Recognzie this place? Not likely. It’s the basement of Hesburgh Library following a nearly two-year renovation.
The gutted and rebuilt lower level reopened in late August, 2003.
Gone are the Formica booths and vending machines of The Pit snack area (the machines are now in a room on the first floor) and the maze of blank corridors and windowless offices. Many of the offices belonged to non-library operations that have been dispatched to other locations on campus.
In addition to its elegant furnishings, the area features compact shelving, which is an increasingly popular storage system. There are no permanent aisles between the shelves. To get to a book, the seeker turns a crank that pushes the shelves apart.
The basement was the only level of the 40-year-old library strong enough to support the extra weight of books stored on compact shelving. The system is so efficient that it’s expected to increase the library’s capacity for print materials by roughly one-third. By 2004 the basement — or “lower level,” as library officials prefer to call it — is expected to hold more than half-a-million volumes, including virtually all of those currently shelved on the fourth and fifth floors and half from the 13th.
The basement also contains storage space for Rare Books and Special Collections and the Microtext and Government Documents collection, formerly on the first floor.
The entire space is equipped for both wired and wireless access to the Internet, and there are four group-study rooms and six study booths.
The make-over constitutes Phase I of a long-term renovation of the library. The project was underwritten with part of a $16 million benefaction from the estate of William J. Carey ’46, the largest estate gift in Notre Dame history.