"The foundation of any great university, beyond its dedicated and talented faculty and students, is a well-equipped, modern, technologically advanced library," said Dr. Miguel Nevarez, president of UT Pan American. "This facility is the hub of intellectual activity on the campus.
"It's essential that we continue to strengthen our library, not only for the services to the university community but also for the community at large," he said.
Dr. Homer Peña, executive director for South Texas Program Development at The University of Texas System and a former registrar and faculty member at Pan American, highlighted the increase in degree programs offered at UT Pan American at the graduate and undergraduate levels.
"Pan American has made great strides in the past five years in the establishment of new programs," Pena said. "With this program expansion and increased enrollment at the graduate and professional levels follows a need for greater library support, in particular as it relates to the research functions of this university."
Dr. Kenneth Buckman, assistant professor of history and philosophy and member of the Library Addition ad hoc committee, asserted the importance of the library in the university community.
"This dedication carries a weight of greater importance than the dedication of other buildings, because the library symbolizes, more than any other campus project, the heart and soul of the university itself," Buckman said.
"Our library is a repository of worldwide culture representing what is best and worst about society and the world we inhabit," he said. "By acting as our living memory, the tool of our active present, and the hope of our projected future, the university library is a beacon, lighting the promise of our most sacred possibilities as a people, a society, a nation, humankind, as a world.
"Our university library is heart and lifeblood of the university community," he said. "This extension symbolizes a commitment to the improvement of our university community and to the future of South Texas. The good health of the library indicates the good health of the university and of ourselves, and of this we can be proud."
Also participating in the groundbreaking ceremonies were State Rep. Juan Hinojosa, State Rep. Roberto Gutierrez, and Orie Salinas, aide to State Rep. Miguel Wise; University Library Director Dr. Elinor Folger Foster; business doctoral student Bradley Altemeyer; architect Tom Ashley of Ashley, Humphreys and Sanchez of McAllen; Bill Wilson, representing Wilson Construction Co. of McAllen; Dr. Jim Broaddus, director of Facilities Planning and Construction at UT System; and Gilbert Gallegos, project manager from UT System's Office of Facilities Planning and Construction.
The three-story, 49,000-square-foot addition, to be built by Wilson Construction Co., was designed by Ashley, Humphreys and Sanchez. It is expected to be completed by the beginning of the spring 1999 semester.
The addition, which will be located on the west side of the current University Library, will hold the rapidly growing collection of books, the library's technical service functions, study areas for library users, and two state-of-the-art computer instruction classrooms with teleconferencing and distance education capabilities.
As these areas move to the addition, it will provide more space in the existing building for reference materials, periodicals and special collections.
In one section of the addition, the library will experiment with compact shelving - high-density bookshelves that move on tracks.
"You can store twice as many books (in the same space) as traditional shelving," Foster said. "We will only use it in small sections at first, but the addition will eventually have that type of shelving when expansion is needed in 10 to 20 years. We will not need to add on to the building, we will put in more compact shelving.... In the long run, it will be a substantial savings in construction costs."
Construction of the library addition was approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in April.