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The year is 1938 and several students sit at tables, studying intently. The room is pleasantly quiet; the only sound is the turning of pages and the rustling of books. Construction can be heard throughout the building as the finishing touches are put on the new Zimmerman Library.

This week Zimmerman Library celebrates 75 years. Built in 1938, it was an expansion from the first UNM library, a single room in Hodgin Hall with about 500 volumes. Celebrations include tours throughout the building, the premiere of a documentary about the library and a reception party open to the public in the West Wing.

“The tours have filled up, all 170 seats for the premiere are filled and the big party is open to everyone. We expect donors, many people involved in the film and many other people to attend,” said Patricia Campbell, the communications specialist for University Libraries.

Three tours will be given throughout the week by Audra Bellmore, curator of the Architectural Archives, and Mike Kelly, director of the Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections. The tours will not only include the Main Library and the West Wing, but the towers and certain collections not normally available for public viewing.

Along with a tour today, a new documentary on Zimmerman will premiere in the Student Union Theatre at 6 p.m.
The 30-minute film, made by Aracely Chapa, the manager of Multimedia Services at University Libraries, is titled “Zimmerman@75: The Campus Heart” and tells the story of the library “seen through the eyes of architects, artists, administrators, students, staff, and the community,” according to the film’s brochure.

The film was in production for more than a year and includes several insightful interviews, including one from UNM President Robert Frank. But the film will only run once, followed by a discussion panel with the filmmakers, historians, and architects, Campbell said.

The celebratory events confined neither to the Main Library nor to just this week. Exhibitions can be found at all the libraries on campus until Dec. 12, each highlighting a feature specific to that library.

Zimmerman itself is hosting historical photos throughout the lobby and the West Wing. The Centennial Science and Engineering Library is home to an exhibit on the construction and landscaping of Zimmerman.

Fittingly, the Fine Arts and Design Library is highlighting Zimmerman’s art and architecture.

The Parish Memorial Library for Business and Economics is hosting an exhibit on the business of opening Zimmerman Library.

The library doesn’t only support and impact students. Workers at the library also feel the effect of the historical building.

Edward Padilla, senior program manager of facility services, graduated from UNM in the ‘70s as an art student.

He said he and his team have been sprucing up Zimmerman for this week’s celebrations.

“We have been painting and cleaning, restaining picture frames inside and benches out in Smith Plaza, all while keeping the original design of the building. It really hasn’t changed much since 1938,” he said.

The library, specifically the West Wing, has really held its own, he said.

“Students have always gravitated toward (the West Wing). It’s just as popular now as it was when I was in school. It’s a really beautiful, quiet study space that has always been my favorite,” he said.

As if to prove his point, the Anniversary Celebration for the Library, will be held in the historic West Wing this evening at 7 p.m. The party is open to the public and Campbell encourages students to share their stories and memories of Zimmerman.

“Zimmerman is called the heart of the campus for a reason.
Students won’t have memories of college classrooms, but UNM students will have memories of Zimmerman Library,” Campbell said.

University libraries’ many years of history

The University Libraries of UNM have grown from their humble beginnings to a vast system comprising more than 3 million volumes spread out over four major libraries.

1892 – The Legislative Assembly of the Territory of New Mexico founds UNM as a single building, Hodgin Hall, that included a one-room library housing 100 volumes.

1892 – 1912 – Over the next two decades, the library obtains important copies and volumes, eventually gathering enough to create a need for a bigger room. Planning begins for the first library building.

1926 – The building, designed by Elson H. Norris, is completed and the move begins. In only two hours, the entire 12,000 volumes are moved from Hodgin Hall to the new building. Librarian Wilma Loy Shelton directs the volunteers, which include basically all of the University’s students, faculty and staff.

1926 – 1936 – The library staff is crying out for more space and the planning begins again, this time under the direction of architect John Gaw Meem, with the hopes of incorporating traditional New Mexican aspects into the design.

1938 – The brand new Zimmerman Library, named in honor of UNM President James F. Zimmerman, is complete. The size is 61,780 square feet and the cost is $338,838. Careful and specific down to the wood detailing, Meem’s design is made to imitate the effects of erosion on pueblo walls. The move is more ceremonious this time, with Zimmerman leading a book parade with the University marching band.

1974 – A 65,300 square foot addition is completed by architectural firm Dean and Hunt. The addition holds an additional 650,000 books for a student body of 25,000.

1980 – Even as these expansions are made, the volume number is constantly growing and UNM Libraries acquires its one-millionth volume.

1986 – Construction finalizes on two new libraries, as well as yet another expansion to Zimmerman to house the Center for Southwest Research. The Parish Memorial Library and the Centennial Science and Engineering Library have joined the family.

2004 – UNM expands its technology to include wireless internet laptops available for loan at all four libraries. The entire Main Campus library system is renamed University Libraries.

2004 – The Centennial Science and Engineering Library is flooded from a broken water line during the winter. The cleanup lasts for the majority of 2005.

2006 – A fire occurs in the basement of Zimmerman Library. The collection is set back 300,000 volumes.

2012 – Zimmerman Library’s collection re-surpasses 1 million volumes.