SMU TO CELEBRATE FONDREN LIBRARY TRANSFORMATION
April 1, 2016
DALLAS (SMU) – The renovation of SMU’s Fondren Library, to be unveiled during Founders’ Day Weekend, features a transformation of information technology resources for student and faculty researchers and a restoration of the historic grandeur of the Fondren Foundation Centennial Reading Room.
The Fondren Foundation, Hillcrest Foundation, Hoblitzelle Foundation and other donors to the renovation will be honored at 12:30 p.m. Friday, April 15, at a ribbon cutting on the library steps. Immediately following, an open house in the library will feature a release party for SMU historian Darwin Payne’s new book, One Hundred Years on the Hilltop: The Centennial History of SMU.
Guests will have an opportunity to tour the first phase of the renovation including the Fondren Foundation Centennial Reading Room and the Hillcrest Foundation Exhibit Hall. The second phase of the renovation includes the Prothro Learning Commons, given by the Hoblitzelle Foundation in honor of Caren H. Prothro in acknowledgement of her exceptional services as a trustee for both SMU and the foundation. The second phase, which includes the Collaborative Commons and Starbucks Café, and the Gillian M. McCombs Special Collections Reading Room, will open in fall 2016.
The 6,000-quare-foot Fondren Foundation Centennial Reading Room, the centerpiece of the renovation, has been restored to its original 1940 grandeur as a signature study space for students. White oak bookcases, casement windows and original architectural details have been restored and accented. New lighting highlights the seven plaster bas relief elements in the ceiling, sculptures by Texas sculptor Harry Lee Gibson, who is best known for his sculptures at Fair Park’s Hall of State. Each bas relief sculpture represents an important scene from literature, from Beowulf to Whitman.
More than 50 donors provided the Reading Room’s American cherry handcrafted wooden study tables and chairs, designed by Thomas Moser. Each table is topped with an amber American Craftsman design lamp.
Students gathered to study in the reading room until 1968, when Fondren Library East opened, providing new study space on its four floors. The reading room was then divided for other library and administration uses.
“The renovation plan responds to the demand for varied spaces for learning and research. Students often work in teams, using several work stations at a time,” says Gillian M. McCombs, dean and director of Central University Libraries. “Students also requested more individual silent study space, which is why it was so important that the backbone of this project be the return of the reading room to its original purpose as a quiet oasis for individual study.”
The renovation also includes the Hillcrest Foundation Exhibit Hall, designed to showcase the treasures in SMU library special collections. “Books, Buildings and Benefactors,” the first exhibit in the hall, will highlight signature items in the library collections, including rare books, manuscripts, photographs, prints and ephemera. Political items, such as a 1900 William Jennings Bryan presidential campaign poster, first edition books by William Faulkner and J.D. Salinger as well as historic SMU photos will be included in the exhibit.
“We are grateful to the Fondren, Hillcrest and Hoblitzelle Foundations and all the donors to the renovation of Fondren Library,” said Brad Cheves, SMU vice president for Development and External Affairs. “These important improvements are very tangible gifts for our students and faculty, and will support the sharing of our SMU library treasures with the community.”
Centennial Reading Room Dedication
Friday, April 15
12:30 p.m. Dedication Ceremony, Fondren Library Center
Celebration of the donors to the renovation of Fondren Library, including the Fondren Foundation Centennial Reading Room
1 p.m. Open house to follow, including Centennial History Book Release Party