Tour Group Discovers Treasure Trove in Library

Tour finds books in a lost basement cavern of the UMD Library
April 1, 2017

An ordinary tour becomes a magical adventure

The tour started out like any other. The guide, junior Joni Pearce, showed the visiting students all the wonders UMD has to offer. When they reached the library, the tour guide invited her group to stand in the echo circle underneath the beautiful Chihuly glass sculpture. That's when Ruby Lawson, a prospective student from Woodbury, MN, stepped into the circle and the floor fell out from underneath her, sending her into a secret cavern below the library. 

“I don’t know how it happened,” Pearce said. “I’ve never heard of it happening before. One minute she was there, and the next she wasn’t. One moment I'm talking about how the library gets quieter as you go up, and the next I hear this whoosh and a prospective student falls into a hole.”

“Based on our preliminary research, it looks as though the Kathryn A. Martin Library was built on top of another library,” said Adam Brisk, one of the Kathryn A. Martin library staff members. “Our guess is that this older library dates back to the time when UMD was a normal school—a school for training teachers. We think one of the other members of the tour group must have accidentally leaned on a concealed button that opened the trapdoor.” 

Lawson, the young woman who fell through the trapdoor, sustained no injuries. Instead she found a veritable treasure trove of literature beneath the library. “It was huge,” she said, “probably as big as the whole first floor of the library, and it was full of old books!” A group of librarians went down into the cavern to explore and found that Lawson was right. There were shelves and shelves of old books, including many valuable first editions and a bound volume by the noted Finnish scholar Loof Lirpa.

“This is a real coup for the library,” said Brisk. “This find makes us the most important library in the U of M system. We have called some experts to get an idea of the value of these books, but we can tell already that some of these are worth millions of dollars. They should be available for checkout very soon.”

When asked what they thought of the unusual tour, most in the tour group were pretty excited. One young man, Tony Summerfield, said, “It’s been really hard making a decision about where to go to college, but this has definitely made my decision for me. I can’t wait to find out what other cool secrets the UMD campus is hiding!”