squatters art

As part of our initiative called Curious Cornhuskers, an anonymous reader asked The Daily Nebraskan, “Was there ever anyone found who had been living in Love Library? Or just rumors?”

Well, anonymous reader, the answer is yes — but probably not in the way you are thinking.

It was September of 1942. According to University of Nebraska-Lincoln Archives, the world was maligned by the effects of World War II; rationing was just mandated, morale was low, buildings in Lincoln were being considered for possible military housing and, opportunely, Love Library was nearly finished. As the war raged on, cadets in the Army Specialized Training Program looked no further than the low ceilings and underground labyrinths of Love Library to call their home base.

By March of 1943, the ASTP cadets had made the library their bunker. An article in UNL Archives announced the open house of the library a month after cadets arrived. The announcement declared a dance would be held at the new library in April of that year, but Love Library would not be officially open to students until the war’s end.

“This will be the first opportunity for the public to examine their library,” the article read, “as it was occupied by the Air Corps almost before the carpenters moved out.”

Vintage posters advertising World War II decorate the walls of the tunnels connecting the north and south library buildings, and certain relics from the cadets’ time in the library have even resurfaced decades after the war had ended.

Community engagement librarian Joan Barnes said that during renovations to the library in 1999-2001, over 50-year-old shower heads were found in the basement where it is believed the military program kept its bathrooms. Barnes believes tales of finding artifacts like these could contribute to rumors about other guests, such as unwanted squatters hiding out in the stacks.

“Maybe people have heard about those cadets and they kind of [confuse] that,” Barnes said.

And, Barnes added, there are rumors of the supernatural dwelling among the bookshelves and study corners of Love Library. At one point, a group of supernatural investigators even asked to stay overnight for research, but the request was denied.

Barnes said the rumors are not new and are partly due to Love Library being an old building, but her and the staff are unaware of anything hair-raising happening around the library. Even, Barnes added, after two-year-long renovations that began in 1999, no ghosts were stirred.

“We’ve had inquiries about whether or not it’s haunted, but we don’t know,” Barnes said. “Usually renovations scare up the ghosts, but we didn’t notice anything.”

As for living unwanted visitors, UNL Police Sgt. Nolan Conradt said it is not uncommon for sleepy students to be found after closing hours. However, because police patrol the library so thoroughly during the evening, Love Library makes for a difficult home for squatters.

“We find people that get locked into Love Library every once in a while because they didn’t hear the announcement, but nobody has ever been living in Love Library,” Conradt said.

So, though the maze-like structure and towering shelves might make Love Library seem like the perfect place to hide, the last people to live there left at the end of World War II.

culture@dailynebraskan.com