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Mellon Foundation gives UI Library $1 million to protect, preserve endangered library materials

Kesha Green, News Bureau
(217) 333-1085;


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has given the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign a $1 million grant to build a program to protect and preserve endangered library materials.

Under the terms of the award, the UI will receive $700,000 in endowment funds on a two-to-one matching basis, contingent upon its ability to raise $1.4 million during the next five years. The funds will provide permanent support for library preservation efforts. The UI also will receive an outright gift of $300,000 to design and equip a conservation laboratory by spring 2003.

"This extraordinary financial support from the Mellon Foundation will help us ensure that the superb collections in our Library will be accessible to the world’s scholars in perpetuity," said Nancy Cantor, the chancellor of the Urbana campus. "This gives us the opportunity to fulfill our obligation not only to current and future generations of Library patrons, but also to countless generations past, whose creative works must be preserved."

The UI Library contains 22 million items and more than 9 million volumes valued at $1.5 billion, making it the largest public research university library in the world. Its current holdings are the result of nearly 150 years of investment and represent the vast history of humanity’s intellectual achievements. In spite of these accomplishments, nearly 40 percent of the Library’s collections are in danger of physical deterioration.

"Until recently, the Library's focus remained strongly on building collections," said Paula Kaufman, the university librarian. "While there have been many preservation activities throughout the decades, there has not been – until now – a focused, comprehensive program, which will be enhanced significantly by this magnificent award from the Mellon Foundation."

Recent steps to strengthen the Library’s preservation program include an in-depth assessment by a preservation consultant, the appointment of a preservation librarian and a conservation librarian, and plans for the construction of the Library's first high-density storage facility, which will house the conservation laboratory. The award from the Mellon Foundation will energize these efforts and help the Library develop a preservation program worthy of national prominence.