Recreating Loyola’s First Library Catalogue

Within a few years of the founding of St Ignatius College in 1870, an unidentified librarian made an extensive shelf-list catalogue of the library’s holdings.  The c.1878 catalogue lists approximately 5200 titles, encompassing over 8000 volumes.  It is broken down into six sections that reflect the primary focus of the teaching at the time (Pantology, Theology, Legislation, Philosophy, Literature, and History).  These divisions raise important questions about late nineteenth-century urban Jesuit and Catholic education and identity.

Assistant Professor of History Kyle Roberts and University Archivist Kathy Young first identified the value of an online reconstruction of this library catalogue in Fall 2011. Over the Spring semester 2012, undergraduates Brian Molitor and Zorian Sasyk digitized the entire volume, researched the history of the library, and began to track down surviving copies of the listed works in Special Collections, Library Storage, and on the shelves of Cudahy.  In the Spring semester 2013, undergraduate Evan Thompson continued this work.

A generous grant from the Joan and Bill Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage has allowed this project to move towards its next stage: reconstitution in a Virtual Library System (VLS).  Working in conjunction with Dr Nicholas Hayward of Loyola’s Center for Textual Studies and Digital Humanities, the team of graduate students in a Fall semester 2013 seminar used the specially-modified open source integrated library system software Koha and populated it with records for each of the titles in the original catalogue.  Surviving copies of original library books will be recorded within the Loyola Library VLS, making them more accessible to students and researchers.

The Loyola Library VLS will launch in Fall 2014 in conjunction with Restored Jesuits and the American Experience: A Bicentennial Conference, 1814-2014 to be held at Loyola University Chicago.  Be sure to check out our spin-off project as well, the Jesuit Libraries Provenance Project, which uses the social media image-sharing site Flickr to create a visual archive of ownership marks from surviving library books and to foster a participatory community around them.