Visitors from across the world come to LSU for a variety of reasons - football, academics and even research at the Hill Memorial Library.
The Hill Memorial Library boasts a long history within the stacks of manuscripts, comics, rare books and historical items that draw in researchers from all parts of the world.
Normally, the library is only open for students, faculty and patrons to research and utilize the library’s archives. Staff at Hill Memorial say they hope to open study spaces for students not just during finals, but throughout the year.
This year, Hill Memorial Library will be open during Finals Week for students to study in a quiet area. The library is open for studying 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and 9 a.m. - 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
Hill Memorial Library was completed in 1903 and located downtown with the old LSU campus. When the University's campus moved to where it stands today, the original Hill Memorial Library building stayed, but was torn down in the mid-1950s.
A new Hill Memorial Library was built on the current campus and was dedicated in 1926.
The current Hill Memorial Library was designed by Theodore Link, who also designed the shape of the Quad. The library has a digital collection of the architectural drawings that Link did of the University's campus.
When Middleton Library opened in 1958, everything was moved from Hill Memorial Library to Middleton Library. The collections were moved from Hill to Middleton through a conveyor belt out of the second floor window of Hill, through the Quad to Middleton.
After Middleton was built, Hill Memorial Library was not part of the library systems again until the early 1980s when Middleton became too crowded. During the 1980s, the University decided to renovate Hill Memorial Library and outfit it for special collections.
The “Hill Memorial Library” sign had the word “library” scratched out during those years because it was not part of the library system. The word “library” is still scratched out today on the original sign on the building.
Associate Dean for Technology & Special Collections for the LSU Libraries Gina Costello said the main use of Hill Memorial Library during the time it was not in the library system was for architecture classes.
“It was primarily for architecture students,” Costello said. “They had strung hammocks between the columns and they had all kinds of stories.”
She said the architecture students were able to make large models in the building because of the high ceilings and the amount of space.
“We are really happy that the original library is now again a part of the libraries,” Costello said.
Costello said the LSU special collections library is one of the largest and most comprehensive libraries that document the history of Louisiana and the lower Mississippi Valley.
Costello said the library hosts many classes today - mainly art, history and English.
The library has a large collection of artists’ books and materials related to architecture and design, so those collections also bring in many students.
Costello said when classes are held at Hill, materials are brought out and put on tables for students to interact with them.
“We say it’s like a laboratory for the humanities,” Costello said. “We want you to touch the materials, we want you to interact with them. We’re not a museum, so things are not behind glass.”
Costello said researchers come from all over the world to do research at Hill Memorial Library. Recently, a researcher from France came to Baton Rouge for three summers in a row just to do research in the collections at Hill Memorial Library.
“LSU really should be very proud of what we have here,” Costello said. “We have a wonderful staff, and our collections are world class, they really are.”
Aside from research, the library has a room where events and programs are hosted throughout the year. Usually events correspond with the exhibits that the library displays. There are two floors in the building with exhibits, and those switch out about twice a year.
“We’ve had everything from comics exhibits because we have a pretty large comics collection, to extremely rare books and materials.” Costello said.
Anyone is allowed to do research in the library or look at the exhibits. This year, students have the unique opportunity to study in the library for finals.
Currently, students can study at anytime in the reading room upstairs, but there are restrictions for studying in that room about what students can bring in. The library is renovating spaces in the building to create spaces specifically devoted to student studying.
Civil and environmental engineering freshman Madalyn Mouton said opening quiet study spaces in Hill Memorial Library is a good idea.
“The Hill Memorial Library is very studious-feeling and successful-feeling and great for being completely quiet,” Mouton said.