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Unlocking A Northwestern Tradition

After 42 years and a meticulous renovation, Deering Library doors reopen

Northwestern University alumni returning to campus for Homecoming festivities experienced a bit of a time warp at Deering Library. The University celebrated the reopening of the library’s front doors for the first time in 42 years with a ceremony at the newly renovated entryway facing Deering Meadow.

The ribbon cutting had both a historic and historical feel, with members of the Deering and McCormick families--whose generous gifts made the reopening possible--on hand to wield the giant scissors. The youngest descendants of the library’s namesake Charles Deering, four-year-old Cyra and six-year-old Sebastian Vella, even dressed in period clothing to evoke images from the library’s original ribbon-cutting ceremony in 1933.

“This is where learning and studies and growth may take place in a space of quiet beauty and strong intention,” said Stephen Strachan, chair of the library board of governors and great-grandson of Charles Deering. “It gets to the very heart of the University.”

The ceremony also featured remarks from Morton Schapiro, University president, and Sarah Pritchard, dean of libraries and University librarian.

Deering’s main entrance was shuttered in 1970 when the new University Library opened. Although Deering had long been a vibrant hub of student life, students at the time seemed to prefer the new library, Pritchard said. As years went by and nostalgia for Deering increased, the idea of reopening the doors became financially untenable, as new building codes required costly modifications to improve security, accessibility and climate control.

Construction began last summer, and the long awaited dream of reopening the doors became a reality just in time for Homecoming weekend. ADA-approved accessibility ramps have been seamlessly added to the reconfigured front entrance. Improved climate control systems, a proper security system and an ornate front desk have been integrated into the library’s lobby.

Pritchard praised the attention to detail of the renovation in “modernizing, and yet you would never know it’s been modernized, this beautiful, historic building.”