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SLU’s Pius Library Named Missouri Library of the Year

by Bridjes O'Neil on 09/15/2021
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Bridjes O'Neil
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Saint Louis University’s Pius XII Memorial Library was named Missouri Library of the Year for distinguished achievement in service. The Missouri Library Association (MLA) will recognize SLU during an awards ceremony at the MLA’s annual conference on Wednesday, September 29. 

Martha Allen, assistant dean of User Services and professor at SLU’s Pius Library, said the recognition is due to library faculty and staff response to unique challenges brought on by the pandemic. In March of 2020, when a city-wide mandate forced most buildings on SLU’s campus to close, Allen says Pius Library remained open and began the transition to online services.

“Pius Library was not only open for business but had the longest open hours of any academic or public library in the state of Missouri."

Martha Allen

For patrons unable to physically visit the library, Patron Services staff implemented a robust contact-free pick-up service available seven days a week. Collection Management Services coordinated the acquisition of essential online resources and library faculty provided online instruction and support, Allen added. Library staff worked with SLU’s Department of Facilities Management to create a safe space for staff, faculty, and students aiming to reopen the facility on Monday, August 3rd, 2020, for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Updates included the creation and distribution of signage throughout the building as well as the removal of tables, over 800 chairs, and more than 40 sofas to create socially distanced study areas. Allen said they also added thirty single-study rooms to the reservation system that yielded approximately 26,000 reservations during the academic year.

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Students study in SLU's Pius XII Memorial Library. Photo by Steve Dolan. 

“During the last 18 months, the dual nature of libraries, both virtual and physical, became more important than ever,” Allen said. “The virtual library was critical to the academic success of our students. The physical library was critical to the emotional well-being of many students by providing a sanctuary of normalcy during an abnormal time.”   

Pius Library is the largest of three libraries at the University. The library’s print and digital resources comprise an estimated 1.7 million volumes which include 30,000 rare books. Pius Library also boasts a unique research collection of more than 37,000 microfilmed manuscripts from the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana in the Knights of Columbus Vatican Film Library

“It was not always easy, but we never lost faith that we would get through the year together as a team,” Allen said. “That teamwork resulted in extraordinary service to our patrons during an extraordinary time.”

About Saint Louis University

Founded in 1818, Saint Louis University is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious Catholic institutions. Rooted in Jesuit values and its pioneering history as the first university west of the Mississippi River, SLU offers more than 12,000 students a rigorous, transformative education of the whole person. At the core of the University’s diverse community of scholars is SLU’s service-focused mission, which challenges and prepares students to make the world a better, more just place.