Notre Dame to renovate Hesburgh Library

Author: Tara O'Leary

Library renovation - Level 1 north view Library renovation – Level 1 north view (© Hesburgh Libraries – University of Notre Dame)
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In the wake of the 50th anniversary of the University of Notre Dame’s Hesburgh Library, the University will begin an interior renovation of the iconic building later this month.

Named in honor of President Emeritus Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., the Hesburgh Library is the flagship for Notre Dame’s library system, collectively called the Hesburgh Libraries. Grand in both vision and scale, the building is more than 440,000 square feet, stands 14 stories tall and is believed to have been the largest collegiate library of its day.

From its inception, the Hesburgh Library — then called the Memorial Library — was designed to join the Basilica of the Sacred Heart and the Main Building in a trilogy of buildings that define the Notre Dame skyline to this day. When asked at that time about the role that the new library would play in advancing the University’s goals, Father Hesburgh said, “The Notre Dame Memorial Library will be the academic heart of a university destined to become a real center of excellence in higher learning in the very heartland of America.”

In the 21st century, students and faculty demand that libraries provide access to interdisciplinary and collaborative spaces, state-of-the-art technologies and advanced research expertise. Building on its long-standing history to support and foster rigorous scholarship, inquiry and research, the University will launch the first phase of renovation Dec. 22, just after the end of the academic term.

“The 50th anniversary events of the past year gave us the opportunity to both celebrate a remarkable past and build upon this foundation to create a leading research library for the 21st century,” said Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dame’s president. “Given the ever-changing environment of the digital age, now is the time to make a transformational leap forward through a bold renovation that will keep the Hesburgh Library the centerpiece of Notre Dame’s intellectual pursuits and an enduring symbol of our academic excellence.”

Library renovation - Level 2 south view Library renovation – Level 2 south view (© Hesburgh Libraries – University of Notre Dame)
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“The Hesburgh Library has been a central and critically important resource for our faculty and students,” said Thomas G. Burish, University provost. “It has been inspiring to remember and reflect on the role the library has played in the University’s growth, but it is equally exciting to look ahead and commit to creating a library that can support new academic endeavors for decades to come.”

The project will address the changing needs of students, faculty and staff as they encounter new and evolving forms of scholarship in the digital age.

“The need for library spaces has not changed. It’s how we must use our library spaces and what expertise and services we offer our students and faculty that has changed,” said Edward H. Arnold University Librarian Diane Walker. “The mission of the library is, and always has been, to connect people to knowledge. In order to fulfill this mission, we must evolve to meet the changing demands for teaching, learning and research here at Notre Dame.”

The master building program plan provided by Shepley Bulfinch, the architectural firm of record, was created with input from students and faculty across campus. As much of the interior space appears as it did in 1963, the proposed changes will transform almost every corner of the 14-story structure. Phase One of the comprehensive project is called the Entrance Gallery, and Tower Floor Ten. Future phases will be completed over several years depending on future benefaction.

Library renovation - Level 10 reading room Library renovation – Level 10 reading room (© Hesburgh Libraries – University of Notre Dame)
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“Since we’ll need to keep the library operating throughout the renovation, and so that we can raise funds as we go, the architects have mapped out multiple phases and projects for the work,” Walker said.

In an interview for “Words of Life” by Bill Schmitt, Father Hesburgh remarked: “I wanted in 1963, and still desire today, for the library literally to stand for the future of Notre Dame as a place of unmatched intellectual achievement, free inquiry, and providential contributions to mankind. 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 University is proud to carry the legacy of the Hesburgh Library forward for the next 50 years and beyond,” Father Jenkins said. “Our renewed vision will revolutionize how we work together to advance teaching and research in the 21st century. The library’s transformation is a symbol of the University’s commitment to faculty and students as they create new knowledge and global solutions that contribute to a world in need.”

More information is available online at Anyone interested can follow the story of transformation through photos, webcams and time-lapse photography. Photo galleries and panoramic 360s of the current interior allow for an experience of the space one last time, while before-and-after comparisons and architectural renderings reveal the transformative vision soon to be realized. The renovation website also features tools designed to help patrons navigate access to library spaces, services and expertise.

Contact: Mandy Kinnucan, Office of Media Relations, 574-631-2523,