The library began on April 27, 1937, as the library of the University of Ottawa's seminary. The late Father Jean-Léon Allie, O.M.I., was its founder and first Chief Librarian. After occupying that post for more than 40 years, Father Allie continued to devote all his energies to the Library, as Acquisitions Librarian, then as University Librarian Emeritus, literally until the eve of his death on November 26, 1996.
Starting with only four books, the library began immediately to grow through generous donations from other religious institutions, as well as through the founder's judicious purchases, to become the largest of its kind in Canada. The excellent quality of the library has long been recognized by scholars in philosophy, medieval studies and theology. As early as 1963, in a survey conducted for the National Conference of Canadian Universities and Colleges, Edwin E. Williams of Harvard University stated: "Ottawa (i.e. Saint Paul University) has nationally outstanding collections for philosophy and religious history, with advanced research holdings for work in ... medieval studies."
The collection numbers 508,975volumes, 1,060 current periodicals, 48 reference tools on CD-ROM, many electronic databases and periodicals, plus around 100,000 microforms. The organization of the collection follows that of the Library of Congress, with some adaptations in the fields of theology, church history and canon law.
As a research library, our institution seeks to embrace the principal languages and intellectual traditions in its fields of concentration (i.e. theology, philosophy, canon law and related topics). Beyond these specialties, the user will also find general works in other disciplines.
A non-circulating research facility, the library serves an international student population with a high percentage of students at the post-graduate level. Our location in Ottawa provides a unique opportunity for our students to partake of the riches of other government and research libraries. To name only a few, these include Library and Archives Canada, the library of the Dominican College, and those of the University of Ottawa and Carleton University (the latter two are available on-line from terminals within our own library).
Faculty and students from other universities and institutions, as well as members of the public, may have access to the Library by applying to the Chief Librarian. If you are interested in our fields of specialization and want to know more, you are cordially invited to come and visit us, in person and on the Web.