Fondren Library unveils long-awaited renovations

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SMU celebrated the re-opening of parts of Fondren Library Friday after year-long undergoing renovations. With a ceremony starting at 12:30 p.m., guests, faculty, staff, students and alumni were invited to attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony, followed by tours of the new reading room.

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Ribbon cutting ceremony for Fondren Library. Photo credit: Katie Butler

Brad Cheves, vice president for development and external affairs, welcomed guests and introduced speakers, including Student Body President Carlton Adams, President R. Gerald Turner, the Dean and Director of Central University Libraries Gillian McCombs and Micheal Boone, chair of the SMU board of trustees. Alumna, board member and former First Lady Laura Bush also attended.

“Today’s event underscores what has been important to the university throughout time,” said President Turner. “And those are the enduring values our founders gave us and are relevant today. The library here on the main quad is central to teaching and learning.”

Three main donors, the Fondren Foundation, the Hillcrest Foundation, and the Hoblitzelle Foundation, were recognized for their tremendous support of the library renovations.

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Fondren Library dedication after renovations. Photo credit: Katie Butler

“It was only when the Fondrens gave their first gift that we were able to have a library,” Turner said. “The Fondren family has been central to the development of our libraries and many other key projects, like the Fondren Science Building and subsequent renovations.”

In 1940, the completed Fondren Library was dedicated by Mrs. W. W. Fondren, and served as the first library on campus. Throughout the years, subsequent buildings have been added to the original library to accommodate the growing number of students and faculty. Friday’s event celebrated improvements to the main library complex, featuring the Centennial Reading Room, classrooms, offices, an exhibit hall, and more.

Turner then introduced Laura Bush, who graduated from SMU and also worked as a librarian before becoming the first lady. Bush spoke of her experience at SMU and her love for libraries.

“I have many happy memories of standing on these steps,” Bush said on the steps of the new Fondren Library. “The Fondren Library is one of my favorite places on the SMU campus. I love visiting libraries where I am surrounded by books and authors.”

Bush continued to mention her close connection to and love for SMU, mentioning her appreciation for the Laura Bush Promenade and the partnering of the Bush Library and the Fondren Library.

Following Bush, McCombs detailed the renovations of the library and how they will serve SMU students and faculty in the future.

“When Fondren Library was first built, there were 100,000 books on the shelves,” McCombs said. “SMU’s collections today number over four million volumes with one million of those volumes being digitalized.”

Following closing statements by the chair of the Board of Trustees Michael Boone, the ribbon-cutting ceremony took place, followed by tours of the new interior of Fondren Library.

“Today is a day of celebration, of history and enthusiasm,” Turner said.

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