Recreating Loyola’s First Library Catalogue

Within a few years of the founding of St Ignatius College in 1870, P.J. Van Loco, S.J. made an extensive shelf-list catalogue of the library’s holdings.  The c.1878 catalogue lists approximately 5100 titles, encompassing over 8000 volumes.  It is arranged in six sections – Pantology, Theology, Legislation, Philosophy, Literature, and History – that reflect the way in which Jesuits taught and gave order to the world of knowledge.  These divisions raise important questions about late nineteenth-century urban Jesuit and Catholic education, intellectual life, and identity.

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

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, Kyle Roberts oversaw sixteen graduate students in Loyola’s Digital Humanities, History, and Public History in an Advanced Digital Methods seminar in the autumn of 2013. They 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 have also been recorded within the Jesuit Libraries VLS, making them more accessible to students and researchers.

The Jesuit Libraries VLS will launch in early 2015.  Books recovered through this project were on display at the Summer 2014 LUMA exhibition, Crossings and Dwellings: Restored Jesuits, Women Religious, American Experience, 1814-2014  and the accompanying conference.  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.

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