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After being closed for more than two years during a $17 million renovation, the William Clements Library officially re-opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony Monday.

The new library, located on South University Ave, includes a structural addition of a 3,000-square-foot underground space for rare document preservation beneath the library’s front lawn.

Other updates to the building include a new digitization lab, a relocation of the reading room to the main floor, a redone basement office space for library staffers and a basement space for lectures and presentations.

Additionally, the library’s security, climate control, electrical systems and plumbing were updated.

University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel gave remarks at the ribbon cutting ceremony, speaking on the library’s steps about its unparalleled opportunity for education and research.

“The Clements is one of the premier depositories of American history in the entire world,” Schlissel said. “It provides an advantage to the University of Michigan that very few can claim; having access to the materials that we have here leads to a superior learning and research experience.”

The library was built in 1923 by William Clements, a University alum who served as a regent from 1909 to 1933. Over the years, the collection has since expanded to include over 80,000 books, letters written by George Washington and Christopher Columbus, as well as maps of the Americas from the 15th through 19th centuries.

“Our mission is collecting, preserving and making available for research original primary sources on American history from 1492 through the 19th century,” said Clements Library Director Kevin Graffagnino at the ceremony.

Schlissel joked that he was grateful that the noise that came with the library’s renovation was finally complete, given the proximity of the president’s house to the construction site.

“I live right next door, so, as any neighbor would say, I’m actually delighted that the construction part of this is done,” Schlissel said.

LSA sophomore Christy Finkenstaedt, William Clement’s great-great-granddaughter, said Clement’s contribution to the University in 1923 continues to have an impact today.

“Today, with the dedication of this expanded space, the inspiration contained in the collections will continue to be accessible to many future generations of students and historians,” Finkenstaedt said.  


Following the ribbon cutting, Mark Dimunation, chief of the rare book division at the Library of Congress, gave an address at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, stressing the importance of libraries such as Clements in preserving original documents.

“We must remember that even ordinary objects allow us insight into the emotional and intellectual experiences of those who lived with them, providing visible, tangible links to an otherwise unrecoverable past,” Dimunation said.

Dimunation also said the new digitization lab in Clements will allow the past to be better preserved and accessible.

Engineering sophomore Javier Taylor said he had always been curious about the library, and was walking by Tuesday when he noticed it was the re-opening.

“I’ve always walked by the library, but for as long as I’ve been here it’s been closed,” Taylor said. “I honestly didn’t know much about it before, but it seems like a very cool place.”

Taylor added that he will utilize the Friday hours when the library is open to the public, saying it could potentially be a good alternative to the louder atmosphere of the Shapiro Undergraduate Library.

Starting this week, the library will be open for research Monday through Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7:45 p.m.


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