Indiana University

Skip to:

  1. Search
  2. Breadcrumb Navigation
  3. Content
  4. Browse by Topic
  5. Services & Resources
  6. Additional Resources
  7. Multimedia News

Media Contacts

Larry MacIntyre
IU Media Relations

George Vlahakis
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Friday, June 17, 2005

Main library at IU Bloomington named for Herman Wells

JUNE 17, 2005

EDITORS: The complete text of remarks by IU President Adam Herbert and IU Libraries Dean Suzanne Thorin is available online at Architectural renderings of the proposed renovated Wells Library are available online at

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University today (June 17) renamed its main library for its late chancellor, Herman B Wells. IU President Adam W. Herbert said it was the most appropriate way for the university to remember Wells.

Photo by: Chris Meyer

Wells Library

Print-Quality Photo

"Chancellor Wells cared deeply about the IU library. He was its greatest champion. He knew of its power to transform our conception of ourselves and the world in which we live. He knew how first-rate research collections and a welcoming library environment enhance our ability to live the life of the mind," Herbert said at a ceremony attended by about 500 IU faculty, staff, students and alumni. The ceremony took place on the library's south lawn.

"Chancellor Wells often said, 'When you plan for the university, you should plan for a thousand years.' Given his commitment to the institution's progress, I think he would be pleased -- and perhaps somewhat surprised -- by recent developments in the library."

When Wells took part in dedication ceremonies for the library building 35 years ago, it had a collection of 2.7 million books. Today, it holds 5 million of the university's 7 million volumes as well as an expansive collection of audio visual and electronic resources, including the latest links to Web-based information.

"I am very confident that Chancellor Wells would be pleased to see that, even in this era when we have such vast amounts of information literally at our fingertips, the library remains a vital intellectual gathering place and the very heart and soul of the university," Herbert said. "This fact would reaffirm the principles by which he led this great institution."

Photo by: courtesy IU Archives


Print-Quality Photo

Wells was president of IU from 1938 to 1962 and was university chancellor from 1962 to 2000. He led the university through its post-World War II expansion and is credited with transforming IU into an internationally recognized center of research and scholarship and one of America's great public universities. As university chancellor, he was active until his death at age 97 on the Bloomington campus where he resided and was much beloved.

Collections at the IU Bloomington Libraries grew by more than 640 percent during his tenure as president. At the dedication ceremony for the Main Library in 1969, Wells said, "There is no distinguished university without a great library."

Other speakers at the ceremony included Kenneth R.R. Gros Louis, IU Bloomington chancellor and interim senior vice president for academic affairs; Suzanne E. Thorin, Ruth Lilly University Dean of university libraries; and Curtis R. Simic, president and CEO of the IU Foundation; and Khalil N. AbuGharbieh, a Wells Scholar from South Bend.

Thorin remembered Wells also as a neighbor. In his final years, he lived across 10th street from the library, and he could see its limestone towers from his picture window.

"He regarded IU's libraries fondly," Thorin said. "When I knew Chancellor Wells, in his nineties, he was a regular visitor to the Lilly Library and loyally attended dinners for the Fine Arts Library. He celebrated the 30-year anniversary of this very building at a party we hosted in the library."

The university is seeking $28.4 million in the first phase of renovations to recreate a library that honors Wells' legacy and meets the needs of students and faculty. Plans call for transforming the south entrance to include additional services, adding an auditorium classroom and upgrading the infrastructure.

IU already has contributed more than $11.8 million from campus and private support to prepare for the renovation and has piloted concepts to demonstrate how a master architectural plan can be implemented successfully.

"Herman Wells would not want us to rest on our achievements," Thorin said. "This structure, which he built to house our prized book collections, must now be renovated completely both to repair the infrastructure and to accommodate the needs of today's faculty and students. Only then can we fulfill the potential of this library within this great public university."

The IU Libraries ranked 12th in the most recent survey of the nationwide Association of Research Libraries. As the largest and most visible entry point to a system of 20 libraries on the Bloomington campus, the Wells Library holds more than 4.1 million volumes, in addition to materials in other formats including journals, maps and microforms.