September 18, 1963 - Memorial Library opens

Throughout Notre Dame's history, the library moved through several buildings and continually grew in size. When the fire in the Main Building occurred and the library was housed within, all but 500 volumes were destroyed. When the school reopened, a library reopened with it as well. In 1917, a separate library building was dedicated and the volumes were moved inside. As the number of volumes in the University Library grew to over 200,000 volumes, Father Hesburgh announced plans for a new library building in 1959. By 1961, ground was broke for the new Memorial Libary.

Memorial Library at nightWhen the designs were being drawn for the new library, Father Hesburgh was asked what size he was envisioning. 600,000 volumes? No, Hesburgh had grander plans. 2,000,000 volumes. The Ellerbe Company of St. Paul, Minnesota was chosen for the design. The lower two floors contained large open space with access to all the card catalogs and other library services. The mostly windowless thirteen floor tower had access to all the stacks and a lack of open space to minimize distractions for studying students. Windows also were seen as a distraction with changing light conditions, changing temperature and unpleasant glare.

The Word of Life mural, more affectionately known as Touchdown Jesus, adorns the front face of the libary. The nickname would come later and was never a thought during the original design. However, when the library first opened the mural was not complete and would be unveiled at the dedication in 1964. When Millard Sheets put together the original sketch Notre Dame put together a great video about the Word of Life mural. Father Hesburgh talks about the design and some of you may recognize the guy at 2:47.

Before the library opened, all of the volumes housed in the University Library would need to be moved across campus to the new Memorial Library. One method to do so was having students carry stacks of books out of Bond Hall, across God Quad, past the Field House and into Memorial Library.

Forty years later, on Sept. 18, 2003, Father Hesburgh dedicated the newly renovated basement. With moveable stacks and soundproof study rooms, a comfortable and relaxing study space was provided for students. Today with 3.39 million volumes, the library is the 61st largest amongst U.S. research universities.

Keywords: library, great fire, father hesburgh, bond hall, touchdown jesus, word of life

Posted On: 2011-09-18 03:15:00 by IrishTrpt07


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