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Malcolm A. Love Library Malcolm A. Love Library

The Love Library Turns 50

Historic volumes, comic books, a mural and one of SDSU’s most photogenic architectural features mark the continuing evolution of a focal point for teaching, learning and research.
By Rebecca Williamson

“The programs and partnerships we build in 2020 will form the foundation for another 50 years of impact of Love Library on the academic experience at San Diego State.”

The year 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of San Diego State University’s Malcolm A. Love Library, a place so unique that it houses an 1858 edition of “The Lady’s Home Magazine,” first edition works of William Faulkner and Spider-Man comics.

Now home to more than 1.6 million books, serials and media titles in the library, with an additional 1.2 million and e-books and databases accessible to the SDSU community, the Love Library continues to evolve to meet the needs of students and SDSU’s aspirations as a research powerhouse.

The library is part of a legacy of expansion under Malcolm A. Love, who led the campus from 1952 to 1971 and retired just prior to its transformation from San Diego State College into the university of today. 

Amid booms in student enrollment, faculty, graduate degree programs and research grants, plans emerged for a great new library to house over one million volumes. Construction began in 1968 and was completed in 1970. The building was named for Love in May 1971.

“Love Library harbors high-quality and educational assets that encourage curiosity and a place for students to test their knowledge,” said Tammy Blackburn, double alumna (’94, ’01) and director of marketing and communications for SDSU’s University Relations and Development. “When I entered the doors, it put me in the mindset of pursuing knowledge.” 

In 1997, Love Library was extended by an underground, $205 million addition, commonly known as “The Dome'' for its green-tinted, 80-foot-wide rotunda. This provided additional room for research, computer activity and collaboration.

Love Library is also home to several iconic works of art and has transformed several unused spaces into student-focused areas, rich in art and light.

In 2015, SDSU unveiled the restoration of a 1976 campus mural on the building’s third floor. Known both as the Rock 'n' Roll mural and the Backdoor mural (moved from its original Aztec Center location near the Back Door concert venue), the mural is dedicated to the Aztec god of music. 

The design includes a pianist, marimba singer, guitarist, bass player, vocalist, trombonist, trumpeter and flutist, with an inscription reading: "May this mural bring you peace of mind." Recognizing the importance of the arts on campus, then-library Dean Gale Etschmaier served a pivotal role in preserving the mural and housing it in Love Library.

In 2016, Etschmaier commissioned two art classes to design and paint a wall mural at the former main entrance. The story of the “Circle of Knowledge” mural, co-sponsored by Arts Alive SDSU and the Library, is one of collaboration across disciplines.

In 2017, Love Library opened the Edward E. Marsh Golden Age of Science Fiction Room, serving students and researchers in the fields of science, technology, politics, religion, philosophy, journalism and even theater and film. The collection features signed first editions by numerous Golden Age writers, including Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury

“Unique displays and exhibits preserve pieces of history through special collections that will be made available for many future generations and contribute to the intellectual learning environment,” said Blackburn. “Library and university staff do a wonderful job of providing outreach and orientation surrounding our academic library, to immerse our students in the campus culture.” 

University administrators, in collaboration with library personnel, continue to make changes to Love Library so it will meet the changing needs of SDSU students, faculty and staff. The newly created Latinx Resource Center, located in the Chicano/a Collection of the library, aims to support Latinx students throughout their journey at SDSU and help them thrive academically, socially and mentally.  

Looking ahead, Love Library will be part of SDSU’s goal of becoming a premier research institution. Library leadership is considering a number of innovative steps in order to meet this goal, including the launch of the Digital Humanities Center to promote innovative teaching and research across the spectrum of digital scholarship.

Library Dean Scott Walter has recognized the challenges and the opportunities ahead as we dedicate Love Library to its next 50 years of service, saying: "This will be a year in which we, like all librarians, archivists, and curators, and staff, will demonstrate the value of the work we do, and the ways in which libraries continue to support campus activities, both essential and innovative, in the face of seismic change.”

While the building is currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the library continues to provide service to the SDSU community through online services and access to digital content. Librarians continue to assist faculty making the transition to online teaching, and help students and faculty find needed research materials. Most recently, "dome-side pickup" has been established as an option for contactless delivery of physical books requested by students, faculty or staff.

Despite the current physical restrictions, the library will commemorate its golden anniversary and many achievements in several ways. Special Collections and University Archives kicked off the celebration with Building Love Library: A 50-Year Anniversary, an online exhibit of photographs from the University Archives Photograph Collection. These images, renderings and blueprints document the library’s three-year construction and include photos from opening day and the 1971 dedication.

The celebration will continue into the fall with the unveiling of 50 Books SDSU Loves. Nominate your favorite book by filling out a form, then, follow the event via social media @sdsulibrary to have a chance to vote for the best 50 books.

Said Walter: “The programs and partnerships we build in 2020 will form the foundation for another 50 years of impact of Love Library on the academic experience at San Diego State."

The Love Library Turns 50
The year 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of San Diego State University’s Malcolm A. Love Library.