Before St. Kate’s Library was its own place on the campus, it was at first located on the first floor of Derham Hall when the university, then a college, opened in 1905, then later moved to the basement of the Our Lady of Victory Chapel in 1924. But it wasn’t until 1960 when St. Kate’s Library had its own place built for its bountiful books, equipment, and resources to call home.
Since St. Kate’s Library’s founding along with the rest of the college, it was always growing bigger with more books for its collection and study spaces needed for students. The Rare Books and Archives rooms, as well as the book collection room, were all placed in Derham Hall after renovations in its former kitchen and basement were made to be able to hold the materials. Even though these accommodations were needed given how limited the space became in the Chapel’s basement, it’s still quite weird to think about all of the different resources being separated while looking at the library we have now with everything in one place. The first plans to build a separate building were discussed in 1950, and construction finally began in 1959-1960 academic year.
The librarians at the time designed the interior layout, which would include the space to hold 300,000 volumes, seat 500 students, as well as having a library science department room, a rare book room, an archives room, a listening room for records and tapes, a viewing room, a typing room, and a photocopy room. The architectural firm Lang and Raugland used Mankato stone to go along with the simple-colored yet modern aura the college gave off, and the construction contract was given to Rauenhorst Construction Company of Minneapolis to build the new library.
When construction was completed, students, faculty, and staff were given the task to help move all of the books from the Chapel’s basement to the new building in what was called “Operation Booklift”, which took place on October 11th, 1960. This was also the day the old location officially closed. Those who participated in Operation Booklift were rewarded with brownies by the librarians the next day for their hard work and dedication to helping the new library building get ready for its grand opening. On October 13th, 1960, the new St. Kate’s Library was officially open to the college community with excitement and promise for a bright future of reading, studying, and learning.
St. Kate’s Library looks very different compared to the way it looked back in 1960, with the changes of looking like a sterile hospital to a welcoming environment completed with carpet, more comfy furniture, and better use of space, as well as being joined with St. Joseph’s Hall, and later the Coeur de Catherine’s during its construction in 2004. But the new building created a new beginning for a college library that was always getting cramped in the small spaces they were given, and for students, faculty, and staff to go to a fun place to excel in the St. Kate’s community.