Libraries, Media Services, & Archives

July 12, 2017

Archives Display: Building the Library

Come see how the library has changed

The St. Catherine University library has been through many changes over the years in terms of location, design, and even construction. The current Archives display uses photographs and documents to trace that evolution. In the beginning, Derham Hall was the only building on campus. The library, like everything else, was located there. Following completion of Our Lady of Victory Chapel in 1924, the library moved out of Derham Hall and into the chapel's basement.

Top: Derham Hall library c. 1914; Bottom: Chapel library, 1930s

As the student body and the number of books in the library grew, Sr. Antonia McHugh, the first president, had the dream of a separate library building. In her 1931 annual report to the trustees, she wrote:

the need for a Library Building is at present compelling. The classrooms, workrooms, and book stacks that the new [library] school has necessitated, added to the already inadequate library space in the Chapel building, have made for a congested condition not conducive either to the best work of the school or the best atmosphere in a Library Reading-room.

Throughout the years there were plans for this separate building, and renovations to the chapel to improve the library. The Archives has sketches, blueprints, and bids that illustrate this process. Some of these documents are included in the display. Eventually the library outgrew the chapel and part of the collection was moved to the small auxiliary building behind Derham. Students needing books on course reserves would have to go here instead of the main library in the chapel.

Sr. Antonia's dream was finally realized when construction began in the late 1950s through the work of the 5th president, Sr. Mary William Brady. The library, designed by Lang and Raugland and built by Rauenhorst Construction, opened in 1960. Students and faculty were enlisted to help move the books from the chapel and reserve library to their new home after the building was complete. Each student was given a cookie for every armload of books she carried.

Over the years the library had some minor renovations done but the biggest change came with the construction of the Coeur de Catherine, when the library became incorporated into it and gained additional space for computers and study rooms. The current library has retained features of previous architectural elements from the 1960 building, including the stone entrance and columns, the cornerstone, the stained glass windows and the original stairway to the lower level. If you look, you can see the metal squares left from the stair's original handrail.

Library, 1960. Top: exterior with entrance; bottom: reference room

The changes over the years range from the library being just an idea in Sr. Antonia's head to the library that we know and use today.

Come by the St. Paul library this summer to see the display. For more information about the library or the history of St. Catherine University, visit the Archives and Special Collections online. You can also email us at archives@stkate.edu, call 651-690-6599, or visit us in person in Room 062 in the lower level of the St. Paul library. We're open Tuesday-Thursday from 10:00-4:00.

Tags: displays, history