Hesburgh Library celebrates 60th anniversary

Author: Hesburgh Libraries

More than 60 years ago, Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., dreamed of a new library building that would serve, along with the Basilica of the Sacred Heart and the Main Building, 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.

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He envisioned that the Memorial Library (renamed Hesburgh Library in 1987) and its now world-famous Word of Life mural would stand as a symbol of excellence and the pursuit of truth. 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 building opened on September 18, 1963, and was dedicated on May 7, 1964. To honor this important University milestone and acknowledge the work that students and scholars do within its spaces, the Hesburgh Libraries is planning a year-long 60th Anniversary Celebration framed by these two significant dates.

This original vision and the words of University leaders, both past and present, anchor the Hesburgh Libraries’ commitment to service excellence in support of teaching, learning and research at Notre Dame.

“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.” – Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C.

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“The University is proud to carry the legacy of the Hesburgh Library forward. 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.” – Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.

The 60th anniversary celebration began on September 23 with the blessing and dedication of the Beth and Lou Holtz Family Grand Reading Room, the newest Hesburgh Library space to undergo a dramatic redesign.

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On September 27, Notre Dame students, faculty, and staff were invited to tour the new space during a campuswide open house. The newly transformed Beth and Lou Holtz Family Grand Reading Room was designed to inspire focused and contemplative intellectual work, which is as vital to academic success as the renewed collaborative spaces throughout the building.

Campus Open House Grand Reading Room

“During the next several months, we will reflect on Father Hesburgh’s original vision for the Hesburgh Library,” said K. Matthew Dames, Edward H. Arnold Dean, Hesburgh Libraries and University of Notre Dame Press. “This look back anchors our new vision as we create a collaborative, diverse, and inclusive community that advances human flourishing, all in support of the new strategic framework and the teaching and research mission of Notre Dame.”

Please join us throughout the year as we look back on our past and embrace our renewed vision, ensuring that the Hesburgh Libraries will inspire intellectual inquiry and remain a symbol of excellence in pursuit of truth and human flourishing for generations to come.

Since 2014, thanks to the renewed vision of University and Hesburgh Libraries leadership, coupled with generous benefaction, the Hesburgh Library has undergone a comprehensive interior renovation to meet the rapidly changing demands of students, faculty and staff. Library and University leaders continue planning and fundraising to help align library spaces with the Hesburgh Libraries’ mission, vision, and strategic framework designed to advance the University’s research, teaching, and learning mission while fostering Notre Dame’s engagement with the global scholarly community.

Learn more and see highlights of the before-and-after transformations.