Skip to main content

Walter Library memories

Katherine Chew

Katherine Chew

Katherine Chew

I got my library degree at the University of Minnesota and the library school was located, I seem to remember, on the 4/5th floor of Walter. Somewhere I have a photo I took of the stairwell that I would climb up and down when I was attending.

Later, as I was working on my Master’s thesis and working at the Bio-Medical Library, certain collections were being moved out of Walter over to the Bio-Medical Library (pharmaceutical titles, I believe). I got to work in the stacks during the summer heat pulling titles — where the stacks at that time were truly stacks, you could see down several floors and along the walls were little study areas tucked under small windows.

Jennifer Claybourne

Jennifer Claybourne

Jennifer Claybourne

I remember going to the Upson Room when the Children’s Literature Research Collection was housed there to do some research on children’s authors for a composition class paper. It felt cozy and warm and it was great to just look through the finding aids and ask for materials.

Also the stacks were amazing! Total fire hazards with gaps that you could send a pencil through to the lower stories of the building. It was the best place to just hide away from the world.

Jason Ladd

Jason Ladd

Jason Ladd, 2023

Back in the early to mid 90s I was a shipping student and when we made our deliveries and pickups at the old Walter library we used to flip coins and do rock paper scissors to see who had to go inside because it was so hot, humid, dank and creepy. The tiny old elevators that went up and down the stacks were especially disturbing as the stacks were mostly dark with hanging lightbulb’s with pull strings to turn them on and off. You could see between the floors through wire cages.

The loading dock was also especially hard to manage as it was a tight turn to get the 3 ton 6 wheel freight truck behind it. There were several mishaps that shall forever be unmentioned. Thankfully the library staff were forgiving and instructive and it made for good life experiences.

Megan Kocher

Megan Kocher

Megan Kocher

When I worked at the Walter Library reference desk (my first library job!), several times alums came in and were shocked by the redesign, asking “where are the stacks?!”

My favorite was a married couple who had met in those stacks as students.

Anupama Rao

Walter is one of the best places to work! Even though my work is limited to in-person help like the tutoring services, it is always fun to be there, even when I don’t have appointments. There is something about the building that motivates you to be more productive and get your work done.

Jason Ladd (part 2)

Jason Ladd

Jason Ladd, 1996

In 1995 I took a summer intro to Shakespeare class. Literature was not my thing so instead of reading the plays, I went to the LRC at Walter and spent 3 days in hot humid weather, watching all the Shakespeare plays the BBC produced. I did ok in class. Got a B.

Lynn Balfour

In the early 80s, as a student at the U of M Child Development Program, I had a work study job working with other student workers under Wilson Library staff member Tim McCluske. We would meet at Wilson Library, trek over on foot to Walter Library, and begin our work. The assignment was to move books from the inner stacks at Walter Library to Wilson Library. It was manual work at its finest! Following the plan to keep the books organized, we would rotate through and take an armful of books from the shelf, walk 20 feet to the yellow loading cart where we would unload the books. It was essential to follow the plan or else the books would get scrambled. The horror!

Thinking back on this job, I’m surprised I never saw any creatures or ghosts in the stacks. I was very, very grateful for the job that helped pay my tuition. And super grateful to Tim for facilitating my next career move as office assistant at the James Ford Bell Library. That career move to the James Ford Bell Library led me to meeting lifelong friends and my spouse. “To the stacks of Walter Library and beyond!”

Natan Paradise

When I was an undergraduate in the early 1980s, the basement of Walter Library was my go-to place for studying in between classes and late into the night before exams. This was before the building restoration. The large and open study hall in the basement was dingy, with worn and dirty carpeting, and the tables and chairs had seen better days, but the tables were huge and I could spread my books and notes across them.

Linda Eells

I worked in the Children’s Literature Research library (it was then located in what is now the Upson Room) as a LA, sometime in 1998-99. One day a student came running up saying there was water running down through the open stacks (as mentioned by others, they were in fact open between the floors at that time). I ran in and indeed, there was water flowing, literally, over the small lips along the edges of the shelves (maybe 1-2″) and down through the stacks to the basement — which was where all of the archival collections were stored then.

I tracked the problem to a bathroom on an outside wall, where someone had left the window open and a pipe under the sink had frozen (I think it was February and after one of those -20 degree weekends) and broken open. Water was spraying out at a good clip but I was able to reach under and turn off the valve. The resulting mess in the basement was an All Hands On Deck emergency cleanup, with administrators working alongside students desperately moving boxes out.

Jerome Larson

I enjoyed occasional visits to Walter Library as a student from 1968-73 but my closest ties were as a staff member. Working for the Microcomputer Center and Information Systems (my boss was Shih-Pau Yen) I put together and managed the micro computer lab in what used to be Walter Library room 9 (in the basement) in the mid 1980s. We operated that facility until the complete building renovation in the early 2000s at which time I was involved with planning, building and managing the microcomputer lab in the beautifully remodeled space of room 103.

I continued to manage that facility until my retirement in 2009 and, as of my most recent visits to campus, it still appears to be in use as a micro-computing lab! I got to know many of the closets and subbasement spaces of the building and I regularly enjoyed an orange juice and breakfast roll/donut in the Wise Owl cafe after the remodeling was done. My retirement party was also held in the 4th floor seminar room. It was a pleasure to provide the computing services that we did, sometimes on a 24 hour/day schedule, for thousands of students over all those years and to get to know the scores of students we employed as lab attendants/consultants.

Fekade Abebe

I first knew of Walter library in 1981 when I was a freshman. In the 1990s I used to come to Walter Library to look at books and do homework. The basement was my favorite, with its clean floor, and hidden desks. I loved the absence of noise there. My most memorable memory at Walter is finding Rene Descartes book, “The Rules of the Direction of the Mind.” I knew the logic in the book will help me untwist my thinking. At the present moment, I am using the book to write my life story.

Maria Tobiason

I spent a lot of time studying in Walter Library. I enjoyed the room where they had the newspapers on wood spools. I loved being there when it was raining outside. I spent many hours in the old stacks trying to find resources for a research paper. I also remember having articles from journals copied at the old copy service. This was pre-internet, mid 1990s.

James Landwehr

Walter Library was my refuge, in every sense of the word. As part of my morning routine, I looked forward to reading the Minnesota Daily at one of Walter’s big tables. It was my twenty minutes of sanity before the lectures and labs of the day. I also appreciated its quiet as an escape to think and study before exams. One of the bigger projects I worked on there was a paper defending the Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species.” Lots of time at the card catalog!

Walter Library had the old, historic feel of a university library that Wilson did not have. (Though I loved Wilson’s map library!) I visited Walter a few years ago as my daughter toured the campus and was pleased to find it had much the same feel, with some nice upgrades as well. It’s an important part of the campus and mall. Loved it.

Shunhao He

To: Walter Library, University of Minnesota

Time flies, and in a blink of an eye you are about to celebrate your 100th birthday. I, as a University of Minnesota student who has spent countless hours in your arms, would like to take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude and blessings.

I deeply remember that every time I walk into the majestic door, there will be a kind of solemn awe in my heart. I spent countless days and nights in the reading room, not only to complete homework, but also in the journey of pursuing knowledge. In addition to books, what I cherish even more is the friends I have met through you. We discuss problems together, spend those nights when we can’t overcome problems, encourage each other, help each other, and grow together.

Walter Library has witnessed the growth of me and many students like me. He is our teacher, partner, and harbor. You have opened doors for us one after another with your knowledge, taking us to a broader world.

On the occasion of the library’s 100th birthday, I would like to thank it for the valuable resources and learning environment it has provided to me and many students. I wish the library will become more prosperous and continue to illuminate the path forward for more students.

My deepest gratitude and best wishes again.

Jordan Mooney

As a student, I got a job at the circulation desk thanks in part to my older cousin, Andrew Otis, who was already employed at Walter and put in a good reference for me. To this day, working at Walter is one of my favorite memories of my undergrad experience. It was a joy to work the Saturday morning shifts at the desk with my cousin. Believe it or not, the circulation desk wasn’t a busy place on a weekend morning and we could catch up on the latest Wild news and develop new military tactics in games like Stratego and Risk. We also worked hard and completed all the weekend desk duties. To this day, I’ve never seen anyone get through a Mail bin as efficiently as my cousin Andrew. Long live Walter!

Timothy Johnson

Before he passed away, my uncle Fred (B.A., Class of 1960) told me about his time as a student employee in Walter Library. His main responsibility was to re-shelve books that came back from circulation. As a result, he was very familiar with the stacks, including those more restricted cages where special or rare materials were stored.

Fred told me that his supervisor was another student from Keokuk, Iowa, with a little more experience working in Walter, and that this particular student supervisor was very good at training in new students. My uncle really enjoyed working for him.

Imagine my surprise, then, when Fred told me that his student supervisor was a fellow named Clarence Carter. My first reaction, after the surprise, was to exclaim “I met Clarence for the first time when I was in graduate school.” This would have been sometime between 1980 and 1982. Clarence was much loved by members of the Libraries staff and played an important part with grievance procedures and other issues on campus. Clarence, according to a 1996 University press release, “was a librarian at the University of Minnesota for over 25 years. In addition, he was past president of the University Association of Black Employees. Carter was owner of the Challenge Bookstore, one of the first African-American bookstores in the Twin-Cities.” Clarence Carter passed away in May 1996.

It was my turn, then, to surprise my uncle. “Did you know,” I said, “that Clarence was appointed Curator of Special Collections around 1994?” Unfortunately, he did not live long enough to truly enjoy the position. His untimely passing at the age of 58 from pancreatic cancer meant that the Libraries needed to find a new curator. The Libraries found me a couple of years later and I began work in July 1998. I wish Clarence was still with us. I know he would have been a great curator and joy to work with.

Marguerite Ragnow

Marguerite Ragnow

Marguerite Ragnow

As an undergraduate studying pre-modern history, I ventured into Walter to research a paper on the history of the English country house library. I went into the stacks to pull items, then sat at this little desk in the stacks in darkness with just a single light shining down on me, very cold, surrounded by metal stairs, stone, and I think the window may have been covered in cobwebs — it was awesome! I felt like I was actually in a 16th-century library — Wilson paled in comparison.

Jessica Jahn

I worked at Wilson Library as an undergrad, so I didn’t spend too much time at Walter. My favorite Walter memory was when my friends and I went to library for blind date with a book in February a few years ago. We had a great time picking out a book for each of the four of us and unwrapping them when we got home. The descriptions and art on the coverings of the books were great. I think it’s a super fun program that the libraries do, especially for students!

Tim Nesheim

It got me ready for many exams. It was the place to go when I really needed to buckle down and get things done.

John Pasowicz

In June/July 2010, there was flooding on Level F which put the lowest shelf of books in jeopardy of water damage. The ‘Walter Signal’ (aka cell/email communications) went out to staff and many answered the literary call to physically move hundreds — if not thousands — of books to the second floor where they were carefully re-cataloged in their temporary home. A new page — nay, chapter — of library service was written that day.

John Pasowicz (part 2)

As a former staffer operating the basement desk (circa 208-2010), I was a frequent paying patron of the renowned Wise Owl Cafe. However, an understated perk of the position was access to the offloaded cafe leftovers upon the shop’s weekend closing. It is not an understatement to say that the nourishment provided by such weekend leftovers was essential to my undergraduate survival. While not registered with Guinness World Records, it is *possible* a record number of Reubens were consumed during that time period.

Rabia Shah Din

I have many fond memories of crying over Organic Chemistry HW in the Walter library while I was a student at the UMN. The smart learning commons at Walter were instrumental in my survival and continued sanity after Organic Chemistry.

Holly Fena

Looking back, I spent more time at Walter than I did anywhere else on campus. Every semester, every year.

Leave your memory...

Do you have a Walter Library memory?

If so, please consider sharing with us for inclusion on this page. You can complete this form and we’ll take care of the rest! Thanks.

© 2024 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved. The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.
Privacy Statement | Acceptable Use of IT Resources