The year was 1838 and Thaddeus Amat, a young Basque inspired with St. Vincent's urgings of instruction for both the poor and priests, eagerly debarked in New Orleans to begin a teaching career up river at the Assumption Seminary near Donaldsonville, Louisiana. A son of prominence, the novice had been an outstanding student mastering French and Italian, besides his native Spanish and Catalan. Now in America he would add Latin, Greek, Hebrew and English.A talent for administration overshadowed his teaching abilities and by the time he was only thirty-nine Father Thad had risen to Superior at St. Charles Seminary in Philadelphia. To his dismay the priest teacher would not be a regular patron of the Theological Library that he had then established on Race Street. It would take an 1853 order from the Holy Father himself to compel Amat to assume the Bishopric of the Diocese of Monterey in the wild new state of American California.
From his earliest days in California Bishop Amat envisioned a seminary of Vincentians in Los Angeles, yet operations in Mexico City delayed his mission. Twelve years later in 1865 the Saint Vincent Select College for Boys finally opened temporarily in donated rooms at the Lugo family adobe and began to gather books. The red brick Georgian collegiate hall designed by Father Miguel Rubi, became the first two-story building in Los Angeles. Four years later a visiting Archduke Ludwig Salvador noted the college with the "small chapel and library."
By 1881 Saint Vincent's College Library supported a curriculum for 76 students of English and classical literature, mathematics, Greek, Latin, modern language and a separate commercial department.
Class photo, St. Vincent's Select College for Boys, circa 1875.
Even with new space following an 1883 renovation, forces of real-estate speculation eventually pushed the campus southwest in 1887 to a new site at Washington Street and Grand Avenue. Designed and constructed by J.V. McNeil Construction, the modern campus boasted a furnished library. By 1894 the collection included rhetoric and sciences for the degrees of bachelor of arts, sciences and civil engineering. The library now counted as a supporter the new bishop, Dr. Thomas Conaty, the well-known national orator and former Rector of The Catholic University of America. He donated his personal book collection to the library.Rhetorical composition led the curricula of the day and the small college produced a number of graduates that added to the California voice on the national scene including a close contemporary of philosopher John Dewey, Columbia educator Dr. David Snedden ('90), composer Ferde Grofe ( Grand Canyon Suite ) and Krazy Kat cartoonist George Herriman. Argued as one of the earlier LA noir detective novelists, S.S. Van Dyne began his education at St. Vincent's in 1902 enrolled as William Huntington Wright.In 1905, five years after yet another renovation, the school made plans to move west once again and purchased 86 acres of Rancho La Cienega o Paso de Tijera. At this time a $1.00 student library fee was instituted to begin a budget for book acquisitions. However, these ambitions were suddenly set aside when after 55 years, the Vincentians elected to withdraw from college work in Los Angeles and sold the campus in 1910.
With support of Archbishop Conaty, the teaching mission was assumed by a group of Santa Clara Jesuits led by Richard A. Gleeson. President Glass stayed on as Trustee while the remaining students and furnishings were transferred to hastily erected bungalows by J.V. McNeil on the Arroyo Seco in the small nearby town of Highland Park.
By 1917 the Jesuit fathers were able to reopen college operations and once again McNeil Construction, now with architect Thomas Franklin Power, was called upon to create a new campus back in the Pico Heights district on 16th Avenue. Here the Loyola College campus library including the Bishop Thomas J. Conaty Collection of Irish History and the theology, canon law and church fathers collections would operate for the next twelve years. In 1929 an extraordinary gift of 100 acres of coastal real-estate pulled Loyola College yet again further west to the Del Rey Hills with the library to be left behind for use at the remaining Loyola High School. The book collection would later be further dispersed with the Bollandists set of volumes and works of the church fathers sent to the Jesuit theologate at Alma, California.
Despite the sudden stock market collapse just months after groundbreaking, new Rector-President Maher quickly made plans with David Elms Graham as architect to have McNeil furnish a library at the new Loyola University of Los Angeles. In the St. Robert's Administration Building a prominent lower level corner was set aside that would anchor the collection for the next thirty years. At the same time Librarian Felix Rosetti, SJ, was moved to a new position at Santa Barbara and allowed to transfer books to begin a new collection. Shortly after Trustee Joseph Riordan was named Librarian-Treasurer, he created a collecting budget for the library of $100 per month. Arts and Sciences Dean Father Hugh Duce with newly hired librarian Frank Glaser began a catalog of the collection. With the deepening of the national financial crisis, the library budget was shortly discontinued and the collection grew by gift only. Notable acquisitions were the St. Joseph's Library at San Jose's History of the German People set and the Father Joseph Sasia Collection.The student library held approximately 12,000 volumes when cataloger Duce became university president and advanced library development in 1934 with approval of enameled steel shelving installed in St. Roberts's.
In 1935 Santa Clara Jesuit historian Arthur D. Spearman was appointed the new director of the library of 15,000 volumes with Dorothy Lynch named librarian. Now the library budget was reinstated and new purchases increased. The loss of pre-1929 periodicals in the move to del Rey was somewhat mitigated when in 1937 Emma de Poorter gave her deceased cousin, Father Julius de Vos's, library of 400 volumes and numerous periodicals dating to 1918. Collection growth was steady leading up to WWII with support from parent volunteers such as Mrs. Charles Von der Ahe as chair of the Library Fund Publicity Committee. Also of note was the 1937 gift of the Kehoe Mining Collection which was used to build a separate Engineering Science Library. The library reading room furnishings included gifts of art reproductions from the wife of author Frank Spearman and the Field family of Hollywood while two brothers, Joseph and James Magoffin of Los Angeles, handcrafted a pair of walnut dictionary stands as a gift from friends. Around this time, the library was designated a U.S. Government Document Depository.
Following a second major shelving installation, Assistant Librarian Edward Brady created a bindery department which he headed until the commercial John Vogenthaler Bindery took over operations. Soon older volumes were moved to a stack room and other less used volumes were transferred to the Father's Library at Xavier Hall.Even after over 3,000 books were donated to a local high school and other libraries, the collection stood at 26,000 bound volumes by 1943. When the St. Joseph's gift was reclaimed by the Theologate Library at Alma, Father Spearman was permitted to simply purchase a replacement.
Picture postcard of library,in Auditorium Annex, circa 1950.
Following transfer of Arthur Spearman to San Diego in 1947, Theodore Marshall, SJ, was appointed to care for the 41,000 volume collection now serving 1,200 undergraduate students. Marshall stayed on to serve the library for nearly 37 years of remarkable enrollment growth and shifting technologies in library management. Anticipating postwar growth for Loyola University with returning GIs attending college, Marshall moved the stacks into the St. Roberts Auditorium Annex as temporary quarters for the next twelve years. Marshall also began to campaign for rare books, the beginning of what is now the library's Department of Archives & Special Collections.Staff support was increased with the creation of both the cataloging and periodicals departments and by 1950 the university was poised to offer master's degrees in English and Education. Yale scholar Frank Sullivan, recruited from St. Louis University, would join the English Department and soon after arrival completed negotiations for the acquisition of the John Doran Leonard William Longstaff St. Thomas More Collection including a printed Utopia of 1518.
Campus growth in the 1950s culminated with the 1959 completion of the Charles Von der Ahe Library, the building still housing the library today. Again McNeil was contracted, and the result was a contemporary three-level ruffled Norman tan brick design by Gustav Ullner (Albert C. Martin and Associates) enclosing 42,000 square feet of space. The building provided for 150,000 volumes and 362 student user seats. Room was allowed to relocate the Education Department's audiovisual library and space for special collections was made to accommodate a rare books vault. In 1960 Jesuit historian Richard Trame founded the University Archives which did not relocate to the new library building, but remained in a small area under the foyer of St. Robert's Hall .
Von der Ahe Library under construction, 1957.
From the beginning the new library building included plans for a ten-year expansion. As the general collection grew, it was occasionally bolstered with outstanding acquisitions such as the 1960 T. Marie Chilton gift of Shakespeare's First Folio and the 1967 Helena and John Weadocks Collection of Rare and Fine Printed Books and First Editions including a very rare Milton's Paradise Lost .However, the Von der Ahe Library structure was not designed for the additional library needs of the 1968 affiliation with Marymount College nor the planned accession of the 40,000 volume Jesuit House of Studies Library. The 1,500 volume Engineering Library from Pereira Hall had already been melded into the general collection by this time.Additionally, the Von Boltenstern World Wide Postcard Collection had by now achieved a near-perfect collecting equilibrium with an organic life of its own. Many users over the years had come to remember the collection, thus "doorstep accessions" and cards from modern day vacations continually arrived and their processing into the collection was endlessly backlogged.
Von der Ahe Library atrium, 1980.
Pressure for completion of the Unit II phase of the Charles Von der Ahe Library mounted. In a 1971 planning report, consultant Dr. G. Edward Evans of UCLA's Graduate School of Library and Information Science stressed that a modern library is not only shelves of books but must be a comprehensive multi-media information resource base as well. His recommendations included a detailed elaboration of space relationships in terms of library functions. The 1972 Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accreditation report strongly seconded his report.A year before, the university had been pleased to announce a major unrestricted gift from the Rosecrans Foundation [William Stark Rosecrans III ('08)] and library expansion planning was now well in hand. A memorial fund was established to finance the Frank Sullivan Rare and Special Books Room in the new construction.
On March 8, 1976 Fr. Merrifield signed a $1.8 million contract to begin expansion construction. Nearly twenty years after dedication of the Von der Ahe library, the unit II addition was completed, giving a total of 88,427 gross square feet, seating capacity of 656, and collection capacity of 183,729 volumes.
In 1977 Dr. G. Edward Evans was now asked to return and further review and analyze the 56 year old collection and its management. He reported the library was falling behind and he made a number of recommendations for major improvements. The manual card catalog should be upgraded to a modern electronic database. To build the system it was obvious that the outdated Dewey book classification arrangement should be replaced with the universal Library of Congress classification system. Also, the Jesuits had long accepted any donated library materials resulting in an over-emphasis of casual reading materials. A major collection weeding was overdue. His recommendations were accepted by the university administration, and in 1987 Evans accepted the invitation to become the next university librarian. Then, came retrospective conversion of the library's old card catalog cards to online bibliographic records and on November 13, 1990, LINUS, the library's online catalog and integrated library system was dedicated.The 1990s saw dramatic growth for the library's collections and services. Compact shelving was installed on the lower level to accommodate collection growth since the building was exceeding its collection capacity. The library began moving low-use books and journals off-campus, first to storage at UCLA and later to Iron Mountain, a company that specializes in long-term storage and retrieval documents. At the same time, the university began planning and fundraising for a new library.In May 2003, the university received two major gifts from the William H. Hannon Foundation and the Bill Hannon Foundation, launching the campaign to fund the construction of the William H. Hannon Library. Ed Evans retired in 2005 and the university began the search for a new Dean of Libraries. The process of planning the new library accelerated in 2006 as fundraising neared completion. The university hired DMJM Architects (later AECOM) to design and build the library, to be located on the bluff overlooking the Los Angeles basin and Marina del Rey. In July 2006, the new Dean, Kristine Brancolini, arrived and immediately began working with the architects and university administration to complete the design for the building. Construction ended in the summer of 2009, with a grand opening celebration on August 30, 2009.
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