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Hunt for Fossils

The tan stone you see on the floors, central staircase, walls, and pillars of William T. Young Library is Mesozoic-era limestone imported from southern Germany. The stone contains abundant fossils of sea creatures living during the age of the dinosaurs, buried on the seafloor and turned to stone between 65 and 250 million years ago. Nearly every slab of limestone in the library contains the remains of these ancient creatures, whose shapes may appear differently depending on how the stone was cut. Throughout the library you can find:

  • Sponges (circular, straight, U-, and V-shaped)
  • Rudistids (circular and horn-shaped)
  • Ammonites (spiral-shaped)

Less commonly, you may come across the shiny, dark-brown, and cigar-shaped fossils of belemnites. If you spot a rare, nut-shaped brachiopod fossil, you may have a future as a paleontologist.

The Sinking Library*

You may wonder why Young Library seems to be sitting in an enormous crater. Well, the entire College of Engineering is scratching their heads, too. When it was completed in 1998, the library is believed to have sat on level ground. But at 365,000 square feet – over 8 acres of floor space – Young Library has enough room for 37 miles of shelving and holds a whopping 1.2 million volumes. With the weight of all that knowledge, plus the 780,000 bricks that make up its exterior, it’s no wonder the earth may appear to have buckled. Indeed, over the past 25 years, onlookers speculate that "Willy T." has sunk nearly 15 feet into the ground. Filling up with 4,000 students during finals week twice a year doesn’t help keep things light, though the deeper it may sink, the better the slopes get for sledding. Librarians wonder if they should begin work on a Sixth Floor by 2030.

*Geologists who specialize in sinkholes and karst terrains with direct knowledge of the construction of the library assure us the library is exactly where it has always been and is not sinking. We hope they are right.

Storm Cat

William T. Young, the namesake of Young Library, was a Lexington businessman, horse breeder, and the founder of Overbook Farm, which sits on 2,400 acres in southern Fayette County. You can find him and his stallion, Storm Cat, on the Overbrook Tapestry near the Circulation Desk on the First Floor. Designed and woven by Swedish textile artist Helena Hernmark, the tapestry stands 12’7” tall and 22’ wide, contains over 700 colors, and weighs nearly 200 pounds. Hernmark’s work can be found in museums, buildings, and public spaces across the United States and around the world. In the early 2000s, Storm Cat was the world’s highest-priced stallion and North America’s leading sire. He is the great-grandsire of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, and great-great-grandsire of 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify.

Wade Hall Quilt Collection

The Fifth Floor of Young Library features 64 quilts from the Wade Hall Quilt Collection. A former professor of English and Humanities at Bellarmine College in Louisville, Dr. Hall was a folk art aficionado who collected quilts from across the Ohio River Valley region over a 30 year period. Most of the quilts on display were purchased within a 100-mile radius of Lexington, in Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. They have been used and loved throughout their life, and come complete with stains, tears, fading fabric, and lopsided shapes. Most date from the early to mid-20th century. The oldest quilt, Compass, hangs in the South Wing and dates from 1860. Dr. Hall was also an avid collector of letters, which cover more than 200 years of American history and are held at the Special Collections Research Center. Learn more in our Wade Hall Collection Research Guide.

Art & Artifacts in the Fine Arts Library

With floor-to-ceiling windows, comfy reading chairs, and quiet nooks, the Lucille Caudill Little Fine Arts Library is well-suited for both focused study and bright, peaceful breaks. It is also a space designed to inspire, filled with a wide variety of art and artifacts, including: 

  • Contemporary work by over 20 artists from or connected to Kentucky. You can find biographical information and photos of the art in our Little Library Art Collection Library Guide.
  • A diverse collection of artists’ books, many of which are one-of-a-kind, with an emphasis on 3-dimensional, sculptural works. You can find many on display in cases in the library, and learn more about the artists and their work in our Artists’ Books Library Guide.
  • John Jacob Niles' 1953 Steinway Piano, along with panels from carved, rough-hewn doors and unique dulcimers made by the prominent composer and folk song collector known as the “Dean of American Balladeers,” all on display in the Niles Gallery.