The story behind Otto G. Richter’s association with the University of Miami reads like a dramatic novel.
Richter, who had retired to Miami for health reasons in his early 40’s, wrote a new will on the back of his medical chart while on his deathbed. This will, witnessed by Richter’s nurse, left the University of Miami all the money that was originally to be shared with Carnegie Institute of Technology, Richter’s alma mater.
A loyal fraternity man who was a member of Theta Xi at Carnegie, Richter was angered when the Institute decided to move the Theta Xi fraternity house off the main campus. UM gained $2.5 million.
Over the years, UM had acquired some 600,000 volumes but had no central library. The University collection was scattered about the campus and volumes were housed in various buildings, causing much difficulty for students, faculty and staff.
The Richter Library soon would change that.
Construction began with a three-story building. By April 1961, six floors were added to the original building and a separate building was built that included a lobby and service floors.
A splendid network of Research Facilities
Today, the University Library is a major research facility for the Southeastern United States and Caribbean regions. It is one of the largest libraries in the region, housing approximately 2.6 million volumes.
UM also belongs to the 120-member Association of Research Libraries, the Center for Research Libraries and is a founding member of SEFLIN (Southeast Florida Library Information Network).
Richter Library is also designated for the Government Publications of the federal government. University Libraries was established as a U.S. depository in 1939. In 1993 it was named after longtime South Florida Congressman Dante Fascell. The department selects roughly 80 percent of the materials available from the U.S. Government Printing Office. More than 20,000 items are received, processed and housed each year, with total holdings numbering in the millions, according to library faculty.
In addition to U.S documents, the department also collects materials from various international bodies, such as the United Nations, UNESCO, the World Bank and the Organizations for Economic Cooperation and Development.
On the whole, government documents include paper pamphlets as well as substantial monographs and periodicals. Depositories receive increasing numbers of documents on microfiche, CD-ROM and Internet/online sources.
Once a scattered collection of books, the University library system now includes the Richter Library, the Music Library, the Architecture Library and the Math Library. The School of Law Library, The Marine Science Library, and the Calder Memorial Library at the School of Medicine are separate research entities.
Although the University library system did not have a permanent home until the 1960s, it had been actively collecting books during the 10-year period prior to the completion of the Richter Library.
The Floridian and Americana Collection, with particular emphasis on Florida and the Southern states, provides the University with one of the most distinguished libraries in Florida history in the state. The library of Sir Noel Livingston was acquired in 1954. It consists of materials on Jamaica, its history and government, including votes of the Assembly from 1786.
A year later, the Western Society of Engineers Library was purchased through the assistance of the John Crerar Library. It contains approximately 20,000 volumes of various fields of engineering.
Two thousand volumes, including first editions of all Longfellow works and the 136 different editions of Evangelina, were purchased from Thomas Devalcourt, curator of Longfellow House, in 1952.
Devalcourt assembled the Lerner Collection, composed of 5,000 volumes, including first and other editions of major and minor figures in mid-nineteenth century American literature for the University Library. It was purchased through the generosity of Mr. Michael Lerner.
The library also holds many rare books and manuscripts valued at more than $20,000. Six Thomas Jefferson letters are included among them.
The Archives and Special Collections Division maintains approximately 50,000 rare books and publications, 500 manuscripts, 100,000 photographs, 5,000 maps, 2,000 architectural drawings and 2,500 linear feet of University Archives to support the teaching and research interests of faculty and students. The library contains a number of impressive collections.
Since its creation, the University of Miami has prided itself on being a Pan American University. In fact, that was one of the goals of the founding University trustees, to build a bridge, a link to Latin America. Keeping in that tradition, in 1930, the library materials on Latin America and the Caribbean grew to provide support for the numerous courses taught at the University’s Pan-American Institute.
During the 1960’s, the Cuban Heritage Collection saw considerable growth after several exiled Cubans were added to the library staff.
The Richter Library’s Cuban Heritage Collection now includes approximately 45,000 volumes of both rare and contemporary books. Cuban periodicals include newspapers, magazines and newsletters.
The Cuban Archives – now the Cuban Heritage Collection – include material produced in Cuba, by Cuban exiles and by Cuban-Americans since 1959.
A collection of Cuban historical and literary manuscripts from the 17th to 20th century containing important material dated May 12, 1895, and signed by Jose Marti, father of Cuban independence, and General Maximo Gomez, commander in chief of the army during the War for Independence (1895-1898). There are also collections of personal corporate papers from distinguished Cubans as well as general materials on Cuba.
Other notable collections include the “Calvin Shedd Papers: The Civil War in Florida,” a series of remarkable letters written by Calvin Shedd, a Union soldier during the Civil War from 1862 to 1863; the Florida Postcard Collection, which contains about 5,000 postcards of Florida buildings, landmarks, cities, and towns, tourist attractions and other views; Robinson Crusoe, printed in London by William Taylor in 1719; and a “Tour of the Early Years, 1916-1957: In Honor of the University of Miami’s birthday, 1926-1996,” a collection of rare photos of the University campus during its early years.