Between the stacks of Ellis Library

Ellis Library has supplied academic resources for its patrons since 1916. Learn more about this central campus resource.

Sept. 25, 2023
Contact: Deidra Ashley,
Illustrations by RJ Platto

Ellis Library is the primary quiet study space for students at the University of Missouri. Yet when it opened in 1916, it was the first time Tigers had access to a truly silent library.

Mizzou’s former library was located in Jesse Hall between the men’s and women’s gymnasiums, where the thuds and clacks of basketballs and hockey sticks were common. Named after Elmer Ellis, who served as university president from 1955–66, the library helped unify campus and provide a central spot for those seeking peace and quiet.

On April 1, 1947, MU chose Ralph Halsted Parker to be the director of libraries. Parker made the decision to open the library to everyone in our community, which holds true today — any individual over the age of 16 who is not affiliated with MU can still check out books from the library with a friends of the library borrowing card. Parker’s choice established the library as a welcoming educational environment available to anyone with a desire to learn, not just Mizzou students and faculty.

Parker also converted the library to the Library of Congress classification system, which resulted in the reclassification of more than 25,000 books in 1961. His efforts led to the library being recognized worldwide for library automation, which enables patrons to access both physical and electronic resources. Ellis now provides access to a wide variety of online resources including databases, electronic books, data archives and more. Many of these are available to users worldwide, demonstrating Ellis Library’s commitment to learning across the globe.

Through the years, Ellis has undergone several renovations. In 1935, major sections were added including book stack space, reading rooms and seminar rooms. By 1958, the original plan of creating two wings for the library was completed when an extension to the east wing was added. The most recent addition to Ellis Library took place in 1985 and attached what Tigers now know as the west entrance to the existing building. This created the Richard Wallace Atrium, a café area and a staircase leading to the first floor.

Today, Ellis Library is one of the largest research libraries in Missouri, containing more than 3 million volumes and providing access to a number of electronic resources. It serves as a spot for studying, meeting with friends or grabbing a coffee at the Bookmark Café. As a vital resource for the University of Missouri community — and beyond, the library is a symbol of Mizzou’s commitment to education and research.

Did you know?
There are currently six specialized libraries across campus. Learn more about them and their resources at

Story written by Audrey Brown

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