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St. Paul University: a valuable research centre
by Vicki Davis - Mainstreeter - April 1988

In the next few issues, the Mainstreeter would like to feature some of the aspects of St. Paul University, a major institution in Ottawa East. Many residents know very little about its activities and programmes. At the heart of every educational institution is its library. In this issue we focus on the library of St. Paul University.

A Little Known Resource

St. Paul University is one of North America's richest literary resources for the subjects of theology, philosophy and medieval studies. It is Canada's largest theological research library. Scholar's from all over the world come to our community to use this magnificent collection. Medievalists and philosophy professors from nearby universities find it an invaluable resource.

The collection supports the different disciplines offered at the University: Theology, Canon Law, Pas-toral Studies, History of the Church, Philosophy, Social Communications, Mission Studies and Counseling.

Sometimes St. Paul's own students do not recognize its value. One local doctoral student left Ottawa to do his research at Harvard University and in Strasbourg. "When he returned," recalls Barbara Hicks, the Chief Librarian, "he discovered that all the resources he had required were here."

The library was started by Father Jean-Lean Allie in April of 1937, to sup-port the St. Paul Seminary. Father Allie, who began his work as a teacher of theology, was Chief Librarian until 1979, and continues selecting books to this day. Now an energetic 78 year-old, he reports that "as long as your health is good, and your boss wants to keep you, staff are not required to retire at 65 at St. Paul University." St. Paul University was once the theological arm of the University of Ottawa, which became of a provincial university in 1965. St. Paul University was then retained by the Oblate order of the Catholic Church. Since then, the university has been privately funded, with the assistance of some provincial funds.

Father Allie recalls many famous Canadians who came to study philosophy and to use the library at St. Paul's. Among them were Guy Sylvestre, the National Librarian, Jean Luc Pepin, who held several federal cabinet posi-tions, Jean-Jacques Bertrand, premier ,of Quebec, and ""Vincent Massey, Governor General of Canada.

The library philosophy has always been to build for tomorrow'. It has been' developed as a "research centre", not a: lending library. "When we decided to have an open' library, where students could access books on the open shelves, people were shocked - it was revolutionary," says Father Allie. The collection is unlike most university libraries--"we do not qrder duplicates or textbooks," says Father Allie. "In fact, approximately 80 per cent of the books are not used by undergradu-ate students." The university has a high per-centage of students at post-graduate levels.

The Collection

The collection contains over 350,000 volumes including approximately 3,500 titles. which are rare books published prior to 1800. The library also houses some 1,100 current periodical subscriptions, including complete runs of journals that are much appreciated by scholars. All of the major western European languages are represented.

In the mid-1940s Father Allie visited several European countries to purchase books for the library. Special collections come on sale with the closing of religious institutions. In 1970, the Italian government forced the closing of some institutions, releasing some libraries for sale. Recently, a 4,000 volume library from Victoria, B.C. became available. He is always seeking new additions for the collection, also purchasing books through antiquarian dealers' catalogues, and other regular book trade sources.

"The University allocates 12 per cent of its budget to the library," says Barbara Hicks. Very few universities support their libraries as well.


The library is open to faculty and students of St. Paul University. Other researchers, students and members of the public doing personal research may use the library, with permission from the Chief Librarian. Only faculty members may borrow books. Photocopying services are available in the library.

Physical Aspects

St. Paul's is a traditional library in many respects. It is noticeably quiet: in fact, the brochure for students warns, "SILENCE - always and everywhere." The card catalogue is not automated, but it is specially indexed with access by author, title, subject and classification number. This latter aspect is unique to St. Paul's, and because it brings together subjects, without respect for lan-guage, it is very useful in a bilingual institution.

The library is bright, spacious and orderly, with many reference tables and study carrels. Large windows overlook the University's beautiful grounds and the Rideau River.

The. Saint Paul University Library is for serious study, and a trea-sure for those who are concerned with its special subjects. Although it is only open to the public by special request, it is interesting to know that this important research collection is in our midst.

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