Portland State’s living room

If walls could talk, Portland State’s library would have an endless number of stories to tell. 

Millar Library is home to countless study sessions and memories

The site of many late-night study sessions, group assignments, research projects, tutoring, computer labs and general hangouts, Branford Price Millar Library holds a special place in the heart of countless Portland State students over the decades.

It’s also hard to miss, featuring a unique 5-story convex wall of glass that surrounds a historic copper beech tree on the Park Blocks.

The library is home to more than books. Within its six stories (including a basement) you’ll find PSU’s Learning Center, computer labs, study spaces and a Circulation Desk where students can check out laptops, chargers, headphones and other supplies. Providing access to databases and research and study resources, the library is also home to Special Collections and University Archives, and the Dark Horse Comics Collection!

The library archives collects, preserves, and provides access to the historical records of Portland State from its beginnings as Vanport Extension Center to the present day.

While PSU has always had a library, it was originally located in what is now the northeastern portion of Smith Memorial Student Union. When Portland State College expanded into a university, a new site was chosen across the Park Blocks and Millar Library was built over two major phases. 

Phase 1, completed in 1968, comprises the western half of the building and cost $3 million. Its architects — Skidmore, Ownings & Merrill — designed the brutalist concrete library to juxtapose against pre-existing landscape features by sinking the building into its block and creating a green ‘living room’ space for the campus community that merged with the South Park Blocks. 

Library circa 1979, courtesy of Library Archives Digital Gallery

The building was named in 1975 after PSU’s second president, Branford Price Millar, who served from 1959-1968. 

The phase 2 addition was completed in April 1991 for $11 million. It expanded the building east while maintaining some of the original design’s landscape, incorporating the curved wall of glass around the copper beech tree. A final third phase would have added an additional four floors but was never enacted.

The copper beech tree which functions as the centerpiece of the Millar Library was planted circa 1892 by the Watson family. Industrialist Joseph Franklin Watson and his wife, Mary Whalley Watson, occupied a house on the corner of Park and Hall streets in 1880. 

Visit the library website to see all services. Not that some services and spaces are temporarily unavailable due to COVID-19 protocols.

Rediscovering Campus is a weekly series that highlights the stories behind popular spaces at Portland State University, as we gear up for a return to in-person learning.





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