University of Chicago receives $25 million gift from Morningstar CEO in support of new Library building

A $25 million gift from alumni Joe and Rika Mansueto will support construction of a new library at the University of Chicago. Joe Mansueto is Chairman and CEO of Morningstar, Inc.

Renowned Chicago-based architect Helmut Jahn designed the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library, which will be a partially underground facility topped with a glass dome and have the capacity to house 3.5 million volumes of print material — making the University of Chicago the country’s sole top academic research library to keep its entire collection on campus.

“This library combines three of our passions: great design, the free exchange of information and the University of Chicago. That’s why Rika and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of this project,” said Joe Mansueto. 

University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer said, “These scholarly materials are at the very core of intellectual life and intellectual activity at the University of Chicago. This effort to keep the materials at the University and in the heart of our campus is a reaffirmation of their immense value.”

Keeping books on campus

While other universities, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Brown, have moved books off campus, the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library will ensure that books will remain at the center of the University of Chicago campus.

“This collection of immense scholarly value will be housed, preserved and delivered to our community in a state-of-the-art environment,” said Judith Nadler, Director of the University Library.

The Joe and Rika Mansueto Library will be located beside the Joseph Regenstein Library at South Ellis Avenue and East 57th Street. Construction on the project will begin this summer, and the new library will open in the fall of 2010.

“Physical location and academic mission are inseparable,” Nadler said. “Interdisciplinary research — a distinguishing feature of the University of Chicago — is best supported by integrated collections on-site and at a scholar’s fingertips. Dispersed and off-site solutions would create barriers to interdisciplinary initiatives and programs.”

Support from faculty     

In 2003, a faculty committee was organized to examine and review options for increasing shelving space for books and other materials at Regenstein Library, which met its capacity in 2007. 

After research and discussion with colleagues, students and Library staff, the committee expressed in its final report that following the trend of peer institutions and moving materials off-site would not be ideal. The committee expressed that the ultimate solution would be constructing a facility on campus to house these valuable print materials, and not moving anything off-site.

“In true Chicago fashion, we are doing this only after thinking long and hard about it,” said Andrew Abbott, the Gustavus F. & Ann M. Swift Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Sociology and the College. “We have both practical and theoretical rationales for what we are doing. It’s not based on knee-jerk traditionalism, but on serious scientific study of the Library as well as on explicit theorizing about the Library’s potential use.”

Abbott said that cutting-edge research depends heavily on having immediate access to the widest variety of materials, a point reinforced by Library circulation data. 

“The Joe and Rika Mansueto Library will make Chicago unique among American university libraries in its commitment to cutting-edge scholarship in the library research fields,” Abbott said. “In practice, we will become a place scholars come to from other universities.”

Marriage between print and technology

Abbott emphasized the important relationship between print and electronic resources.

“Most of our evidence suggests that the heaviest electronic users of Library materials are also the heaviest physical users. The two are complementary, not antagonistic,” he said.

Nadler agreed, noting that the use of online resources fuels the use and discovery of physical resources.

In June 2007, the University of Chicago Library announced it would be one of 12 research university libraries partnering with the Google Book Search project to digitize select collections, providing broader and more in-depth access to historically significant print resources. Through the agreement, Google will digitally scan and make searchable both public domain and copyrighted materials in a manner consistent with copyright law.

Nadler added, “Scholarship will thrive in an environment where print and electronic materials coexist. Our investment in the marriage between print and electronic is an investment in scholarship, now and in the future.” 

Distinctive architecture and technology     

Housed within the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library will be a state-of-the-art conservation and preservation facility, a special collections service area, a grand reading room and the capacity for 3.5 million volumes of print material, which will be contained in a high-density, automated shelving system.

The system, which requires one-seventh of the space of regular stacks, will serve materials for use  in real time. When a request is made for material stored in the system, it will be retrieved within minutes by a crane — unlike off-site storage facilities, where it may take days to receive requested material.

With the University accruing approximately 150,000 new print volumes annually, Nadler noted that Jahn’s design will be able to provide space for up to 22 years of new print materials.      

Jahn, of the Chicago-based firm Murphy/Jahn, was selected in 2006 after a yearlong competitive process that began with 28 international architecture firms. His accomplishments include the design of the Park Avenue Tower in New York, the Hitachi Tower in Singapore, United Airlines Terminal 1 at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, the Hyatt Regency Roissy in Paris and the European Union Headquarters in Belgium.

On May 8, the Board of Trustees approved Jahn’s designs, which will include an underground facility 50 feet deep, topped by an elliptical glass dome 35 feet high.

“In a place with this much history, real newness cannot just be physically new, but needs to be so spiritually,” Jahn said. “We believe that this can be achieved through an innovative attitude and ideas about advanced technology and sensibility toward energy and ecology. The result can be the library of the future.”

Joe Mansueto said of his and Rika Mansueto’s reactions to the building, “We love the innovative design and progressive approach to storing the library’s collection.  This has the potential to be an iconic building on campus.”

Generous support from two alums

Joe and Rika Mansueto are University of Chicago graduates — he received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the College in 1978 and his M.B.A. from the Graduate School of Business in 1980; she received her bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the College in 1991.

“Like most students at the University of Chicago, we found the Library to be a central part of the experience. Our typical days included going to Regenstein every night,” Joe Mansueto said. “It was really interwoven into our daily routines at the University of Chicago.  So when we were looking to give a gift to the school, a new library resonated with us.”

Joe Mansueto founded Morningstar, Inc., a premier investment research firm, in 1984, where Rika worked as an investment analyst. They were married in 1998 and have three children.

Morningstar’s immense growth over the years has allowed the company to venture into other lines of business, including individual stock ratings, investment consulting services and financial software. Morningstar now has more than 2,000 employees and operations in 18 countries, with annual revenues of more than $400 million.

Joe Mansueto is also a 50 percent partner in Time Out Chicago, a guide to nightlife and local attractions, which began publication in 2005 and has a circulation of nearly 40,000. He has also acquired business magazines Inc. and Fast Company from Gruner + Jahr USA Publishing in 2005.

In 2003, Joe Mansueto received a University of Chicago Alumni Association Professional Achievement Award, and in 2000, he received the Graduate School of Business Distinguished Alumnus Award.

Often crediting his success to his educational experience at the University of Chicago, Joe Mansueto has said that he likes to hire fellow Chicago graduates at Morningstar because of their “strong analytical skills.” Approximately 10 percent of the company’s domestic employees are graduates of the University of Chicago.

“With this gift, we really wanted to give back to the University that means so much to us,” Joe Mansueto said.

Additional information about the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library is available at