September 24, 2008
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    University breaks ground for new Mansueto Library

    Photos by Dan Dry

    Nearly 200 people filled a tent at the Wednesday, Sept. 24 groundbreaking, where the signature photo to symbolize the start of construction of a new building was taken. Posing with shovels in hand are (left to right) Helmut Jahn, Chairman of the Board of Trustees James Crown, President Zimmer, Joe Mansueto, Rika Mansueto, Provost Thomas Rosenbaum, Director of the Library Judith Nadler and Andrew Abbott, the faculty member who helped lead the project.
    President Zimmer said the University’s decision to build a new library in the heart of campus, one that will have the capacity to store up to 3.5 million volumes, was “historic.” During the groundbreaking event, President Zimmer greets alumnus Joe Mansueto before the speakers take to the stage.
    In a rare gesture, Helmut Jahn (right) gave his early architectural drawings to Joe and Rika Mansueto, for whom the new University library will be named. Jahn said he was inspired by the Mansuetos’ generous support of the University, which included a $25 million gift in May. Jahn describes the drawings at the groundbreaking event at the site of the new library at Ellis Avenue and 57th Street, next to the Joseph Regenstein Library.

    More than 200 people turned out Wednesday, Sept. 24, to celebrate the symbolic first turning of the earth for the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library—an event that broke new ground in several senses.

    As the crowd gathered under a tent near the heart of campus, speaker after speaker noted the significance of putting a new library on that important piece of ground: putting books at the center of the enterprise, rather than resorting to remote book storage like many other major universities.

    “This is a very important, historic moment,” said President Zimmer. “Historic is a big word, but I use it deliberately.”

    Judith Nadler, Director of the Library, added, “For us today, the word ‘groundbreaking’ stands for much more than just the breaking of ground,” said. “While other universities have done otherwise, we have made the decision to build a new library in the center of our campus. It is a magnificent occasion.”

    In recognition of a $25 million gift from alumni Joe and Rika Mansueto, who attended Wednesday’s event, the University will name the new library in their honor.

    Renowned Chicago-based architect Helmut Jahn designed the Mansueto Library, which will be located beside the Joseph Regenstein Library at 57th Street and Ellis Avenue, as a partially underground facility topped with a glass dome. It will have the capacity to house 3.5 million volumes of print material, making it one of the last top academic research libraries in the country to keep its entire collection on campus.

    “For an institution to do something like this is not easy—to break ground and do something that no one else is doing is a difficult thing,” said Joe Mansueto, who is CEO of Morningstar, Inc.

    He told the crowd of students, faculty, alumni, administrators and members of the Board of Trustees that he and wife Rika have deep feelings for the University and that the new library will combine three of their passions: the free exchange of ideas, great design and the University of Chicago.

    “Even the name of my company, Morningstar, has roots at the University,” Joe Mansueto said, describing how the name comes from the last line of one of his favorite books, Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, which reads, “The sun is but a morning star.” Mansueto said he recalls reading that sentence during the 10th week of his first year in the College, while sitting in the Regenstein Library.

    Joe Mansueto received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the College in 1978 and his M.B.A. from the Graduate School of Business in 1980; Rika Mansueto received her bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the College in 1991.

    Joe Mansueto said the design of the new building helped make them fervent believers in the new project. Jahn said that design drew from the rich story of the campus around it.

    “As an architect, you cannot do a good building if you do not have a good client,” Jahn said. “This is a campus that has so much history, and this building is probably the most radical, the most innovative one. But it’s not just about newness—there has to be a spiritual, intellectual connection.”

    Andrew Abbott, the Gustavus F. & Ann M. Swift Distinguished Service Professor in Sociology and the College, spoke to the crowd about faculty support for the Mansueto Library. “This library is a beacon and will be an example throughout the world of knowledge,” Abbott said.

    Housed within the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library will be a state-of-the-art conservation and preservation facility, a special collections service area and the capacity for 3.5 million volumes of print material, which will be contained in a high-density, automated shelving system. Beneath the glass dome will be a grand reading room.

    University Provost Thomas Rosenbaum called it a “spectacular day,” noting that it has taken years and a cross-campus effort to arrive at the groundbreaking ceremony.

    “The Joe and Rika Mansueto Library will be central to campus geographically, but also central intellectually,” Rosenbaum said. “This library is a central part of the research enterprise, a recruiting and retention advantage and a social gathering point. The reading room will be populated day and night.”

    James Crown, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, said, “One of the truly fun things about this job is participating in landmark occasions at the University like this one.”

    The Joe and Rika Mansueto Library will open in the fall of 2010. Additional information is available at http://mansueto.lib.uchicago.edu.