The Cardinal Hayes Library 1938 Dedication and The O’Malley Expansion

By Lauren Raziano, Copy Editor and Web Editor

Libraries are an essential part of the Lasallian tradition at Manhattan College. Deep in the archives of the O’Malley library, historical records detail the transformation of these academic spaces over the course of Manhattan College’s Bronx history.

In 1924, the first study space dedicated for students was located in Miguel Hall, which is currently the Campus Ministry and Social Justice suite. This study space could satisfy the 300 students that were at the College during 1923. 

   To accommodate the growing number of students reaching after World War II and with the expansion of the GI Bill, there was a need for a larger academic space for studying and hosting student organizations as there were about 1,200 students in the fall of 1938. 

The Cardinal Hayes Library was built in 1938 and was named after Cardinal Patrick Hayes, a 1888 Manhattan College graduate and later Cardinal of the Archdiocese of New York. The dedication of the Cardinal Hayes Library was on April 21, 1938, which was the Diamond Jubilee of the Granting of the Permanent Charter of Manhattan College.

“Now being erected at a cost of $350,000 at Manhattan College in the city of New York, through the generous gifts of the friends of His Eminence, of the Christian Brothers and of the College as Permanent Memorial of the Golden Jubilee of the Graduation of his Eminence Patrick Cardinal Hayes D.D. Archbishop of New York from the Manhattan College class of 1888,” the dedication day pamphlet wrote. 

There were three reading room spaces in the Hayes library: the reference room which was the left wing of the main floor as one entered the building, the periodical room which occupied the right wing of the entrance floor and the reserve book room which was on the lower level or basement and included the lounge room.

A collection of 1939 photographs featuring the reading room, interior lounge, and the rotunda of the Cardinal Hayes Library.  Wurts Bros/ Courtesy 


The lounge room, known as the Alumni room, was a space for dances hosted by the fraternities and weekly tea dances. 

Tea dances were a popular social gathering from 1940s to 1960s, inspired by the swing and jazz music movements. Published in a spring 2013 issue of Manhattan Magazine, Amy Surak, director of archives and special collections, wrote about the history of the tea dances at Manhattan College. 

“From the 1940s-1960s, tea dances became fashionable opportunities for Manhattan Men to improve their social skills by engaging with young women from nearby colleges and nursing schools. The dance cards of Mounties, the young women from the nearby College of Mount St. Vincent and co-eds from Hunter, Marymount and the College of New Rochelle, were filled by the men of the Kelly green,” Surak wrote. 

Social events were held in the Alumni room in the basement of Cardinal Hayes Library. 

“Sponsored by the numerous student organizations, tea dances were usually held in the Alumni Room of the Cardinal Hayes Library, under the watchful eye of faculty and administration, typically the Christian Brothers,” Surak wrote.”Once Thomas Hall opened in 1960, tea dances were by and large relocated there. A nominal fee was charged to the Jasper stalwarts, while the ladies were invited free of charge.” 

Due to the many architectural changes to the library, some unique spaces have become nonexistent or inaccessible. There was once a rifle range in the basement of the Cardinal Hayes Library, which provided a space for students and members of the Varsity Rifle club to have a safe practice shooting range.

“There’s some hidden areas to the library but now a lot of them are inaccessible due to how they configured the new O’Malley library,” Surak said. “But there were lots of hidden areas and one of those was a rifle range all the way in the basement because AFROTC needed a place to practice. They would have to practice there and then they would go and drill and hopefully win competitions. So for years, we had a varsity rifle club and there was no real good place for them to do that, except in this huge area at the bottom of the library.” 

There were two libraries that were separate from the Cardinal Hayes Library, the engineering library, which had space for about 245 students and a small cancer research library, which had between 20 and 25 seats.  

In a 1967 report from Francis R. St. John Library Consultants Inc., they stated that there was a growing need to supply more spaces and appropriate facilities for students.

“The Cardinal Hayes Library building at Manhattan College, although only slightly over thirty years old, is outmoded and expensive to operate. There are roughly 3700 undergraduate, 700 graduate and 300 night students served by this library,” the report wrote. “Toilet facilities too are totally inadequate for the number of students and staff using the building.” 

There was a need for modern facilities such as lack of space for the growing book collection and proper spaces for student organizations to meet. 

In the conclusion the report wrote, “The building is not only poorly planned for library purposes and expensive to operate but it does not offer modern facilities for a college library serving approximately 4700 students.”

A library expansion program report from 1968 written by Brother Andrew, the librarian at the time, supported this claim. 

“The expansion of the book collection of the Cardinal Hayes Library will require large sums of money and additional floor space on the top floor not available to the library at present,” Brother Andrew wrote.

A 1971 report from the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of College and Schools wrote that the library was not acting as the center of academic life as it should be.  

“The inadequacies of the main library prevent the library from being the center of academic life on this campus which it should be,” the report wrote.

Acknowledging the repairs needed for the library were necessary, Manhattan College applied for the Higher Education Facilities act of 1963 under Title I., grants for construction for undergraduate facilities.

A 1972 State of New York-PNRS Letter of Intent written by Lachlan Peck wrote about the possibility of a new library building overall. 

“The new library is needed in order to maintain the quality of education at Manhattan College and the College’s accreditation. The facility is intended to (1) replace an inadequate building which if not replaced would result in a serious educational deficiency, and (2) provide an education resources center for use mainly by the college’s undergraduate students.” 

In one of the plans, they included the request of smoking lounge rooms for the library addition. 

“Smoking rooms are of two types: smoking lounges where talking is permitted and smoking studies where one may study and smoke without interruption.There should be a lounge on each floor; it is suggested that these be soundproofed and they not be carpeted,” the plan wrote.

Ultimately, financial burdens accompanied the college in the 70s which prohibited the green light of the expansion needed to fulfill the college’s growth. There were some renovations completed in 1978 which provided for additional student study spaces and a periodical reading room but it was still not adequate to meet the college’s needs. 

Another report from the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of College and Schools in 1982 wrote that the college was responsible for updating the library facilities again.  

“A feasibility study of an extensive renovation and expansion of the Hayes Library is needed in some urgency,” the 1982 report wrote. 

Surak wrote that it may have been fortunate that the calls for renovations to the Hayes Library remained unanswered for so long because of the drastic transformation libraries underwent due to the digital revolution.

“Perhaps it proved fortunate that the renovation call remained unanswered for so long, since no one in the previous decades could have foreseen the direction of computer technology and communications that would alter the changing function of the library,” Surak wrote. 

There was an Ascend Manhattan $50 million Capital Campaign publicly announced in spring of 1994, with the goal of transforming Hayes Library into a technological access center for students. In 1999, with most of the $50 million of the capital campaign goal reached, architectural drafts were made that planned to connect the existing 29,000 square foot library with a new 60,000 square foot space. 

Additionally, they wanted to join the lower library entrance with the upper campus. In a 2009 Oral History Interview with Robert Mahan, who was the vice president of facilities, he noted that connection was key.

“One of the key goals we wanted to accomplish was to connect the library to campus,” Mahan said. “So, the designers came up with the idea of turning the library upside down, and entering the library at the fifth floor level, rather than entering the library down at the second floor where the prior building had been entered. That involved creating a bridge into the Quadrangle.” 

The expansion is named for Mary Alice and Tom O’Malley, a 1963 alumnus and business executive who contributed $7.5 million to the College for the library construction, which at that time was the largest gift in Manhattan College’s history.

The grounds for the O’Malley expansion were broken in 2000. The final expansion was completed and dedicated in fall 2002 as part of the Sesquicentennial celebration of the College. The O’Malley Library with the Cardinal Hayes Pavillion spans 83,000 sq feet with five floors and modern technology spaces.

“Combining the traditional Hayes Library with a modern structure and transforming it into the O’Malley Library benefited the sesquicentennial theme of linking the past with the future. The topic of the sesquicentennial, ‘Lasallian Education,’ reflected the values and enduring accomplishments of the College over its 150 years,” Surak wrote.