The UNAM Central Library is the main library of the University City campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). This building opened in 1956 and holds one of the largest collections in the country. The 10-floor building was designed by architect Juan O’Gorman in collaboration with Carlos Lazo, who managed the larger CU project then well underway.
The building facade is famously covered in a four-sided mosaic titled “Historical Representation of Culture.” This too was designed and executed by O’Gorman. Each side of the building represents a different period of Mexican history: the north depicts the pre-Hispanic period; the south, the colonial period; the east wall, the modern era; and the west wall, the history of the university.
The library opened with a collection of some 80,000 volumes. Special collections include Mexican and foreign publications from the 19th and 20th centuries. Among them are first editions, short-run works, and limited circulation publications, author’s editions, editions in special formats, and commemorative editions. The “Tobías Chávez Lavista” collection includes 522 printed works and 23 manuscripts. An old and rare books collection includes printed works from the 15th through the 18th centuries.
Today the library’s documentary collection includes some 1.5 million volumes, about one third of which are books. The thesis collection includes some half-million research papers written primarily by UNAM scholars. About 300,000 of them are available digitally to library users.
In July 2007, UNESCO proclaimed the Central Library, along with the CU Campus as World Heritage sites. The library is one of the most iconic buildings on the entire CU campus and a must see on any visit. The Central Library is just a few meters away from Rectory Tower, as well as numerous other important landmarks on the campus.