Libraries Mission

The library provides dynamic services and resources that enrich scholarship and intellectual development.

In support of this mission, we:

  • ensure that our users gain skills in the wise use of information
  • enable the successful discovery and retrieval of information within robust collections
  • engage the community with inviting virtual and physical spaces 
  • incorporate the assessment of quality and effectiveness of our work on a continual basis

A Brief History of the Libraries

History

Shelving books in the old LibraryIf Archbishop John Ireland were alive to see our library facilities, he no doubt would be in bibliographic heaven. Ireland, the founder of St. Thomas, was known for his great love of books. When he was in Europe in 1886, the year after St. Thomas' founding, he purchased "many thousand valuable works" for the school.

With the founding of the Saint Paul Seminary in 1894, however, the majority of the books were carted across Summit Avenue for the seminary library. That marked a dark era - literally - for the college library. The remaining 500 books were kept in a frequently locked and poorly lighted room that was located down a dark stairway and under a porch below the main entrance to the old administration building.

The situation improved significantly in 1912 when a library was established in well-lighted and well-furnished quarters in the newly constructed Ireland Hall. The Rev. William Etzel, the college's first appointed library director, began building and organizing the collections.

The roving library moved again in 1928 for a visit to the old "Arts" building. Four years later it went to more spacious quarters in the western end of Aquinas Hall, where it would remain for 27 years.

Old library reference roomWhen the $1.6 million O'Shaughnessy Library opened in 1959, relays of students helped move some 80,000 books to their new home. Back then, it was estimated the new library could eventually house a collection of 200,000 volumes. St. Thomas enrollment was only 1,743 undergraduate and 28 graduate students. The O'Shaughnessy Library was constructed with funds provided by I.A. O'Shaughnessy, class of 1906. Mr. O'Shaughnessy considered the library to be his favorite among the many buildings he presented to the college.

By the 1990s, the library collection had grown to 280,000 volumes and enrollment climbed to nearly 10,000 students. Ask any student who had a hard time finding study space, the university had again outgrown its library space. The fall 1991 opening of the Frey Memorial Library and the creation of the O'Shaughnessy-Frey Library Center provided room for 450,000 volumes, the projected collection 20 years in the future. It also created new study and research areas for members of the university community; the library now seats more than 1,600 readers, more than the twice the previous number. The Frey Memorial Library was named after Mary and Eugene Frey, class of 1952.