Twenty years ago, in the fall of 1990, the west side of the Owen Arts Center was buzzing with the intense work and festivities attendant to the official opening of the Jake and Nancy Hamon Fine Arts Library. The move from Fondren Library occurred in stages throughout the autumn of 1990, culminating with the transfer of the Jerry Bywaters Special Collections Wing in the same week as the opening (there was a party deadline to meet, after all). Although the library began offering some services as early as October 10, it was not until mid-November that all of SMU’s library holdings in the arts disciplines were officially brought together in the building with the great curved facade.
A consolidated arts library had been in consideration for a decade—relevant books and special collections materials had previously been housed in at least five different campus locations. However, it was only in March 1988, when Nancy Hamon made a generous gift in memory of her late husband, that such a library become a reality; ground was broken for construction on December 12 of that year.
The library was reviewed in the Dallas Morning News on November 29, 1990. Columnist David Dillon called the building’s design a “refreshing change” and described the interior as a quiet but energetic space. The reading rooms on the first, second, and third floors were admired as “comfortable, unpretentious spaces designed with the pleasures of curling up with a good book in mind.” And to this day, it seems that the curved glass facade with its detached brick wall, Architect Milton Powell’s “one dramatic design move,” provides one of the most fascinating features on campus.
The Hamon Library has grown and blossomed since its opening, and its circulating and reference collections now contain more than 180,000 physical items relating to the visual and performing arts, including over 32,000 sound and visual recordings. In addition, the Library has some 300 subscriptions to arts periodicals and provides access to more than 60 online resources that are specific to the arts. The library’s collections support the Meadows curriculum and are particularly strong in European and American arts. Together with Bywaters Special Collections and the G. William Jones Film and Video Collection, the collections of the Hamon provide for an urban academic arts library supporting curricula and research at SMU as well as in the greater Dallas community.