Out of the office: Library renovation

Author: Tara Hunt ’12

I may have procrastinated the last paper of my college career. It may have been 2 a.m. and I may have been sitting at a large table across from an equally cranky classmate on the second floor of the library cursing the loud, giggly sophomores two tables down, loathing our friends who sent a string of text messages urging us to abandon the assignment and meet them at the bar with our sacks full of turn-of-the-century fiction in tow, and, most intensely, resenting ourselves for pushing this off until the very last night of our academic careers.

If we turned in half of the assigned 25 pages, would he actually fail us? we wondered. Would that be worth one last night in the Feve basement? No, on both counts, we decided.

And so we sat, for eight, nine, ten hours, letting our putrid prose reek as we scribbled some of the most poorly formulated essays higher education has ever seen. But looking back, those eternal moments spent slaving over a laptop and The Picture of Dorian Gray are one of my clearest college memories. I remember a young woman walking around barefoot on the dusty, grimy library floor. And a young gentleman obviously trying to woo his female study partner over an organic chemistry book. And the squeak of the wooden return carts hauling fragrant leather-bounds across the floor.

It was this now-fond memory that brought me to the library yesterday as they hosted their “Farewell to the Floor” event, a way to kick off the first phase of the Hesburgh Library Renovation. The makeover is scheduled to start Monday, December 22, and will begin with a new north entrance and then a two-story entrance gallery that will run through the center of the library.

I was intrigued by the idea that I could sign the floor where I used to study (and, I hoped, steal a chunk from our study alcove to send to my former classmate as a joke), and wanted to know what was in store for this ND landmark.

Inside the central atrium of the second floor, a large chunk of floor tile had been roped off for students and faculty to sign.

Photo by Barbara Johnston

“Good memories, poor lighting.” One visitor scrawled.
“Good bye! I spent 4 good years of my life up here!” proclaimed another.
While one artistic guest did an impressive sketch of Touchdown Jesus on the tiles, another offered the name and number of a student who could provide “a good time in the stacks.”

The event hummed along with a steady stream of students, faculty and staff taking time to admire the plans for the renovation while they sipped hot cocoa. Contemporary pop music blared while popcorn popped and cookies were brought out by the tray. It all seemed out of place. I waited for some studious scholar to shhhhhhhh the crowd, or for a guard to snatch away the food, but the gathering continued.

When renovations are complete, I wonder if those will seem out of place, too, to those of us who knew the space in its former life. But the needs and size of the population here have changed, and the library is arguably of more necessity now than ever. Time for it to evolve, I suppose.

So I said goodbye to my favorite study spot, but not without leaving one final mark on it:
“So many hours, so few good ideas.”

To learn more about the library renovation, visit renovation.library.nd.edu.

Tara Hunt is an associate editor of this magazine.