The Xavier University Library, a center for intellectual life at Xavier University, has a long and interesting past. Xavier's library can trace its history to 1840 when the buildings, programs and resources of the Athenaeum were transferred to the leadership of the Society of Jesus, and renamed St. Xavier College. At this time, the library contained a collection of 4,000 to 5,000 titles, predominantly in classical studies and philosophy.
Although the 1843-1844 Catalogue mentions a library with 6,000 volumes, the library was for faculty use only and not accessible to students. A Students' Library was founded in 1848. Its collection consisted of English literature, magazines and reference materials.
The first mention of a librarian appeared in the 1894-1895 Catalogue. He was the Reverend John N. Poland, S.J. The first mention of a woman librarian on staff can be found in the 1923-1924 Catalogue which lists Ella Coleman as a Reference Librarian.
In 1911, St. Xavier College purchased property from the Avondale Athletic Club. The library, now numbering 40,000 volumes, was moved to this facility. By the 1920s the library had outgrown its location. The Xavier Foundation, with the generosity of Walter Seton Schmidt, a 1905 alumnus, raised $250,000 for the construction of a new library.
In May 1926, the Walter Seton Schmidt Library was dedicated. In addition to the library, the building also housed St. Robert Bellarmine Chapel and classrooms. The Schmidt Library served Xavier for the next 40 years. The 1920s also saw the founding of the Jesuit Faculty Library housed in Hinkle Hall and the St. Thomas Library which was created as a resource for the Milford Novitiate program.
The Schmidt Library eventually became too small to service the increased number of students. On May 7, 1967, the McDonald Memorial Library was dedicated, a gift of the Walter A. and George McDonald Foundation in memory of Andrew J. and Mary McDonald.
Today, Xavier's library is so much more than its physical collection of: 373,425 volumes; 192,479 titles; 1,600 current journal subscriptions; 713,288 microforms; and 8,623 audiovisuals. Today, Xavier's library contains a growing digital collection of more than 200 web-based research databases, 40,000 electronic books and 25,000 electronic journals. Accessible both on and off campus, these digital resources create a virtual library for the entire Xavier community.
Excerpted from A History of Xavier University Libraries prepared by Librarian, Tim McCabe (2003).