Widener Library was built in 1915 by Mrs. Eleanor Widener as a gift to Harvard University. The building, which is approximately 300,000 gross sq ft, is dedicated to Mrs. Widener's son and Harvard alumnus, Harry Elkins Widener, a bibliophile and book collector, who perished on the Titanic in 1912. In the center of the building, between the first and second floor, is a memorial room containing Mr. Widener's personal collection of 3,500 rare books.
The stacks, which contain approximately 3.25 million volumes on 10 levels, account for 185,000 gross sq ft and contain 57 miles of bookshelves. This provides very efficient storage for the main collection, while allowing good user access to virtually every volume. The unique, self-supporting iron and steel structure of the stacks, manufactured by the Snead and Company Iron Works, also provides structural support for the third floor, which is located directly above the stack area.