Harold B. Lee Library

The Harold B. Lee Library (HBLL) is the main academic library of Brigham Young University (BYU) located in Provo, Utah. The library started as a small collection of books in the president's office in 1876 before moving in 1891. The Heber J. Grant Library building was completed in 1925, and in 1961 the library moved to the newly constructed J. Reuben Clark Library where it stands today. That building was renamed to the Harold B. Lee Library in 1974.[4]

Harold B. Lee Library
Library main entrance at night
CountryUnited States
TypeAcademic library
Established1925 (1925)
LocationProvo, Utah
Coordinates40°14′57″N 111°38′57″W
Size4.76 million volumes, 10.68 million total materials (2016)[1]
Access and use
Circulation372,845 (2016)[2]
Population servedBrigham Young University
Other information
DirectorRick Anderson[3]
Staff376 (2016)[1]

The library was significantly expanded in the 1990s, providing new individual and group study rooms and a special vault area for the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Library. In 2016, the library contained over 4.7 million books, 10.6 million total materials, and served over 10,000 patrons each day. The HBLL was ranked by the Princeton Review within the top three university libraries in the United States three times: in 2004, 2007, and 2012.


Heber J. Grant Library, now a testing center

A collection of books in Karl G. Maeser’s office served as the first library at Brigham Young Academy. In 1891, the library moved to a room in the Education Building in the lower campus,[5] which expanded to include Room D about 1906.[6]:7 George Q. Cannon and Reed Smoot helped to acquire documents from the U.S. Department of the Interior and congressional documents.[6]:15 A fire in 1884 destroyed at least forty volumes of the collection.[6]:15 Students rarely checked out books in the early 1900s, generally studying books in the library instead.[6]:30 The Dewey Decimal Classification system was introduced to the library in 1908.[6]:32

English professor Alice Louise Reynolds helped raise funds to purchase over 1,000 books for the library. She was the faculty chair of a committee to establish the library from 1906 to 1925.[7] The library contained 29,592 volumes by 1923—almost half of them donated—and students had to stand in the library for lack of study space[6] Reynolds' fan club donated over 10,000 volumes in the 1930s.[8] By 1946, the library contained 138,500 volumes of books.[6]:47

The Heber J. Grant Library was completed in 1925.[5] In the Grant Library, reference books were placed on shelves surrounding the study area, with the rest of the library's holdings on shelves in the book room. Students would find books they wanted in the catalog, and library pages would retrieve them.[6]:10,56

The library increased the volume of acquisitions during the 1930s and 1940s, and gifts of books were indiscriminately accepted.[6]:108 This policy changed in 1958, when gifts became subject to a consultation with the Director of Libraries,[6]:117 S. Lyman Tyler. In his time as director from 1954 to 1966, Tyler met Keyes Metcalf at a seminar for library administrators. Metcalf was the former director of the Harvard Library, and consulted with Tyler about the plans for BYU's new library.[9] BYU commissioned Lorenzo Snow Young to make the plans for addition.[10]

The J. Reuben Clark Library was completed in 1961.[11] The library's collection reached 500,000 volumes in 1965,[12] and one million volumes by 1971.[6]:114 The name of library changed in 1974 from the J. Reuben Clark Library to the Harold B. Lee Library to avoid confusion with the J. Reuben Clark Law School.[6]:35 Harold B. Lee was the 11th president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[13]

A six-story addition was completed in 1976, doubling the library's physical space and increasing the library's seating capacity from 2,500 to 4,500.[14][15] The addition had moveable walls, integrated student study spaces into the stacks, added group study rooms, and included a vault for archival materials.[15] Art professor and artist Franz M. Johansen created four cast stone panels used to decorate the south entrance of the library and representing four areas of human knowledge.[16]

The HBLL was again expanded and remodeled in the mid– and late–1990s using donated funds,[17] adding 234,000 square feet (21,700 m2),[18] technology classrooms, an auditorium, and a digitization center.[19] After the expansion, parts of the old library were remodeled, and the south entrance was closed.[19] A new south entrance was opened in 2015.[20]

From 2001 to 2011, the Interlibrary Loan program processed 500,000 requests.[21] The library contained over 4.7 million books and served an average of 10,191 patrons a day during 2016.[1] Single-user study rooms were added in 2017, and construction started on a family-friendly study room.[22]

Technological improvements

The HBLL started offering a dial-up access system in 1969 for patrons to access music, lectures, and foreign language recordings,[11] and access to the Library Information Network Center (LINC) was offered in 1974. Through a keyword search, patrons could use the system to search bibliographic resources of articles and recent books from ProQuest Dialog and Orbit II.[23] The library adopted 3M Tattle-Tape in 1975 to detect if patrons were removing books from the library that had not been checked out.[24] The library renamed their NOTIS cataloging system in 1984 to the Brigham Young University Information Network (BYLINE), and ran it on a mainframe computer located in the James E. Talmage Building.[25]

The library collection began being re-catalogued in 1995 from the Dewey Decimal Classification system to a modified Library of Congress Classification.[26][27] A word processing center in the library made 25 computers available to students at the rate of $1 per hour in 1996.[28] In 1997, the library switched from using the DOS-based BYLINE to the Windows-based Horizon Automated Library Systems. The Horizon system allowed users to access online catalogs from other libraries, and used a client-server model.[29]

The library contained 200 computers but only a portion of them had internet access in 1997.[30][31] The library launched an online library catalog in 1998 after integrating the search system,[31] providing online renewals and extending undergraduate checkout times.[32] An electronic reserve system with an additional server was added in 1999.[33] The library added wireless internet access points to its study spaces in 2003.[34]

Library instruction

The Harold B. Lee Library in April of 2021

The HBLL instituted a summer program to certify students as school librarians in 1938, later offering the program during the school year. A class on bookbinding was taught during the 1940s.[6]:62 The BYU School of Library and Information Science was established in 1966 and re-accredited in 1978. It had about 50 graduates a year.[35] Prior to this program, Mary Elizabeth Downey taught a six-week class on the use of libraries.[6]:35 The School of Library and Information Science was closed in 1993, despite the program being in high demand.[36] The closure occurred after the administration announced a renewed focus on undergraduate studies.[36]


BYU Special Collections

The HBLL includes a family history library, the Primrose International Viola Archive,[37] the International Harp Archives,[38] and serves as a designated depository of government documents. The juvenile literature department opened its Lloyd Alexander Collection in January 2010, featuring items from the author's home office for students and researchers to access.[39]

Special collections

The library's special collections began in 1957 with 1000 books and 50 manuscript collections. A special vault and cold storage facility were built in 2000[40] and the collection was formally named the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Library.[41] The collection at the time contained over 8000 manuscript collections, 500,000 photographs, and 280,000 books.[41] Notable items from the collection include a 1967 Bible illustrated by Salvador Dalí, a 13th-century Vulgate, a first edition Book of Mormon, and the papers of Cecil B. DeMille and Helen Foster Snow.[42]

Foreign language collections

The HBLL houses collections in many foreign languages. The collection includes a Welsh library originally sponsored in 1951 by the National Gymanfa Association of the United States and Canada. The Icelandic Library Association of Spanish Fork donated their collection of Icelandic books in 1951.[6]:75

Religious influence on collections

Starting in 2004, R-rated movies were placed in the Faculty Use collection.[43] The Romance section includes a guide with ratings for the amount of sexual content in the books, and novels with explicit sexual material are not included in the collection.[44]

Awards and recognition

In 2004, the Princeton Review ranked the HBLL as the number one college library,[45] and as number three in 2007 and 2012.[46][47][48] The American Library Association awarded the HBLL with the Library Instruction Round Table 2017 Innovation in Instruction Award.[49]

See also


  1. "Library Statistics (General)" (PDF). Brigham Young University. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  2. "Library Statistics (Circulation)" (PDF). Brigham Young University. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  3. Ipson, Natalie (2 July 2020). "Rick Anderson named university librarian at BYU". News. BYU Communications. Retrieved 13 July 2021.
  4. "History of the Library". BYU Library. Brigham Young University. Retrieved 27 August 2020.
  5. "Dignitaries Break Ground for New Library Addition". The Daily Herald. 30 October 1974. p. 5. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  6. Knight, Hattie (1976). Brigham Young University Library Centennial History 1875-1975. Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
  7. "Alice Louise Reynolds". Brigham Young Academy High School Class of 1890. Brigham Young High School Alumni. Retrieved 2009-12-07.
  8. McClellan, Jeff (1999). "A Lingering Influence: Top 10 BYU Professors of the 20th Century". BYU Magazine. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  9. Finding aid authors: Nancy V. Young and Robert L. Young (1998). "Lorenzo Snow Young papers, 1830s-1970s". Prepared for the University of Utah Libraries, Special Collections, Salt Lake City, UT.
  10. Finding aid authors: David J. Whittaker (1984). "Register of the S. Lyman Tyler Collection". Prepared for the L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Provo, UT.
  11. "BYU Library Makes Great Strides, But Needs to Speed Up Book Acquisitions". The Daily Herald. 9 April 1969. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
  12. "'Friends of the BYU Library' Will Promote Institution". The Sunday Herald. 3 October 1965. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  13. Presidents of the Church Teacher Manual. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 2005. p. 345.
  14. "Dignitaries Break Ground for a New Library Addition". The Daily Herald. 30 October 1974. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  15. "Six-Story Addition: BYU Library Progress Told". 10 August 1976. p. 4. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  16. "Sculptured Panels at 'Y' Library". The Daily Herald. 10 March 1977. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  17. Lester, Jenni. "New library will have more to offer students". The Daily Universe. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  18. "GROUNDBREAKING FRIDAY FOR BYU LIBRARY ADDITION". DeseretNews.com. 14 September 1996. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
  19. Heap, Holly (10 August 1999). "Library opens new addition". The Daily Universe. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  20. Robinson, Izsie. "South library entrance to come Fall 2015 – The Daily Universe". The Daily Universe. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
  21. May, Kevin (25 October 2011). "Interlibrary Loan hits 500,000th request – The Daily Universe". The Daily Universe. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
  22. Ashby-Faulkner, Maurissa (20 February 2017). "2017 brings big improvements to Lee Library – The Daily Universe". The Daily Universe. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
  23. "'Y' Library Service Speeds Research". The Daily Herald. 22 December 1974. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  24. "Electronic Detection Device on the Job at Lee Library". The Daily Herald. 6 January 1975. p. 3. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  25. Durlan, Carmen (14 May 1996). "Finding information easy on BYLINE". The Daily Universe. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  26. Thompson, Marissa (27 June 1995). "Library begins cataloging, prepares for construction". The Universe. found in O'Connell, Cali. Harold B. Lee Library newsclippings collection, ID: UA 1066. Provo, UT: L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Brigham Young University.
  27. "4.7 Classification of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror | Cataloging & Metadata | BYU Library". Cataloging & Metadata. Retrieved 2022-08-16.
  28. Sanche, Ed (26 January 1996). "Upgraded Word Center now in library". The Daily Universe. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  29. Durlan, Carmen (15 May 1996). "No more BYLINE in Lee Library's "Horizon". The Daily Universe. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  30. Williams, Carrie (17 June 1997). "Remodeled library will have modern Internet reso". The Daily Universe. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  31. Robertson, Melissa (4 September 1997). "BYU library now online". The Daily Universe. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  32. McKim, Katie (31 August 1998). "BYU library offers new online features". The Daily Universe. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  33. Smurthwaite, Emily. "Library catalog looking for better service". The Daily Universe. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  34. Ashby, Angela (28 October 2003). "Wireless Internet connections now available in library hubs – The Daily Universe". The Daily Universe. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
  35. "Library Science Master's Degree Accredited at 'Y'". The Daily Herald. 22 August 1976. p. 4. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
  36. Patterson, Victoria (8 July 1993). "BYU Closing School for Librarians". The Universe. p. 1. found in O'Connell, Cali. Harold B. Lee Library newsclippings collection, ID: UA 1066. Provo, UT: L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Brigham Young University.
  37. "Primrose International Viola Archive". American Viola Society. Retrieved 2016-01-14.
  38. "15th National Competition & Anne Adams Awards Auditions". American Harp Society. Archived from the original on November 2, 2007. Retrieved 2008-05-15.
  39. "The Harold B. Lee Library to Celebrate the Opening of the Lloyd Alexander Collection". Harold B. Lee Library. 2009-12-19. Retrieved 2015-01-25.
  40. Coxey, Michelle; Brinkerhoff, Allison (11 March 1999). "Library annex worth the wait for BYU". The Daily Universe. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  41. Thornock, Janeal. "Library named for Elder Perry". The Daily Universe. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  42. McClellan, Jeff (2001-06-01). "Collected Memory". BYU Magazine. Retrieved 2008-05-15.
  43. Forsyth, Jessica. "R-rated movies from Harold B. Lee Library under tighter wrap – The Daily Universe". The Daily Universe. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
  44. Walch, Tad (5 October 2004). "Romance novels at BYU 'tame'". Deseret News. Archived from the original on 23 September 2018. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
  45. Walch, Tad (17 August 2004). "Study gives Y. high marks". DeseretNews.com. Archived from the original on 23 September 2018. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
  46. "Princeton Review rankings for BYU". Deseret News. 21 August 2007. Archived from the original on 24 November 2018. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
  47. "BYU's Harold B. Lee Library Ranked 3rd in Nation". Library News. 4 September 2007. Archived from the original on 8 November 2017. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  48. Lee, Hwa (5 February 2012). "BYU's Harold B. Lee Library Ranked 3rd in Nation". Brigham Young University. Archived from the original on 22 October 2016. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
  49. "Brigham Young University's Harold B. Lee Library Recipient of the LIRT 2017 Innovation in Instruction Award". American Library Association. 4 May 2017. Archived from the original on 19 May 2017. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
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