The Carnegie Library (now Hill Hall) had been in use for only a couple of decades before university officials began talking about the need for a new library building. University president Harry Woodburn Chase described the Carnegie Library as built to serve the needs of a small college. As the university continued on a path of ambitious growth and transformation into a major research university, it would need a new library. The new building would be not just a home for the library collections but a symbol of the university's aspirations. The building was designed by architect Arthur Nash, who had worked on other campus buildings. The library was completed in 1929 and dedicated on October 19, 1929, just a few days before the stock market crash. At the dedication ceremony, Governor O. Max Gardner said, "The heart of a true university is its library."
In addition to housing the library collections and reading rooms, the new library was also the home of the School of Library Science and for many years housed the Bull's Head Bookshop on the ground floor. Even with the much larger space available, the library collections eventually outgrew its stack space. New stack additions were added in 1952 and 1977. Once Davis Library opened as the main university library in 1984, the building was renovated to serve as the home for Wilson Library's Special Collections: the North Carolina Collection, Rare Book Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Southern Folklife Collection, and University Archives.
Originally known simply as the University Library, it was renamed Wilson Library in 1956 after librarian Louis Round Wilson. Wilson graduated from UNC in 1899 and was hired soon after as university librarian. Under his direction the library greatly expanded its collections, staff, and services. Wilson was also instrumental in founding the School of Information and Library Science. His work on campus extended beyond the library: he was involved in establishing the university's Extension Division and the University of North Carolina Press and wrote about university history. In 1932 Wilson left to lead the library school at the University of Chicago. He returned to Chapel Hill in the 1940s and remained active as a library consultant, author, and special assistant to university leaders.
Date Established: 1928
Date Range: 1928 – Present