Elmer E. Rasmuson Library
When the $4.3 million Elmer E. Rasmuson Library opened in 1970, it held 219,000 volumes. It is Alaska’s largest library, with more than 1.5 million volumes including books, periodicals, films, sound recordings, microforms, government documents, maps, archival and manuscript materials.
The Rasmuson Library has one of the world's finest collections of Alaska and Polar Regions (APR) materials including books, periodicals, photography, manuscripts, films, oral histories, rare books and maps. The collections are centered on Alaska but include many items about the Circumpolar North and Antarctica. Subject bibliographers, archivists, anthropologists and historians on the APR staff are available for reference and research assistance.
The online library catalog, Goldmine, can be used to locate what the Rasmuson library owns and all the sites owned by the University of Alaska statewide system. A wide variety of subject-specific databases is available in the library via the Elmernet local area network, which is only searchable within the library, and via the Internet to UAF students, faculty and staff.
Attached to the Fine Arts Complex, the 113,156-square-foot building was designed to house 400,000 volumes, but by 1980, the library held 720,642 volumes. In 1985, the library was expanded; 68,616-square-feet were added to the structure, at a cost of $13.2 million. The new construction allowed the library to reorganize, a move which included the establishment of the Alaska and Polar Regions Department and a large media resources center.
When the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines opened in 1922, the first library, housed in Old Main Building, contained a collection of 2,326 books, mostly government publications acquired by Charles Bunnell, the college's first president. Bunnell’s vision for the library was a collection of "everything that has been published on Alaska by Alaskans.” In 1935, the growing library moved to the college's new gymnasium, which is now Signers' Hall. By 1960, the library housed 70,469 volumes, so it was moved into the west wing of the new Bunnell Building.
As the Rasmuson Library tries to live up to the ideal of President Bunnell by obtaining at least one copy of everything published about Alaska, it needs to continue expanding. A recent renovation includes upgrades to existing building systems that have become difficult to maintain, improvements to the interior finishes and the exterior shell, greater accessibility and enhanced security of archival materials. Also included in the two-and-a-half year renovation are improvements in shelving and safety features of materials, the replacement and expansion of the data communications system and lighting upgrades.
Dedication of Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, May 3, 1970