Throughout history, the world’s greatest thinkers have extolled the virtues of libraries. To Cicero, libraries were the “soul” of civilization. The great American educator George Mercer Dawson called them “the diary of the human race.” More recently, the visionary author Ray Bradbury wrote, “Without libraries…we have no past and no future.”

Libraries have been and always will be essential to human endeavor. And nowhere is an outstanding library more essential than on a university campus. Great universities are, in fact, built around great libraries, both figuratively and literally.

Since the opening of WVU’s first library in 1867, the West Virginia University Libraries have continually endeavored to preserve the legacy of the past while evolving to meet the needs of the future. Much has changed over the last century and a half, especially in the way information is accessed today. Online catalogs, journals, and digital databases now make it possible for students and researchers to stay at home and visit the library via the internet. Students can even use smartphones to access the Libraries’ mobile website and to text questions to librarians.

Yet, despite its growing remote availability, the library remains a vibrant central gathering place—the cultural, social, and intellectual heart of the University. But even this has evolved. Forget the old image of the lone student studying quietly in the stacks. Today’s students often prefer to meet in groups, to learn and to work on projects assisted by rapidly expanding technology. Along with traditional written classwork, modern assignments often include the creation of electronic documents and multi-media presentations. The WVU Libraries are at the cutting edge of these new information technology requirements and are serving more users on campus, and around the world, than ever before.

While constantly looking forward, however, the WVU Libraries maintain an equal devotion to preserving information resources that document the heritage of our state and region. In fact, no other university library in America plays a more significant role in preserving the history and culture of its state. Since its creation by an act of the State Legislature in 1933, the WVU Libraries’ West Virginia and Regional History Collection has been a leader in locating and preserving original manuscript and archival resources that document the history of West Virginia. From the papers of the state’s political and industrial founders, to those of citizens in all walks of life, the West Virginia Collection is literally a West Virginia history treasure-trove.

The WVU Libraries are also home to one of the finest rare book collections of any land-grant university in the nation. From Shakespeare’s priceless “First Folio”—the most important literary work in the English language—to unique medieval manuscripts and seminal works of botany, math, history, and science fiction, the Rare Books Collection provides library users with an opportunity to personally examine some of the most magnificent books ever produced by mankind.

The WVU Libraries Special Collections are not a museum. They are meant to be used and studied to help create new knowledge and new inspiration. Access is not restricted to the WVU community, but is open to any and all who have an interest in studying the collections. Students, faculty, and citizens alike are free to explore unimagined worlds here, learning from what the volumes and archives contain and from the inspiring opportunity to view, for example, a land-grant document signed by James Monroe or Patrick Henry or a Civil War account book kept by General “Stonewall” Jackson or to feel the heft of the world’s first true encyclopedia. In an increasingly technology-driven world, items like these, which form a tangible link to our heritage, must be preserved and protected for coming generations. It is essential to our State of Minds.

The students and faculty of WVU, and the people of West Virginia, expect much from the WVU Libraries. They expect us to pioneer the frontiers of 21st century information gathering and access while continuing our essential work in acquiring, conserving, and making available the rare and priceless resources that document the heritage of our state and civilization. It is a tall but essential order. With your generosity and commitment, we can and will exceed those expectations.

The Trajectory of Success

The WVU Libraries are breaking new ground in the organization and digital presentation of the world’s knowledge. Our vision is centered on anticipating and meeting the needs of our learning community and on providing the latest resources and services that support learning, teaching, and research.

In addition to our progress in the technological arena, the unique resources provided by our special collections are becoming recognized and respected around the country. From a recent National Endowment for the Humanities grant of more than $260,000 to digitize priceless early West Virginia newspapers to selection as the official archive for the International Association for Identification, the world’s oldest and largest forensic association, the WVU Libraries are serving education and research directly and powerfully.

It is vital to WVU and West Virginia that the Libraries continue to provide access to the best resources and latest research and to preserve documents and items that chronicle our state’s rich history. Your commitment and generosity will help us to continue this success.

Priorities for Tomorrow

The WVU Libraries have identified a list of essential funding priorities that, with your support, will enhance our contributions in education and research, with acquisitions, preservation, and digitization of important and rare materials. A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University is the vehicle through which you can make a difference for students and faculty members as well as our state, national, and global communities.

  • Strengthening the West Virginia and Regional History Collection
  • Naming Opportunities in Wise Library
  • Building the WVU Libraries’ Future in the Digital Age
  • Library Support for Graduate Teaching and Learning

To learn more about these funding priorities contact Paula Martinelli at 304-293-0303. To learn more about the WVU Libraries visit