Transformation of spaces under way at Hesburgh Library

Author: Carol Bradley

Yellow chairs brighten up the renovated Hesburgh Library

Custom-built bookshelves are one of the features of the newly renovated Hesburgh Library

Projects begun over the summer are moving the Hesburgh Library toward the goal of transforming library spaces to both foster and inspire intellectual engagement, says Diane Parr Walker, Edward H. Arnold University Librarian.

Major changes have already taken place in the first-floor space at the west end of the concourse that for decades housed the current periodicals room—a space that had been filled with 1960s-vintage chairs and study tables.

The space, known colloquially as “The Fishbowl,” was renovated over the summer into a space that exemplifies the key components of a 21st-century research library: space for individual research and study; group space to facilitate collaboration and discussion; and the technology indispensable to modern-day researchers.

“It’s also an experimental space where users can explore and interact with emerging technologies,” says Jessica Kayongo, who led the Libraries team that planned the transformation.

A floor-to-ceiling display case has been replaced with a large window—pedestrian traffic passing through the concourse will see a technology “sandbox,” where users can sample the latest technology (provided in partnership with the Office of Information Technologies).

The library will also use the space to test ideas for enhancing the user experience through furnishings and services. New furniture in the space ranges from traditional reading-room wooden tables and chairs to
comfortable individual loungers and roomy six-person booths. Overhead lighting has also been improved. Adjacent to this area are custom-built bookshelves displaying new books.

Other projects under way include the renovation of the library’s south plaza over the summer. In addition to replacing the floor of the plaza, planters containing trees and hedges, and groundcover plantings have been added. Benches and bistro-style chairs and tables will create a welcoming alternative study or meeting space—outdoors, yet in proximity to the library and its collections.

In early fall, construction will begin on a highly anticipated project: a library café, located in the current lounge/vending area adjacent to the auditorium. The franchise that has been selected, Au Bon Pain (aubonpain.com), offers a variety of distinctive, healthy menu choices accommodating a wide variety of dietary needs and mealtime preferences.

Its uniqueness to this area—Chicago and Indianapolis are the two closest markets—was also an important selection criterion, Walker notes. The café is projected to open in November, and plans are to extend café seating out into the concourse.

“We expect that everyone will take advantage of these improvements to the library’s spaces, so that we can continue this forward momentum,” says Walker. “Space is an important library resource, and inviting, attractive spaces even more so. Much remains to be done, but I am proud of the positive direction in which we are moving.”

New green chairs are part of the renovation of the concourse of the Hesburgh Library