First opened on June 4, 1971, the new library would not be dedicated for almost a year. On April 26, 1972, librarians, students, administrators, and members of the public gathered to dedicate the new university library. Due to inclement weather, the ceremony was held indoors on the first floor of the library. The guests entered a five-level structure with brightly colored walls and furniture. Many of those gathered remembered that the location where this new building stood was once the site of the school’s first football field.

Dr. David A. Webb, the Director of Libraries, was a driving force in developing the new facility. Dr. Webb served as the Director of Libraries from 1953 to 1978, as well as the director of the School of Library and Information Sciences, now the College of Information. David Webb was responsible for opening the library stacks to students, changing the classification system from Dewey to Library of Congress, and expanding the School of Library and Information Sciences.

Black and white photograph of a balding man standing between two sets of metal book shelves. He leans his elbow on a shelf and looks up and to his right.

Dr. David A. Webb, no date.

The dedication program was short. Caudill, Rowlett, and Scott Architects were presented. The building was accepted by the Chair of the Board of Regents, A. M. Willis, Jr. The Brass choir, conducted by Leon Brown, provided the music. Dr. Joe B. Frantz, director of the Texas State Historical Association and the University of Texas at Austin’s Oral History Project, was the guest speaker at the dedication ceremony. Dr. Frantz’s speech was titled, “Who Needs Friends?”  Parts of his speech were quoted in the North Texas Daily on April 27, 1972:

            “The Real friends to the library are its books, manuscripts,

            Phonograph records, films and other material preserved for

            the interests of the public.”

            “Our friends in the library (the books and other material) are

            the priests and the psychiatrists who will help us make our

            peace with a complex world.”

            “We need also to let those people on the outside know that

            friends everywhere these friends in the library can suffer from

            neglect. The best friend is a friend you work with. The best

             friend is one to whom you give a little time, and he gives

            whatever he can in return.”

It would not be until August 24, 1978, that the Board of Regents would pass a resolution to honor A. M. Willis, Jr. by naming the library after him.

            “Whereas he expresses constantly his deep devotion and great

            respect for the intellectual, Social and human accomplishments

            of the University, it is appropriate that he be honored for his

            loyal and devoted service: therefore, be it resolved, that the

            University Library at North Texas State University is hereby

            named the A. M. Willis, Jr. Library.”

Black and white photograph of an older man wearing a suit and tie, sits posed on a step outside of a long brick building.

A.M. Willis, Jr. in front of Willis Library, c. 1978.

Willis, of Longview, Texas, was a staff director of the House Veterans Affairs Committee in Washington, D. C. He had been a member of the Board of Regents since 1965 and served as chair since 1969. Willis stated his reaction to the North Texas Daily, “It’s a high honor to me to have my name associated with this university which I love so much.”

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