Nobel Laureate poet and Queen’s University graduate Seamus Heaney said students did not know how lucky they were as he attended the grand opening of the new £50 million library.
Last night, speaking at the unveiling of Queen’s University’s McClay library, Dr Heaney said the brand new building was a “21st-century galactic sight”.
But he quipped: “I think the main thing is now they arrive into this extraordinarily beautiful 21st-century galactic sight and they probably take it for granted. They don’t know how lucky they are.”
Surveying the impressive new build, which boasts 2,000 reader places and 1.2 million volumes, the former Queen’s lecturer described the prestigious facility as “astonishing”. Mr Heaney (71) graduated with a First Class honours degree in English language and literature in 1960.
Reminiscing about his university days, he said: “I was used to the old library here, which was church-like. It had a Victorian Gothic feel to it and it had alcoves and had stained-glass windows. This is completely different.
“The electronic revolution has occurred. People don’t fill in slips to take books out anymore. They just plug in and tap in.
“The effect of light in the building — it’s like a starship for scholars — very beautiful.
“This is one of the best nights in Queen’s history ever. The library is an astonishing addition to the campus. It is one of the most beautiful buildings in a university that I have ever seen.”
The imposing new Queen’s addition has been hailed as a model of sustainable design.
The building was designed by Boston architects Shepley Bulfinch.
Lady Heather McClay said the library was an appropriate way to remember her late husband Sir Allen, founder of Galen pharmaceuticals and drug development company Almac.
“Allen spent his entire life learning, even in his older years,” she said.
“As he set up and grew Galen and then Almac he always said that he was learning every day.”