Following decades of rapid growth at the university, by the 1970s it became clear that the library collections and services were outgrowing the iconic Wilson Library building. In October 1975 the board of trustees approved the construction of a new central library on campus, using funds available from the sale of campus utilities. Built on the site of a former parking lot next to the Graham Student Union, construction began in 1979, and the new Walter Royal Davis Library opened in February 1984. It was designed by Italian architect Aldo Guirgola, also known for his work on the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and the Australian Parliament House in Canberra.
The library is named for Walter Royal Davis, a donor and member of the UNC Board of Trustees. Davis is credited with persuading the state legislature to allow the university to use the proceeds of its recent sale of campus utilities for the construction of the new library. Davis was a Pasquotank County native who made a fortune in the oil industry in Texas. Despite never having attended college, he often made significant gifts to support higher education in North Carolina. He is possibly the only person to have served on the board of trustees for both UNC—Chapel Hill and Duke at the same time.
Date Established: 1978
Date Range: 1978 – Present