By HOLLY HEAP
The long awaited, highly anticipated, often-debated newest addition to the BYU campus is here.
After three years of construction, the doors of the new addition to the Harold B. Lee Library open quietly today at 6 a.m. Without pomp or circumstance, the university invites students and faculty, as well as members of the church and the general public, to take their own tour of the library and enjoy the new facilities.
“The addition to the library will make it the largest library in Utah and one of the largest libraries in the Intermountain West,” said Randy Olsen, deputy university librarian.
Fifty percent more space will be added to the library, and the addition includes new technology and room for future growth, said Cali O’Connell, administrative assistant to the dean of the library. More than 600,000 books that have been stored in an old grocery store will be moved into the library and made available to students. The library now has the capacity to hold 5.2 million books, O’Connell said.
In an effort to maintain the increased space, seven additional full-time staff members have been added. The library has also requested funding for a number of student proctors for the reference and computer areas of the library, O’Connell said.
The new technology in the addition includes distance learning facilities and digitizing centers, as well as five added technology-enhanced classrooms. The distance learning classrooms will allow BYU classes to be videoed and broadcast to other states and universities, such as BYU-Hawaii, O’Connell said. The latest technology has also been built into the 200-seat auditorium on the 1st floor.
Although the library is still in the process of installing all of the computers, there will be two additional computer labs with 204 computer work stations added in the near future. The addition also has an electrical grid of conduit running under the floor to allow flexibility to later add more study stations or computers, O’Connell said.
“The new addition is very flexible with current and future technology; we’ll be ready to use some things down the road,” O’Connell said.
A unique feature of the new building is the study tables. All the tables are wired with power and network links to the World Wide Web, allowing students to connect their laptops anywhere they wish to study.
The new library will benefit students and the public. On the 2nd floor of the addition is a branch of the Salt Lake Family History Library, including family history microfilm as well as microfilm for educational purposes, O’Connell said.
The special collections area of the library will move into the new addition and will include two exhibit rooms to highlight special documents. All of BYU’s collections will be brought together for the first time and displayed with extreme preservation and high security protection, O’Connell said. Everything from the earliest Book of Mormons, to 14th century manuscripts, as well as traveling exhibits, such as the dead sea scrolls, will be displayed in these rooms, she said.
Much of the library is still under construction and there is still much work to be done before the new addition is complete, O’Connell said. Today, only the periodicals and social science areas are totally ready for public use, she said.
Starting in September, parts of the 1st and fourth floors of the old library will undergo remodeling, O’Connell said. Also, major reconstruction on the 3rd, or ground, floor will permanently close the most commonly used, south doors of the old library to students. The old entrance will soon become classrooms, and the only entrance to the library will be the centralized glass atrium facing the Wilkinson Student Center.
O’Connell said the reconstruction should be finished in October 2000, and the entire building will then be rededicated. But for now, the library will open without any type of ceremony or dedication, she said.