Abbot Vincent Taylor Library, Belmont Abbey Historic District.
Constructed in 1959, Abbot Vincent Taylor Library is at the heart of Belmont Abbey College’s educational mission. Reflecting both the medieval traditions of Benedictine monasticism and digital innovations of the 21st century, the Library serves as a campus center for research, study, instruction, and academic support. The library was listed as a contributing property in the National Register of Historic Places as part the Belmont Abbey Historic District in 1993.
Backstory and Context
Belmont Abbey has supported a campus library since 1886, with
the original repository located on the ground floor of the main college
building, Robert Lee Stowe Hall. The initial collection consisted of 300 books secured
by Abbot Leo Haid, the founding abbot of the monastic community. Tragically,
much of this original collection was lost during a fire in 1900 that gutted the
main college building.1 Sustained efforts to rebuild the library resulted in a
remarkable new collection, thanks in part to Belmont Abbey monk Fr. Thomas
Oestereich. Dispatched to Europe by Abbot Haid after World War I, Oestereich acquired
a substantial collection drawn from libraries damaged or disrupted by the
aftermath of the conflict.2 The location
of the campus library shifted to other campus buildings in the subsequent
decades. The college’s expansion following World War II demanded the creation
of a dedicated structure to house the college’s growing collections.
The library building was designed by Fr. Michael McInerney (1877-1963), a monk of Belmont Abbey and noted architect. McInerney oversaw the construction of over 200 churches, monasteries, convents, and hospitals, including much of the infrastructure of the college campus. The library would be his final architectural achievement. In the entry for the library in the National Register of Historic Places, the library “displays [McInerney’s] adaptation of modernist design influences in the last stages of his career.”3
The library is dedicated to Abbot Vincent Taylor (1877-1959), the second abbot of Belmont Abbey and successor of Abbot Leo Haid. Taylor is credited with leading the college through a period of expansion and development, resulting in the establishment of the modern college as it operates today.
The library’s holdings have vastly increased since the college’s founding. Today the Abbot Vincent Taylor Library houses approximately 125,000 print titles, provides links to to databases offering 350,000 full text e-books and 25,000 digital journals, plus microfilms, streaming video, DVD’s, and digital archival collections.. Particularly noteworthy are the Library’s special collections. The 13,000 works held in the Rare Books Collections date from as far back as the 15th century. Among the most noted of these titles is a work of the noted medieval theologian Albertus Magnus, the Compendium Theologicae Veritatus (1474).4 Other notable collections include the Fr. Abram J. Ryan Archive, featuring letters and manuscripts of the noted Civil War poet5, and the Benedictine Collection, dedicated to the fifteen centuries of the monastic order’s history and ministry.6 In addition to the Library’s collections, significant space is set aside for a Learning Commons, computer stations, study carrels, and academic and research support resources.
The Abbot Vincent Taylor Library was listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a part of the Belmont Abbey Historic District in 1993. In 2015, a $1.5 million renovation of the Library enhanced the Library's entrance and accessibility.
2. Simon J. Donoghue, "Thomas Oestreich and the Founding of a Great Library," Catholic Library World G5, no. 3 (January/February/March 1995): 33-35.
3. National Register of Historic Places, Belmont Abbey Historic District, Belmont, Gaston County, North Carolina, National Register #93000584: 6-7.
4. Belmont Abbey College, "Rare Books & Special Collections: An Online Exhibition 1474-1900." http://crusader.bac.edu/library/rarebooks/
5.The Fr. Abram J. Ryan Archive at Belmont Abbey College. URL: http://crusader.bac.edu/library/rarebooks/Ryanfiles/
6. Susan E. Mayes, "Benedictine Collection at Belmont Abbey College." North Carolina Libraries, vol 54., no. 3 (Fall 1996), 110-112.