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Monday, May 27, 2024
The Observer

Hesburgh Library marks 60th birthday with open house of Holtz reading room

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Students line up outside of the Beth and Lou Holtz Family Grand Reading Room for the Hesburgh Library 60th anniversary open house on Sept. 27.


The University celebrated Hesburgh Library’s 60th birthday during an open house in the new Beth and Lou Holtz Family Grand Reading Room on Wednesday evening.

Around 700 Notre Dame students, faculty members and alumni attended the occasion, according to library staff.

Camille Martinez, an event specialist for Hesburgh Libraries, was responsible for coordinating the open house. She said the event featured appetizers, a photo booth and a brief welcome from Alicia Bates, an advisor to the Hesburgh Library dean K. Matthew Dames.

Martinez added that during the event, the two floors of the reading room showcased a digital exhibit on the library’s history and former University President Fr. Theodore Hesburgh.

Guests received a “60th anniversary commemorative mug — our way of saying thank you to the campus community for your inspiration and partnership,” she said.

Some students attended the celebration out of happenstance, including Natalie Ceonzo, a freshman who lives in Flaherty Hall.

“I noticed the event on my way to study, and so I sat down, ate a meal and made a friend,” Ceonzo said.

Tara O’Leary, a member of the library’s executive leadership team, said the open house was one of many anniversary celebrations which will be held throughout the school year.

“The building opened on Sept. 18, 1963 and was dedicated on May 7, 1964,” O'Leary said. “To honor this important University milestone and acknowledge the work that students and scholars do within its spaces, Hesburgh Libraries is planning a yearlong, 60th anniversary celebration framed by these two significant dates.”

The present-day building, originally known as Memorial Library, was established in 1963 under the direction Hesburgh, who helped raise more than millions toward its construction. Upon Hesburgh’s retirement in 1987, the library was renamed in his honor.

“I wanted in 1963, and still desire today, for the Memorial Library literally to stand for the future of Notre Dame as a place of unmatched intellectual achievement, free inquiry and providential contributions to mankind,” Hesburgh said in an interview for Words of Life, a book written about the 50th anniversary of Hesburgh Library. “Let the Library be a place on this campus where that hunger for truth will keep getting stronger, supporting freedom and justice around the world, inspiring excellence and prodding us to bigger dreams.”

The construction of the Beth and Lou Holtz Family Grand Reading Room began in October 2022 and was completed this August, just ahead of the start of the academic year. Holtz was the last Notre Dame football coach to win a national championship in 1988. His wife Beth died in June 2020.

In a private ceremony attended by Holtz, University President Fr. John Jenkins dedicated and blessed the reading room.

The space is composed of tables installed with charging ports and offers more than 250 seats, including more than 60 soft seats for individual study.

Jessica Kayongo, a subject Librarian who was chair of the Hesburgh Library renovation steering committee, said the reading room also boasts an improved working atmosphere.

“Users can anticipate a dramatic change in the look and feel of the former spaces on the first and second floors,” Kayongo said. “The open spaces, atrium and new stairwell will allow natural light to flood throughout the entire space. On the south end of the second floor is a large fireplace [and] 100 pendant lights hang at different heights, creating a beautiful focal point in the center of the room.”

Kennan Hall resident Daniel Sheng said the reading room was a well-designed environment to study.

“The lighting isn’t too harsh, the large windows provide a natural backdrop and the quiet atmosphere helps me focus,” he said.

Ceonzo added that the lighting and design of the reading room were incredibly appealing.

“I also can appreciate how loyally the students who use the room stick to the no talking policy,” she said.

After six decades as a campus staple, Kayongo said that the prospects for the future of the library are only bright.

“The Hesburgh Library and its world famous Word of Life mural still stand as a symbol of academic excellence and the pursuit of truth both on Notre Dame’s storied Indiana campus and with scholarly communities around the world,” she said.