Hesburgh Libraries

Hesburgh Library celebrates 60 years with 60 milestones

By Bryan Fields and Becky Malewitz | May 16, 2024

Hesburgh Library celebrates 60 years with 60 milestones

Nearly 60 years ago, President Emeritus Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., dreamed of a new library building that would become the academic heart of the University. It would serve — along with the Main Building and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart — as one of a trilogy of iconic buildings that would define the Notre Dame campus.

These three buildings still define the Notre Dame skyline today.

Reflecting on his goals for this building, Fr. Hesburgh said, "When I began to dream of a greater Notre Dame, it seemed to me that there was no greater step forward we could make, as a great Catholic university, than to have the best Catholic university library in the world."

Notre Dame realized this dream when the Memorial Library building (now known as Hesburgh Library) opened on September 18, 1963, and was dedicated on May 7, 1964.

A decade ago, to commemorate the Hesburgh Library’s golden anniversary, 50 historical milestones were highlighted in a digital exhibit. To mark the occasion, Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., said, “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. 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.”

In 2024, milestones 51 through 60 were added to honor the Library’s 60th anniversary and acknowledge the work that students and scholars do within its spaces. These recent milestones are shared below and culminate in the launch of a new mission, vision, and strategic framework designed to help advance Notre Dame’s aspirations to be recognized as the leading global Catholic research university while prioritizing academic excellence, knowledge creation, and human flourishing.

 

Milestones.51

NEW NORTH ENTRANCE OPENS TO TRANSFORMED ENTRANCE GALLERY

Milestone 51 — A multi-year renovation began in December 2014 with a new North Entrance and two-story Entrance Gallery to help create what Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., described as a leading research library for the 21st century.

“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.”

 

Milestones.52

UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME ARCHIVES JOIN THE HESBURGH LIBRARIES

Milestone 52 — In April 2016, the University of Notre Dame Archives joined the Hesburgh Libraries, allowing the archivists, librarians, and staff to leverage combined expertise in digital projects, traditional and digital preservation, collection management, and access. The Archives’ history reaches back to the University’s earliest days when founder Rev. Edward Frederick Sorin, C.S.C., recognized the importance of preserving significant items for the historical record.

Today, the Archives is one of the nation’s foremost repositories for studying American Catholicism. It also manages the University’s deep athletic collection and holds its extensive photography collection. The University Archives’ 1600+ collections in 65,000 cu-ft of space attract researchers from across campus and around the world.

 

Milestone.53

CONCOURSE AND SCHOLARS LOUNGE OPEN, TRANSFORMATIONS CONTINUE

Milestone 53 — In 2016, the Hesburgh Library Concourse was revitalized and expanded with floor-to-ceiling glass, new views, and more natural light. This transformed the space back into a campus crossroads for intellectual conversation and scholarly pursuits.

The same year, the Mahaffey Family Scholars Lounge opened as a space for conversation, casual study, lectures, and special events, making it a favorite destination for the Notre Dame community.

In 2018, the Collaboration Hub, Technology Commons, and Research Commons opened to help students explore questions and develop advanced-level research skills. Soon after, the new Music and Architecture branch libraries opened across campus for specialty research.

 

Milestone.54

HESBURGH PORTAL LAUNCHES

Milestone 54 — In 2018, Hesburgh Libraries and University Archives launched an online research portal dedicated to preserving and providing global access to some of the most important works of Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C. The portal features photos, media, oral histories, and more than 30 stories from his remarkable life.

This shift toward increased digital access to the Hesburgh Libraries’ holdings made them readily accessible to researchers and members of the public from around the world.

 

Milestone.55

$10 MILLION GIFT FUNDS NEW NAVARI FAMILY CENTER FOR DIGITAL SCHOLARSHIP SPACE AND SERVICES

Milestone 55 — On June 4, 2018, the Navari Family Center for Digital Scholarship officially opened on the Hesburgh Library’s 2nd Floor. The space was made possible through a $10 million gift from Rudy and Jane Navari in July 2015.

“I am deeply grateful to Rudy and Jane Navari and their family’s foundation for this generous gift,” said University of Notre Dame President, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., when the gift was announced. “It recognizes the importance of a library for any university community and the centrality of the Hesburgh Libraries for Notre Dame. This gift will allow us to expand and enhance our library services through digital technology to support the critical work of scholars now and in the future.”

 

Milestone.56

COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Milestone 56 — On March 11, 2020, Notre Dame announced its initial COVID-19 response plan. Over the next two years, historic measures from every corner of campus were followed to ensure health and safety while allowing education and research to continue.

In alignment with the University’s crisis response, the Hesburgh Libraries enacted a comprehensive plan to reengineer library services and spaces, provide electronic access to resources and materials, and deliver virtual workshops and library instruction. Several heroic library community members remained onsite to provide seamless support for work that couldn't be done remotely.

 

Milestone.57

MARBLE PLATFORM LAUNCHES FOR ONLINE ACCESS TO CULTURAL HERITAGE COLLECTIONS AT NOTRE DAME

Milestone 57 — On July 21, 2021, the Hesburgh Libraries and the Snite Museum of Art (now the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art) announced the launch of Marble, which makes distinctive cultural heritage collections from across Notre Dame accessible through a single, free public portal.

Made possible, in part, by a three-and-one-half-year grant from the Mellon Foundation, Marble allows users to explore Notre Dame’s collections from anywhere in the world. This access and the portal’s key features fundamentally transform the way these digital collections can be used for teaching and research.

 

58

BOARD OF TRUSTEES VOTES TO APPROVE TITLE CHANGE FOR CHIEF LIBRARIAN TO DEAN

Milestone 58 — In spring 2022, the University of Notre Dame Board of Trustees voted to change the title of the chief librarian to Edward H. Arnold Dean of Hesburgh Libraries and University of Notre Dame Press. On July 1, K. Matthew Dames, Ph.D., J.D., M.S., became the inaugural Dean.

This tremendous elevation further reflects the integral role the Hesburgh Libraries plays in advancing Notre Dame’s goal of becoming the leading global Catholic research university.

 

Milestone.59

NEW MISSION, VISION AND STRATEGIC FRAMEWORK ADVANCE HUMAN FLOURISHING

Milestone 59 — In May 2022, the Hesburgh Libraries launched a new Strategic Framework to help advance Notre Dame’s aspirations to be recognized as the leading global Catholic research university while prioritizing academic excellence, knowledge creation, and human flourishing.

A Strategic Planning Liaison Committee was formed. Membership included faculty and staff and reflected diverse perspectives, experiences, and roles from across the Libraries. Together, the organization is building an inclusive, diverse, and dynamic culture to elevate Notre Dame’s research and teaching agenda and simultaneously advance student and faculty work in a digital and interdisciplinary environment.

 

Milestones.60

BETH AND LOU HOLTZ FAMILY GRAND READING ROOM OPENS

Milestone 60 — The Beth and Lou Holtz Family Grand Reading Room opened September 2023 thanks to a generous gift from former Notre Dame Football head coach Lou Holtz. The reading room was named in honor of Lou Holtz's late wife, Beth. Education and faith were of great importance to Beth Holtz — this space honors her devotion to learning and love of libraries.

The two-story, 20,000-square-foot space was a dramatic redesign to inspire focused and contemplative intellectual work for the University of Notre Dame students—a feature that complements existing interdisciplinary and collaborative space throughout the Hesburgh Library. The opening was part of the Library’s year-long 60th anniversary celebration.

Explore 60 Milestones of the Hesburgh Library and other historical exhibits.

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