Getchell Library Building Records

Identifier: AC 0557

Scope and Contents

Much of the collection is represented in series 1, which contains of materials about the planning and construction of the Getchell Library building from 1959-1961, it's cornerstone ceremony in 1961, dedication in 1962, and expansion from 1974-1977. Series 2 includes the time capsule, removed from the building's cornerstone before its demolition in December 2013, and the associated materials included in the time capsule in 1961. The copper time capsule was opened by members of the Grand Lodge opened in the same month.


  • 1959-2013


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.

Historical Note

The third library in use on the University of Nevada, Reno campus, Getchell Library building was conceived of in December 1956. Projected university enrollment caused librarian James J. Hill and the Faculty Library Committee to realize that a new library roughly four times the size of the current Clark Memorial Library would be needed. Therefore, in 1959 after state funding and private donations were obtained, the Board of Regents approved the new library's architectural design and the razing of the campus infirmary building next to Lincoln Hall. Construction broke ground of the Noble H. Getchell Library in January 1960, and the cornerstone ceremony was held on September 19, 1961. Getchell Library opened for use in February 1962.

The University of Nevada, Reno’s newest library was named after Noble H. Getchell, a prominent mining magnate who served as a Nevada State Senator from Lander County for twenty years. Mr. Getchell owned the Betty O'Neal mine in Battle Mountain, the state's leading silver mine, and the world's second-largest gold producing mine at the time, the Getchell Mine.

While planning the interior of Getchell Library, it was decided to place a piece of historical art at the entrance to the rare books collection. In the fifteenth century, it had taken Florence sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti 25 years to make his bronze "Gates of Paradise," which were completed in 1452. Grace Wilson Vanderbilt donated a replica of the Gates to the university in 1948. The University of Nevada Sagebrush, the university's student newspaper, ran a story in February 1962 about the gates titled "Bronze Gates Guard Rare Books." The story reveals that the gates were first stored in a Quonset hut on campus because no suitable location could be found for them. This lovely addition to the Getchell building allowed one of the finest pieces of Italian art to "… serve as a reminder of early Renaissance relief sculpture in a building of modern architecture."

Getchell Library was warmly welcomed by the students and faculty, who had a unique hands-on experience in preparing for its opening. In January 1962, librarian Sam Wood organized a "book walk" for volunteers to trek through the snow and help transport stacks of books across campus from Clark Library to Getchell Library. The dedication ceremony for Getchell Library was held on June 2, 1962. Professor James D. Hart, Acting Director of the Bancroft Library at the University of California, was invited to speak at the ceremony. He observed, "This library building, the books that it houses, and the purposes to which it is dedicated represent the legacy of our academic heritage in this country. The building and the books are both physical and symbolic evidence of that cultural continuum depended on our institutions of higher learning and the libraries which are their focal points."

Only twelve years after it opened, Getchell Library required expansion. Thankfully, when first constructed, the anticipation of an eventual enlargement was accommodated by building the whole north wall out of tinted glass which could be easily removed to construct an addition. The $3 million addition was completed in 1977, increasing the area of the library to nearly 180,000 square feet, making it UNR’s largest building.

The remodeled library provided improved access and room for the growing collection, making research more convenient for students and faculty alike. In that pre-Internet era, and even now, national accreditation teams consider the size of an academic library's collections when calculating a university's ability to provide quality education for students and adequate research resources for the faculty. Thus, an academic library is a key resource in supporting the university's core mission.

After more than 40 years of service as the University's main library, Getchell Library ran out of space and presented structural obsolescence problems. It proved to be impossible to renovate the building by making it higher or digging to insert a new level below it. Longtime planning for a new library was finally approved by the Board of Regents during the economic boom of the early 2000s. The Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center opened in August 2008 in time for the fall semester, replacing Getchell Library.

In December 2013, the Getchell Library building was demolished, making way for the Pennington Student Achievement Center.


2 Linear Feet (3 boxes, 1 oversize folder)

Language of Materials



The Getchell Library building served as the third home for the University of Nevada, Reno's main library from 1961 until 2008. It was demolished in December 2013 to make room for the new Pennington Student Achievement Center. The collection contains materials relating to the history of the building, including specifications, remodel information, and cornerstone dedication. Additionally, the time capsule from the demolition of the building is also included.


Arranged into the following series: 1) Building History; 2) Time Capsule

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Time capsule and associated materials transferred by Facilities Services on December 13, 2013. All other materials received through periodic transfers to the department from unknown sources and distribution through campus mail.



Guide to the Getchell Library Building Records
Jessica Maddox
April 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. University Archives Repository

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
University of Nevada, Reno
Reno NV 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5724 (Fax)