April 25, 2018
Construction will be underway soon on the $22 million renovation and expansion of the Latimer Family Library at Saint Vincent College following a ceremonial groundbreaking and public announcement at the site today.
The Rt. Rev. Douglas R. Nowicki, O.S.B., chancellor, Br. Norman W. Hipps, O.S.B., president, J. Christopher Donahue, chairman of the board and chair of the Forward, Always Forward Campaign; Br. David Kelly, O.S.B., director of the library; and Bibiana Boerio, board member and co-chair of the project steering committee, participated in the ceremony. David M. Hollenbaugh, associate vice president for institutional advancement, was master of ceremonies.
Like other institutions sponsored by monks of the Order of Saint Benedict, Saint Vincent has traditionally granted a place of honor to its library and has continued that tradition for more than 60 years by providing a climate-controlled repository of the institution’s bibliographic holdings and a continually growing resource in support of the college’s teaching mission.
The objectives of the expansion project are to transform the library into a 21st-century learning commons and technology hub, to leverage new technologies to enhance teaching and distance- learning capabilities and to improve the preservation and display of the College and Archabbey art and rare book collections.
The current library building was built at a cost of $600,000 and dedicated on April 17, 1958. It was renovated at a cost of $5.1 million in 1998 in conjunction with the construction of the adjacent Prep Hall Instructional Technology Resource Center.
The newly-expanded building will be two stories high but will have three levels.
The lower level will feature four new classrooms, a computer laboratory, service desk, open social space with barista café, writing and tutoring center, instructional technology offices, video production suite and small-group collaborative and study rooms.
The middle level will house an expanded circulation area for interlibrary loan and bibliographic instruction, conventional and compact stacks, small-group study rooms, printer-copier devices and an open social space at the entrance.
The top level will offer solitary study spaces, group study rooms, library staff offices, three primary art galleries, a gallery video exhibit room and a rare book exhibition and storage area.
The long-term goal of the project is to transform the library to support the integration of technology within the context of the liberal arts to meet the challenges and opportunities of an increasingly technological age. The rapid acceleration of digital resources has made technology an essential tool in teaching and research in recent years. While technology has immense potential to advance education and society, there is a critical need for the principles and values of the classical liberal arts tradition to ensure that technology is used effectively and ethically in the generations to come.
Individual, Foundation and Corporate Donors
Leadership donors to the library project include Dale and Darlene Latimer and the Latimer Family, The Richard King Mellon Foundation, The Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation, J. Christopher and Ann Donahue, James and Sharon Rohr, Edward and Anna Dunlap, the Dunlap Family, Centimark Corporation, The Benedictine Monastic Community of Saint Vincent, Bibiana Boerio, Roman Verostko, Art and Kay Rooney, Alfred and Ann Moore, Joseph and Marlene Maloy, the estate of J. Wray and Shirley Connelly and many others who have given to support this project.
A Technology Information Hub
The transformation of the library into a technology information hub will incorporate core Benedictine values and support the engagement of students and faculty in science and technology. This initiative will honor the 1,500-year-old heritage of Benedictine education and scholarship while utilizing the latest advances in technology and contemporary pedagogical approaches to fulfill the library’s role as a resource in support of the College’s teaching mission. In developing plans for the project, the project committee sought to maintain the rich history of the library while responding to the way that technology has changed how educational resources are accessed and delivered.
A key component of this initiative is the planned renovation and expansion of the facility housing the library to foster more effective use of technology in the educational process, increase interdisciplinary collaboration and better engage faculty and students who will have an impact at Saint Vincent and throughout the world. As the central resource for teaching and research in all disciplines, the library can play a key role in technology integration and information literacy. The hub will bring together the content, tools and services of the library, the schools and the college’s information technology department to create a digital learning center that employs a variety of media to support teaching and learning, research and scholarship, including expanded access to electronic resources and instructional technology, collaborative workspaces for faculty and students and interactive suites for small-group study.
The Benedictine values of community and hospitality will ensure that technology does not replace the human dimension, but rather serves as an instrument to enrich and enable the work of faculty, staff and students. The technology information hub will feature interactive, collaborative spaces to foster this community of learners that honors Saint Vincent’s educational tradition. The hub will feature technology-enhanced classrooms, group study suites and informal gathering spaces to encourage interdisciplinary interaction, shared learning, student-to-student and student-to-faculty connections, casual exchanges and a welcoming and open environment for learning and collaboration.
Recognizing that contemporary educational environments must provide resources for both the creation and transmission of knowledge, the technology information hub will provide a writing center/lab, a publishing suite, a video production suite and a makerspace designed to engage students and faculty in formal and informal activities that foster creative problem solving, experimentation and exploration. Equipped with technical capabilities for digital fabrication, computer and media production and prototyping, the makerspace will be designed to contribute to a broad technological fluency/literacy through the creative and innovative use and deployment of technology; the development, adaptation and modification of technology for specific use; and the understanding of technology and its role and function in society.
While technology will be prominently featured in the hub, key elements of the library’s traditional role will be preserved, including access to selected print collections and Saint Vincent’s rare book and special collections that are unique resources for scholars from the College and throughout the world.
The original Saint Vincent Library collection began with fewer than 100 books which founder Boniface Wimmer brought with him from Germany in 1846. Through the early leadership of the late Fr. Valentine Koehler, O.S.B., and, later, Fr. Fintan R. Shoniker, O.S.B., the library has grown into an internationally-known collection that includes 271,000 books and periodicals, 99,000 microforms such as microfilm, microfiche and cards, 3,000 musical scores and more than 100 rare books that are at least 1,500 years old as well as a copy of The Canterbury Tales produced in 1478 by the first printer in England, William Caxton.
Sustainable construction to be completed by 2020
The project will build upon the environmental sustainability standards established at the Sis and Herman Dupré Science Pavilion and the Fred M. Rogers Center and will be LEED certified.
General architect for the project is MacLachlan, Cornelius and Filoni of Pittsburgh.
Construction, which is expected to be completed by August 2020, will take place in three phases of expansion and renovation. The library will continue providing its main services during phase one (May 2018 to Spring 2019) and phase three (Fall 2019 to Summer 2020). Limited library operations will be available during phase two (Summer 2019).
History of Benedictine libraries
(Portions of the following history were excerpted from the dedication program of the Saint Vincent Archabbey and College Library on April 17, 1958.)
Saint Benedict established his Order about the year 529 and within a few decades there were monasteries in many countries. Attached to most monasteries was a school whose teachers brought civilization to the unlettered.
Although the Benedictine teachers did not prepare a carefully defined plan for preserving Western civilization, their intellectual labors created in them a responsibility for preserving the best written works of the Roman world and they strove to disseminate these treasures among the barbarian peoples who had overrun the Empire. Benedict Biscop (628-690) used to transport books from Rome to his school in Wearmouth in England at a time when travel was not only slow but dangerous. The school of Reichenau, founded in 724 on the shores of Lake Constance, became famous as a library and as a center for copying books, and was soon imitated by such famous Benedictine schools as Fulda, St. Gall and New Corvey in Germany, Fleury, Tours and St. Wandrille in France, and Canterbury, Wearmouth and York in England.
For the next thousand years the Benedictine schools were centers of learning and culture. However, the religious-political conflicts of the 16th century brought a temporary lull to much of the work accomplished by the Benedictines and virtually obliterated their schools in England, Scandinavia and many parts of Germany. Benedictine libraries became the booty of kings and princes, sometimes forming the basis of the great national libraries which were being established.
One major exception is the library at Monte Cassino, the historic abbey where St. Benedict established his first monastery, the source of the Benedictine Order, around 529. It still houses some of the most valuable manuscripts and documents of ancient times.
The Benedictine teachers who founded Saint Vincent College in 1846 brought with them a long and illustrious tradition, and as soon as circumstances permitted they established a library. Through the generosity of King Ludwig of Bavaria and others they secured valuable codices of every kind, and by purchases of their own they gradually built up a collection of source materials, reference works and research tools unique among the smaller institutions of this country. Saint Vincent possesses many materials that are usually found only in large research collections. Saint Vincent is particularly known for reference and research work by faculty members and visiting scholars in the fields of medieval history and philosophy, ecclesiastical and monastic history, patrology and Pennsylvaniana.
In a study of college libraries conducted in 1966 and financed by the U.S. Office of Education, Saint Vincent was ranked the highest Catholic college library in the United States.
An intellectual assessment of Saint Vincent’s considerable theology resources was completed in Sept. 2000 by the Rev. Kenneth O’Malley, C.P., Ph.D., of Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. O’Malley is an expert in library management who has served on the accreditation team for the American Theological Library Association. His report stated…”a very singular collection which records the history of Catholicism in North America and particularly the United States in a way very few Catholic libraries have done…is an extraordinary collection, and very seriously, one of the premiere Catholic libraries in the United States…one of the most significant historical collections of catholica in the United States…very unusual, unique, and significant collection in theology…which needs to be preserved for future generations.”
Photo: Architect’s concept of the expanded Latimer Library at Saint Vincent College