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Check Out the Library

by Stella Lorence

photography courtesy of Aileen Tran

Most people probably only know Mugar Memorial Library as a place to study, but there’s more to the seven-story building than meets the eye. Here are five things you probably didn’t know about Mugar Memorial Library.

1. The library was named after the owner of the Star Market grocery store chain, Stephen Mugar.

The library was built in 1966 with a gift from Mugar, according to BU Today. Mugar’s family emigrated from Armenia to the United States in 1905, according to Mugar Enterprises. Stephen Mugar’s father, Sarkis, purchased the original Star Market in Watertown, MA. Mugar took over the grocery chain after his father died following a car accident in 1922. After making his fortune through the Star Market chain, Mugar contributed to several Armenian causes and educational institutions, including Mugar Memorial Library.

2. The second floor of Mugar is a music library, offering an extensive collection of sheet music and vinyl.

“The Boston University Music Library is a full-service internal branch of Mugar Memorial Library offering an in-depth collection of traditional and digital content as well as online course content building and support,” according to their website.

In the listening room, students can access Mugar’s vinyl collection and listen on the provided turntables.

Next to the listening room is the Arthur Fiedler Reading room. Fiedler conducted for the Boston Pops Orchestra for more than 40 years, according to the Arthur Fiedler Reading room webpage. The contents of the room include Fiedler’s personal collection of musical scores and books, as well as other documents, letters and memorabilia relating to his life. Access to the Arthur Fiedler Reading room is by appointment.

3. The fifth floor of Mugar houses the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center.

The center houses “substantial holdings of earlier historical documents and over 140,000 rare books,” according to their website. It has “rotating exhibitions throughout the building showcase the manuscript holdings and rare books from the Center's various collections.”

In order to engage students, the center holds student discovery seminars and a student enrichment series. During the discovery seminars, students get the opportunity to view some of the manuscripts, photographs and letters in the collection’s inventory. The enrichment series involves bringing in creative professionals such as artists, directors and writers to share their insights.

“I believe that [the center] is a very useful resource for students performing research of any kind,” said Will Andronico (COM ‘22). “At least for me, I feel as though it would be especially useful in a documentary or photographic project in which I’d need direct access to letters, not just quotes from such resources.”

4. The third floor houses the Martin Luther King Reading Room, which showcases artifacts from King’s time here at BU.

“Consisting of 83,000 items, the King collection is both one of the largest and the most frequently consulted of the more than 2,000 holdings in the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center,” according to the Dr. Martin Luther King Archive website.

King donated his collection the same year he won the Nobel Peace prize in 1964, according to BU Today.

“I found [the MLK reading room] by accident,” said Keeley Bombard (CAS ‘22). “I was trying to find my lab group and ended up reading an essay that MLK wrote while getting his doctorate. It was fascinating to think of him as a student, writing papers at Mugar, instead of this figure whose legacy embodies such an impactful time in American history.”

5. Alumni can, and are encouraged to, continue using Mugar’s resources.

Alumni can check out books using an alumni card, which can be printed off of the BU Alumni Association website. They also have access to a wide variety of alumni editions of online resources.

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