Officials break ground for 'game-changing' library

Groundbreaking ceremony for the Mary Idema Pew Library
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Groundbreaking ceremony for the Mary Idema Pew Library
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Grand Valley and community leaders symbolically broke ground September 21 for a new library that speakers called both a "game changer" and the "intellectual heart of campus."

A crowd of about 400 gathered to watch President Thomas J. Haas, Provost Gayle R. Davis and others turn shovels of dirt and celebrate the start of construction on the new Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons.

Davis said it may be surprising to some that in this information age college students still need a library. "The more information we're exposed to, the more we need training to use it critically and use it well," she said. "When it opens, this library will symbolize the intellectual heart of campus."

Kate Pew Wolters, chair of Grand Valley's Board of Trustees, spoke on behalf of her family. The building is named for her mother. She engaged the audience with a story about Mary Idema Pew, who Wolters called a "rebel and a bit of a trailblazer."

Wolters also said supporting the library was important to her family and she is proud to have it named for her mother. "My father said this day is not about us, it's about Grand Valley. I agree with that, but it is also about my mom and the legacy she leaves," Wolters said.

The Pew Library will provide approximately 1,500 seats for student study, 20 group study rooms, and offices and support areas for faculty and staff members. There will be room for 150,000 books on open shelves and 600,000 books in an automated storage/retrieval system.

Dan DeVos, a co-chair of the Shaping Our Future campaign, drew laughter from the audience when he said the Pew Library will be quite unlike his college library. He added that as an employer, he understands the investment behind such a technologically advanced library as it will help Grand Valley graduate top students who are prepared to help rebuild West Michigan and the state.

DeVos also read a note from his father, Richard M. DeVos, who apologized for his absence at the ceremony that kicked off the start of constructing a library that will be a “game changer” and unique among university libraries.

Jim Brooks, also a co-chair of the Shaping Our Future campaign, stressed that fundraising for the building is not complete as $4.5 million is left to raise. "We're counting on continuing the generosity of alumni and others who have supported this campaign," he said.

Construction will begin in earnest this spring and  the library is expected to be completed in 2013. Visit to see design renderings, floor plans and to take a virtual tour of the library.