A university cannot truly be great unless it has a great library, said President Gordon B. Hinckley Sept. 20, before breaking ground on a 234,000 square-foot addition to BYU's Harold B. Lee Library.
The new facility will equal the size of 10 large stake centers or the Marriott Center, said President Hinckley. During the official groundbreaking ceremonies, President Hinckley and his counselors in the First Presidency, President Thomas S. Monson and President James E. Faust, participated in turning the first shovels of soil for the addition – which, except for the entrance, will be entirely underground.Also attending the event were President Hinckley's wife, Marjorie; President Monson's wife, Frances; President Faust's wife, Ruth; Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve, and his wife, June; and BYU Pres. Merrill J. Bateman of the Seventy, and his wife, Marilyn.
When completed the library addition will house current and bound periodicals, an expanded Family History Center, all materials relating to the College of Family, Home and Social Sciences, a 200-seat lecture hall, two computer labs with nearly 200 computer terminals and four electronic classrooms equipped for long-distance instruction.
During a short program, President Hinckley expressed appreciation to those who contributed to the project, explaining that the Church's tithing funds will not be used to build the structure. "The cost of this new facility," he said, "is coming from the generous contributions of those who love this great school and want to see its facilities enhanced, for the blessing and benefit of the students who come here through the years that lie ahead."
He said the library would become the "heart of the university."
"I am grateful for libraries. What a marvelous thing is a book," he noted, explaining that books contain the great thoughts of the world's wisest men and women. "I have a computer in my study but I am still a stranger to it and I am afraid I ever will be. I putter around with it, but it and I don't get along very well," President Hinckley said. "I am so grateful for books. I know how to handle them, how to deal with them, how to use them."
President Monson called the library addition "a fitting tribute to Harold B. Lee."
"We could not do less for a man who gave so much," President Monson said. "Harold B. Lee was a living book of divine truth, always teaching, always explaining, always living that which he taught. He was a man well-acquainted with the Lord and he was a man for all seasons."
President Monson asked those who will build the structure to make it "worthy of the man whose name it bears."
President Faust talked about Shakespeare's Prospero, who prized his library above his dukedom. "This library is going to cost as much as a small dukedom," President Faust said. "It will be one of the treasures of this special, wonderful, and unique university of the Lord."
President Faust added that he foresees the library will be, with the aid of technology, "literally, a library to the world, whereby members of the Church and others can access the vast store of information and knowledge which will be here."
Construction of the addition, which will fill most of the quad area between the library and the Abraham Smoot Building, began Sept. 23. The three-year construction plan includes remodeling of the existing library.
Elder Bateman said that after he was named BYU president, he received a number of letters questioning the need for a library addition in the wake of new technology that will continue to provide ways to store information on CD Roms, video disks and computers. He said as he talked to experts and studied the current library it became very clear that an addition was necessary – not only to provide more study space to students but also to provide environmental controls to preserve the university's rare and special documents.
Before the program ended, President Hinckley took a moment to talk about the man whose name the library bears – Harold B. Lee. "I will always carry in my heart a great feeling of affection for this remarkable man, . . ." he said. "May this unique and wonderful new edifice stand as a memorial to him, or rest as a memorial to him, in all the years to come."