New library cafe under construction during summer renovations

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Workers use scafolding like this to work on replacing the roof of the HBLL. Multiple other projects are underway to improve the oldest parts of the building in a multi-year process. (Joe Wirthlin)

Construction on the Harold B. Lee Library’s cafe is underway with plans to open to patrons in early fall, according to library staff.

The new cafe will feature a selection of foods for college students who prefer to remain in the library while getting a bite to eat.

Jenne Jones, Assistant Facilities Manager for the library, said the idea for the cafe had been floating around library administration for years. Several other colleges in the area have library cafes, including the University of Utah, Utah State University and Utah Valley University. In 2021, funding for renovations became available, and the library began planning to build the cafe while renovations were underway.

Jones said she was excited about the new cafe, which will allow students another place to get food. She said the vending machines in the HBLL are the most used on campus, so demand for food in the library exists. While there are other food options nearby, during peak hours at the Cougareat, demand cannot always be met in a timely manner.

A security guard considers a snack from the HBLL vending machines. These machines are the busiest on campus, according to Library and Dining Services staff. (Joe Wirthlin)

“Students and patrons would like to continue their studies as conveniently as possible,” Jones said. “We want to make getting food a convenient solution for students.”

The library reached out to Joe Tiapson, Director of BYU Dining Services, to begin planning what food would be available. Tiapson said the Library Café hopes to serve roughly 800 guests daily during the fall and winter semesters.

“Dining was thrilled when we were contacted by the library to consider looking into options,” Tiapson said. “Dining is always interested in new locations where we can best serve the campus. Food is a great way to bring people together.”

Tiapson said that many different food options will be available. Fresh-made Creamery salads, sandwiches and parfaits will be served along with fresh bagels and a street taco line. Tiapson said Dining Service’s Executive Chef John McDonald created the new food for the Library Café. Food options will rotate in and out based on the seasons, customer feedback and consultation with library administration.

Roger Layton, Communications Manager for the HBLL, said the library wanted to keep its ground floor a “no-shush” zone. Students can collaborate with each other without worrying about bothering other patrons. With the Library Café on this level, patrons and workers will not need to worry about keeping their voices down.

“We’re very grateful that so much is invested in the library to keep it a pleasant and welcoming place,” Layton said.

The Library Café will be accessible from within the library itself, but there will be no external entrance to the cafe. Layton said the library would need to add additional security gates and a security desk to ensure patron and material safety. He also said adding an external entrance would increase the complexity and price of the project.

The Library Café is projected to be completed in early fall, but Layton said they cannot guarantee the cafe will open at the start of the semester.

“Our team’s doing a great job, but they’ve had to deal with shipment delays and getting things in on time,” Layton said.

The library is currently open and providing services to patrons throughout the construction and renovation projects. In addition to the Library Café, roof replacements for both the above and below ground portions of the library are underway along with elevator repairs and pipe and carpet replacements.

More information about the construction and renovation process can be found here.

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