Out of the Office: Where's My Library?

Author: Danielle Rieger '16

Change, whether for better or worse, is hard. You become familiar with the sights and sounds of a place, only to find one day that those little things you loved about it are gone. I am not a fan of change but have grown to understand why sometimes it is necessary.

I have experienced a lot of change in my life. Having a dad in the Navy for 26 years causes you to move from time to time. In my case, it went like this: San Diego for five years. Move. Kansas City for three years. Move. San Diego for two. Kansas City for two. San Diego, stay.

I didn’t mind moving all the time because I made great friendships in both cities and experienced what it was like to live in different places. However, I never got the chance to fully adjust. By the time I would start to make a place my own, I would be whisked away.

Sunlight transforms the second floor; photo by Barbara Johnston

The renovations in the Hesburgh Library are a big change, one I am having a hard time accepting. My favorite study carrel where I etched “Danielle ’16” on the 10th floor is gone, along with the “normal spot” where my friends and I would meet up to do homework on the second floor. These places have been replaced with temporary walls, large amounts of construction supplies and a loud, constant hum of hammering, drilling, cutting and dumping.

You can no longer reach the second floor without following a series of arrows that guide you through the Fish Bowl (a recently renovated first-floor study space) into the computer area and up the fire-escape stairwells. Need an elevator to get to the stacks? Walk through the Fish Bowl, past the Circulation Desk and through a boarded-up hallway.

I can handle the fact that the library needed to change. There were never enough power outlets, the lighting was awful and the overall feel was dark and dreary. Recent renovations have created beautiful new spaces, giving us a glimpse of what to expect when the project is complete — long after my time here as a student ends.

The new North Reading Room on the second floor is beaming with natural light. Its tables have multiple built-in outlets for students. Just below this room is the new north entrance that has become the easiest way to navigate through the building. You can walk directly to the elevators or up the stairs even without arrows. And the new gallery between the first and second floor allows us to witness the quiet buzz of the library through a glass railing. The cushioned black benches along the second floor railing are a great place to people-watch and de-stress.

Despite my appreciation for all of this, could I really be the only one having difficulty with the adjustment?

Turns out, I am not alone. While taking a homework break in a relatively untouched corner of the library, two of my friends and I talked it over. We agreed we like the changes for the most part. They have made the library more open, collaborative and bright. But as the construction spreads, it is becoming much harder for us to focus. No area seems settled.

One advantage, we thought, is how these changes will motivate students to spend more time in the library year-round instead of just during exam times, as the old and somewhat depressing floors are transformed.

Jessica Kayongo, a sociology librarian in charge of handling renovation questions, has heard some concerns from a few students like me. To help alleviate those concerns, she says, the construction company schedules particularly noisy work during down times. Work often starts early and ends in time for the student rush in the late afternoon and evenings.

Kayongo says the overall response to the completed work has been very positive and there is a general understanding that these temporary inconveniences will result in a library that better suits our needs.

For me, though, it’s bittersweet. Although I may never get the chance to enjoy the new and improved Hesburgh, I can make the sacrifice if it means future students are better equipped.

They may never know my favorite places, but I hope they will find a few places of their own.

Danielle Rieger is the magazine’s Autumn 2015 student intern.