UIHistories Project: A History of the University of Illinois by Kalev Leetaru
        B U I L D I N G S

Illini Union Bookstore and Admin Office Building

The Illini Union Bookstore began its life as a student book exchange in the early 1920's. By 1932, the exchange had grown into a commercial bookstore and moved into new quarters in the Bradley Arcade building, where it was renamed the Illini Union Bookstore in 1940. [1]

By 1962 the "availability of paperback books of quality, presenting a wide range of subjects, and the demand for them [had] increased to the point that an adequate stock of these books [was] now an essential part of the intellectual and cultural resources of a modern campus". Hence, in November a committee was appointed with Dean of Library Administration, Robert B. Downs as its chairman, "to determine whether student needs were being adequately serviced and to consider the establishment of a University-operated paperback bookstore or book center". The committee concluded the following: [2]

  1. The University of Illinois is far behind other comparable universities in providing bookstore facilities for its students, faculty, and staff.
  2. Although one of the local commercial bookstores in the University business district is expanding its operations to include a large stock of paperback books, and another store has a fair selection of paperbacks, neither the present nor the proposed commercial operations will be adequate to serve the University's needs.
  3. In addition to the opportunity to purchase books, there should also be the opportunity for leisurely browsing and reading, and the selection of the stock should include many titles which are not normally found in a commercial bookstore.
  4. There is at present no satisfactory local outlet for University of Illinois Press books, and these should be stocked in a paperback bookstore.
  5. There should be established in the Illini Union a book center limited to high-quality paperback editions of American and foreign works with an initial stock of 7,000 to 8,000 titles.

It was determined that the best location would be "the area now occupied by the Pine Lounge, the Browsing Room, and the Wedgwood [sic] Lounge in the west wing of the first floor of the original building", which would "lend itself to the establishment of an attractive integrated reading center in an educational and cultural atmosphere". The University Library was to help select the books, which would be purchased through Illini Union reserve funds. The total cost to remodel the area for the bookstore was estimated to be around $42,000 and the project was approved on July 2, 1963. [3]

In 1964 the Book Center finally opened, which stood until 1992, when the Center was absorbed back by the Bookstore and its space in the Union replaced by a computer lab. [4]

Groundbreaking for the new Illini Union Bookstore and Admin Office Building occurred on March 30, 1993, [5] and on August 8, 1994, the new Bookstore opened its doors. [6] The bottom 2 floors house the Bookstore's select of general books and merchandise, while course textbooks are found in the basement. The upper three floors of the 92,400 square foot building house administration offices. The total cost of the building was $15,000,000. [7]

The Illini Union Bookstore stands on the site of the old Davenport House dormitory [8] and one of its original windows hangs in the building's northeast administrative offices entrance. [9]

[2] Board of Trustees Proceedings, July 2, 1963
[3] Board of Trustees Proceedings, July 2, 1963
[5] University of Illinois Archives, Building and Statue Dedication Programs: RS 2/0/808
[7] O&M Project Document -
[8] 1932 Campus Map
[9] Personal observation
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