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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

Hesburgh Library undergoes renovations

July 21, 2015; Hesburgh Library renovations. (Photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame)
Courtesy of the University of Notre Dame
Courtesy of the University of Notre Dame
Construction workers install a skylight over the second floor of the library. Construction is currently in Phase 1; renovations on the Entrance Gallery and 10th floor are expected to finish in March 2016.

Hesburgh Library has finished the first stage of the multi-phase renovation plan to modernize the building in hopes of creating an improved collaborative and educational atmosphere. This first phase, labeled as Phase 1-A, includes an additional entrance on the north side of the building and new restrooms on the first two floors.

University Librarian Diane Parr Walker said today’s students and faculty require that libraries provide both individual and collaborative spaces, state-of-the-art technologies and advanced research expertise.

“We’ve just completed the first half of the initial phase of renovation,” Walker said. “That’s the north end of the central core of the first and second floors of the Hesburgh Library, including a new entrance on the north side of the building, an atrium opening between the two floors, a large skylight visible from both floors, a glass-walled quiet reading room on the second floor and new restrooms on both floors.

“The renovation of the Hesburgh Library reorganizes spaces and services to addresses these and other changing needs in the digital age. … It ensures that the Hesburgh Libraries can continuously evolve in order to fulfill our mission of ‘connecting people to knowledge’ and meet the changing needs for teaching, learning and research here at Notre Dame.”

Walker said the new north plaza just outside the new north entrance complements the dramatic interior of Phase 1-A.

“This new addition is a perfect outdoor gathering space for students, especially those coming over from the north side of campus,” Walker said.

Construction on the second half of this initial phase is now beginning, Walker said, which will add a second atrium opening between the first two floors and a new view from the second floor over the concourse and the reflecting pool.

She said the building will be open throughout the renovations, which span the next few years. The total budget for the Phase 1 renovations is $10.5 million, while the total cost depends on how quickly the work proceeds and how many phases it takes, according to Walker.

“The 10th floor is scheduled to be completed in January 2016, and Phase 1B, which will complete the new entrance gallery, will be finished during the spring semester [of] 2016,” Walker said. “Following on Phase 1-B, we will begin the next phase, which includes the concourse, the addition of what we are calling a ‘scholars’ lounge’ with informal café-style seating across from Au Bon Pain, and some staff areas. Phase 2 will begin early in 2016 and will take about a year.”

Walker said she is pleased with the results of Phase 1-A and that construction is proceeding as planned.

“The transformation of spaces is powerful, and the reaction from campus is overwhelmingly positive,” she said. “It will be dramatic to see the entire entrance gallery space completed next spring.”

These renovations are long overdue and well worth the wait, Walker said.

“Except for the lower level and some small space renewal projects, most of the building has not been renovated or changed since it opened in 1963,” Walker said. “Meanwhile, the teaching, learning and research needs of campus have changed and are continuing to change rapidly.”

The new reading room on the second floor is already a student favorite for quiet, individual study, Walker said.

“The new lighting is showing us just how yellow and dim the lighting in the rest of the building is, and the natural daylight that floods into the center of the first two floors seems definitely to be a welcome addition,” she said.

Walker said the reorganization of services and spaces in the building will better support the way students and faculty work in the 21st century.

“For example, the plans offer a variety of spaces that will provide appropriate room for both collaborative group study and individual quiet study,” Walker said. “The long-awaited upgrade to the building’s infrastructure will improve lighting and provide better and more access to electrical outlets and digital technologies. The addition of presentation practice rooms and access to multi-media instruction and services meets the evolving teaching and learning demands on students across every discipline. Enhanced spaces like the Center for Digital Scholarship will continue to transform the ways that students and faculty can use technology to accelerate their research process.”

Walker said she encourages students, faculty and staff to come and see the progress of the renovations, which they can also follow with photos, webcams and news updates at

“I think that experiencing the space helps people to truly appreciate how we are beginning to transform this 50-year-old iconic building and enables them to imagine the impact that the renovation will have for students and faculty,” Walker said.