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William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library

The William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library (commonly referred to as the Thompson Library) is the main library at Ohio State University's Columbus campus. It is the university's largest library and houses its main stacks, special collections, rare books and manuscripts, university archives, and many departmental subject libraries. The library was originally built in 1912, and was renovated in 1951, 1977, and 2009. It is named in honor of the university's fifth president, William Oxley Thompson.

William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library
OSU William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library East Atrium.JPG
Thompson Library East Atrium
CountryUnited States
LocationColumbus, Ohio
Coordinates39°59′57″N 83°00′53″W / 39.99925°N 83.01485°W / 39.99925; -83.01485Coordinates: 39°59′57″N 83°00′53″W / 39.99925°N 83.01485°W / 39.99925; -83.01485
Branch ofOhio State University Libraries
Size1.25 million (on-site)
WebsiteThompson Library


Library informationEdit

Grand Reading Room with replica of Winged Victory of Samothrace statue

The Ohio State University's University Libraries manages 15 locations on the Columbus campus, of which the Thompson Library is the largest.[1] In addition to housing the main stacks and serving as the central research library for the entire campus, the Thompson Library is home to many of the subject libraries in the humanities and social sciences, as well as reference, special collections, rare books and manuscripts, university archives, journals, and general interest periodicals. Departmental subject libraries include literature, foreign language by region, linguistics, philosophy, religion, theater, anthropology, history, sociology, and political science. Some subject libraries, such as science and engineering, architecture, agriculture, fine arts, law, health sciences, veterinary sciences, and geology, are housed in the university's other libraries.[2]

Of the system's 5.8 million volumes, the Thompson Library holds about 1.25 million volumes, including 250,000 special collections volumes.[3][4] Additional book storage is provided by the university's off-site Book Depository.



When The Ohio State University opened in 1873, the library was located on the first floor of University Hall. In 1884, it was moved to the building's third floor, and in 1893 it was moved to the newly-constructed Orton Hall. As early as 1897, university librarians voiced their need for a dedicated library building, and this eventually resulted in the construction of the Main Library (as the Thompson Library was originally known) in 1910.[5]

Original buildingEdit

Original east facade with 1951 tower above

The original Beaux-Arts library building was built between 1910 and 1912. In 1910, the architectural firm Allen & Collens of Boston was selected through a design competition. Later that year, the architects submitted a formal proposal, which was accepted by OSU's Board of Trustees, and then a call for bids was put out for construction. Ground was broken on December 23, 1910, and construction was completed two years later on December 18, 1912. Following completion, books were moved, and the library was officially open to the university community on January 6, 1913. Since the initial construction, the library has been renovated three times, in 1951, 1977, and 2009.[6]

1951 and 1977 expansionsEdit

The library's first expansion was built in 1947-1951.[7] A 10-story tower was constructed for the library stacks, and single-story extensions were built north and south of the east facade. It was completed on June 2, 1951.[6] In the same year, the Main Library was renamed the William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library in honor of the university's fifth president, William Oxley Thompson, who was in office when the original building was built.[5]

The library was again expanded in the 1970s, when a modern addition was built to extend the west wing. It was completed on January 5, 1977.[6]

2009 renovation and expansionEdit

West facade, built during the 2009 renovation
Buckeye Reading Room, part of the 2009 renovation

The most recent renovation to the Thompson Library was a $108.7 million project that began on January 10, 2007 and was completed in the summer of 2009.[4] It was designed by the Gund Partnership with Acock Associates Architects as the architect of record.[8] The library's original east facade and Grand Reading Room were restored, while the 1977 west wing addition and 1951 north and south extensions were demolished.[4] A new 91,000 sq ft (8,500 m2) west wing was built, bringing the library floor space to 306,000 sq ft (28,400 m2).[7] Nearly 1000 seats were added to the library, but shelf space was decreased, so many volumes were moved to other locations. The renovation focused on opening up the library space to natural light and creating a more coherent space. Features added in the renovation include a new West Atrium and Buckeye Reading Room, glass walls for the lower floors of the 1951 book tower, exhibition space for the library's special collections, a café, and a ground-floor east-west passageway that extends the Oval's "Long Walk" through the building. The renovation was opened to the public on September 24, 2009.[4][8][7][9]

Various art pieces were included in the restoration. The written-word piece VERSE was installed on the floor of the Buckeye Reading Room,[10] and 49 metal plates called "Foundation Stones" were set throughout the library, featuring engravings in a wide range of writing and graphic notation systems.[11][12] Additionally, a new replica of the Winged Victory of Samothrace statue was commissioned and installed in the Grand Reading Room to replace an earlier replica from 1913 which had fallen into disrepair and was removed in 1959.[13]

The 2009 renovation received several awards, including a 2009 AIA Columbus Merit Award,[14] a 2009 ABC Excellence in Construction Eagle Award,[15] a 2009 Columbus Landmarks Foundation James B. Recchie Design Award,[16][7] a 2010 SCUP/AIA-CAE Excellence in Architecture Renovation/Adaptive Reuse Special Citation,[17] and a 2011 AIA/ALA Library Building Award.[9]


  1. ^ "About Us". The Ohio State University – University Libraries. Retrieved October 6, 2016.
  2. ^ "Locations". The Ohio State University – University Libraries. Retrieved October 6, 2016.
  3. ^ Louise Schaper (June 28, 2012). "New Landmark Libraries 2012 #3: William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library, Ohio State University". Library Journal. Retrieved October 6, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d Encarnacion Pyle (August 3, 2009). "OSU's main library reopens today after three-year, $109 million renovation". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
  5. ^ a b "Thompson (William Oxley) Library". Buckeye Stroll. The Ohio State University – University Libraries. 2010. Retrieved October 6, 2016.
  6. ^ a b c "William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library". Austin E. Knowlton School of Architecture Digital Library. The Ohio State University. Retrieved October 6, 2016.
  7. ^ a b c d "William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library, Ohio State University". Gund Partnership. Retrieved October 6, 2016.
  8. ^ a b Lawrence Biemiller (January 15, 2010). "Campus Architecture Database: William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
  9. ^ a b "William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library - 2011 AIA / ALA Library Building Awards". The American Institute of Architects. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
  10. ^ "VERSE". The Ohio State University – University Libraries. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
  11. ^ "Foundation Stones". The Ohio State University – University Libraries. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
  12. ^ Dan McKeever (May 13, 2009). "Lively Languages". The Lantern. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
  13. ^ Sam Harrington (March 17, 2013). "Winged Victory replica statue placed in Thompson Library, 100 year history with Ohio State". The Lantern. Retrieved October 6, 2016.
  14. ^ "2009 Design Awards". AIA Columbus. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
  15. ^ "The Ohio State University Thompson Library, Columbus Ohio" (PDF). Heapy Engineering. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
  16. ^ "James B. Recchie Design Award Past Winners". Columbus Landmarks Foundation. Retrieved October 6, 2016.
  17. ^ "2010 SCUP Excellence in Planning, SCUP Excellence in Landscape Architecture and SCUP/AIA-CAE Excellence in Architecture Award Recipients". Society for College and University Planning. Retrieved October 4, 2016.

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