A new construction project is now underway at the BYU Harold B. Lee Library, targeting the roof of the building’s basement levels.
The project intends to reinforce the subterranean roof against leaks. Some of the library’s most valuable materials are housed in the affected area, including periodical and serial collections, a world-class family history library, special collections and auxiliary storage.
“It has to be done, because documents and priceless things are in danger of being ruined in the library if that roof isn’t waterproofed,” BYU Project Administrator Assistant Alecia Garzand said.
The library roof is located underneath two to three feet of soil, which will necessitate a massive digging project, explained Roger Layton, the library’s public relations representative.
“They’ve got to tear up all the dirt, take off all the old roof, put on the new roof and then rebury it,” Layton said.
Excavation will impact Brigham Square and the quad stretching between the library and the Smoot Administration Building.
With the construction of the new arts building occurring simultaneously, Layton said he anticipates the north section of campus being “a little rough” in the coming months. The roof project alone will likely continue through the end of the calendar year.
“We’re all hoping it will go faster, but right now we’re looking at eight months,” he said.
Layton said the library plans to minimize the inconvenience by maintaining building access and directing pedestrian traffic flow. He also recommends students relocate to study areas on the library’s fifth floor, farthest from construction.
“Once there are earth-moving machines actually on our roof, some of our more popular areas, like the Reading Room, will be less popular,” Layton said.
The roof upgrade is not the only new project the library will be undertaking. According to Layton, the 60-year-old pipes and bathrooms in the building’s central section are due for a complete overhaul.
“This has been in the works for years, and it all kind of piled up,” he said. “There’s never gonna be a good time to do it all, so may as well get it done.”
At the same time, construction crews will tackle the renovation of the library’s fourth floor, Layton said. They will focus their efforts mainly in the Music and Dance area on the north end.
One library construction project nearing completion is the installation of a small cafe on the third floor. Layton said they are aiming to have a soft opening this summer.
Garzand said concurrent construction projects would prove to be cost-effective and reduce disruption. The Campus Planning and Use Committee, made up of representatives from impacted groups, has not been casual about the process, she said. “They’ve had many, many discussions and gone back and forth. They’ve taken a really long look at it,” Garzand said.
The committee has not only considered the needs of students, but also coordinated with groups like FSY, Garzand said.
FSY camps typically occupy the north end of BYU campus. Garzand said she thinks FSY will be “rescheduling a lot of things to other locations.”
Layton said he hopes a significant portion of construction can be completed during the Spring and Summer Terms, when campus traffic is reduced.
According to University Communications, anticipated enrollment for Fall 2023 will be between 33,000 and 35,000 daytime students. Actual numbers cannot be determined until the semester begins.
When the lower levels of the library were first constructed in 1996, there were roughly 27,000 enrolled students, according to former BYU President Merrill J. Bateman.
Overall, Layton said the library administration is excited about projects rolling out over the next few months.
“We’re really happy with what the construction’s doing,” he said. “The building will be more consistent from floor to floor. When it’s done … it’ll be an amazing place again.”