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by Dallin Bruun

BYU’s Harold B. Lee Library has 31 drinking fountains, one for every 322 daily patrons. The library was originally built in 1962, then added upon in ’74, and again in ’97, which is why the fountain collection consists of three distinct periods.

Super Old Fountains

It appears the original 1962 five-level library was designed to accommodate three fountains on every floor: one next to the bathrooms, and one at each end of that same hallway. This pattern repeats on all floors except the third, the ground level, which has been extensively modified from the original design.

In 1906, a plumber named Luther Haws noticed the “unsanitary though typical” practice of sharing drinking cups among school children. He invented and patented the “Drinking Faucet” in 1911, and his company Haws Corporation sold 15 models to BYU in 1962.

Only four of those original 15 still exist, preserved because they were fortunately placed in low traffic areas. If you’d like to view one of these Haws relics, I would recommend the Fountain of Beauty located on the second level in the maps section (See Map B).  The Fountain of Beauty, as I have named it, best illustrates the 1962 wing’s painstaking practice of tiling a colorful frame around each of the 15 drinking fountains installed that year. The tiles are 3/8s of an inch on each side, and come in khaki, burnt orange, and moss green.  The Fountain of Beauty is a venerable white ‘62 Haws, framed by moss green tile.

I found the Fountain of Beauty in the summer of 2003, studying for my first class at BYU—accounting. The university must have been short on cash, or conducting a bizarre social experiment that year, because they allowed average local students to enroll on a trial basis.  I was both average and local. And, to be perfectly truthful, my mother enrolled me.

New Fountains

In 1997 the library nearly doubled its drinking fountain collection in the state-of-the-art subterraneous wing. Two brands were included, Sunroc (77%) and Elkay (23%). I’m not a fan of the new Sunroc line—they tend to over arc, missing their splash spine and spattering water on you.

Case #19 (a.k.a the Sunroc Tsunami) is the taller of a pair of fountains on the east wall of the periodicals section on Level 2. Its arc is so powerful it splashes patrons in the face. For a good laugh, I suggest finding a nearby vantage point.

I probably shouldn’t be here observing freshmen getting splashed; I should have graduated six years ago. I blame it on an Intro to Humanities class my second semester. “Education should be holistic.” “Universities are vocational factories.” And so forth. I actually walked into the counseling office to switch my major to “everything.” It wasn’t an option.

Golden Age Fountains

Harold B. Lee Library’s Golden Age of Drinking Fountains was the 1974 addition. Even though the five-story project doubled the library’s square footage, only five drinking fountains were installed, one on each floor. These five drinking fountains were made by Hasley Taylor Corp, but three have been replaced with Elkay, and the one on the fourth floor is in disrepair.

That leaves the library’s rarest—and most excellent—drinking fountain on the fifth floor, 1974 wing. It’s one of only three fountains to receive temperature rating of “extra cold,” and one of two awarded the coveted “delicious taste” rating. But what makes this Hasley Taylor so special is that it’s equipped with twin jets which collide and form a large-barrel water arc, allowing maximum thirst satisfaction.

I tried quitting school once; I enrolled in what I called “The University of Barnes & Noble.” I made a goal to finish 10 books. I barely got through Moby Dick before realizing school wasn’t so bad. It’s like a drinking fountain of knowledge, just push the button and open your brain.

So I came back. It feels like a million years ago. Luckily, even though I’m roughly 30% older than everyone around me, I still blend in. But it probably won’t be long before some department or software finds me and says, “Let someone else have a turn! You’re holding up the line!”