper articles below explain the start of the business and the reasons for its early demise.


Expanding Hours

It is no surprise that students need to study, and the Library is one of the most popular places on campus to do homework. Today, most University Library buildings are open late into the evening and on weekends, with the Shapiro Library and the Duderstadt Center remaining open 24 hours.

Today’s unconstrained hours were not always the case. For much of the 1920s and 1930s, the main University Library building was open only Monday through Saturday, from 7:45am to 10:00pm. Many students believed these limited hours restricted their study time.

In 1934, the University’s Undergraduate Council started a fundraising campaign to raise $350 to open the General Library on Sundays. After collecting $160 in student donations, the Board of Regents approved funding from its own sources to open the building on Sundays, without using the student-raised money.

Read about the students’ determination to expand Library hours in the newspaper articles below.


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Looking out of the library window



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