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University renovates library

Dan Brombach | Thursday, August 16, 2012

With the 50th anniversary of the Hesburgh Library less than a year away, Notre Dame officials decided it was time to give the campus landmark a much-needed facelift.

Members of the Notre Dame Facilities Design and Operations office renovated the Library over the summer, guided by input from the University Architect’s Office and a team of librarian planners.

Head librarian Diane Parr Walker said these renovations aim to modernize the Library and make it a more welcoming facility.

“As a place where students spend a great deal of time in intellectual pursuits, we wanted the library to offer inviting, inspiring and comfortable spaces that will foster intellectual engagement,” Walker said.

In response to complaints of drab interior decoration, the renovation team focused on remodeling the first-floor periodicals room, more commonly known as “The Fishbowl.” The popular study area was repainted and carpeted, its furniture was replaced, new lighting was installed and its remaining periodicals were moved to a nearby reference room.

The new first-floor design also features a “digital sandbox” area equipped with a Microsoft touch-screen surface table. Walker said the Office of Information Technology hopes to use this area to determine which services and technologies students find helpful and to expand upon that information for future planning.

Walker said plans are also underway to install a café in the former vending machine area, also on the first floor. Projected to open in November, the café will serve coffee, pastries, soups and sandwiches, and is intended to accommodate students studying in the library for long periods of time.

“We’re anticipating the café will be a great service for people who are studying long hours in the Library to be able to get breakfast, lunch or a snack without having to leave the building,” Walker said.

The design team also revitalized the Library’s exterior courtyard near the reflecting pool by planting a variety of trees and shrubs while bringing in benches and bistro tables for additional outdoor seating. Walker said the courtyard will be completed by early September.

Walker said the renovation was initially set to be completed before the end of the last school year, but was ultimately delayed by furniture issues.

“We were hoping to do the project really quickly and have it available by the middle of the spring semester,” Walker said. “What always happens with construction and renovation projects, though, is however much time you think they will take, you should go ahead and double or triple it.”

Walker said new furniture was also ordered for the Library’s music and media area this summer after students complained the old tables were too small and inflexible to accommodate their equipment needs.

The furniture is expected to arrive before the academic year begins.

Walker said student input was highly valued during the renovation process, so students can expect to have future opportunities to express their concerns and provide feedback.

“I hope students will be excited to see how many of their ideas we’ve included,” Walker said. “We held many discussions and planning sessions with students last spring to gather input, and we incorporated as many ideas as we could.”

Although no additional projects are planned at the moment, Walker said the Library would carry this summer’s momentum into establishing a comprehensive interior renovation plan.

Overall, Walker said she hopes to realize University President Emeritus Fr. Ted Hesburgh’s vision of the Library as Notre Dame’s academic heart and a modern center of inspiration and higher learning.

“Twenty-first century libraries should offer a variety of spaces to foster and inspire intellectual engagement across disciplines,” Walker said. “Many peer institutions have already renovated their libraries to offer these kinds of services. I’d like to see us at Notre Dame do the same for our students and faculty.”