The Aalto library at Mount Angel Abbey

Abbot Jeremy Driscoll, O.S.B., opened the 2022 Reynolds Symposium conference in the auditorium of the Alvar Aalto library at Mount Angel Abbey on Saturday, May 21, 2022. Abbot Jeremy has witnessed the impact of the library on the monks of Mount Angel as well as the library’s patrons, scholars, and architects worldwide. He spoke about what it was like for him as a young monk to watch the design and construction of the Aalto library, hear the monastic community talk about it, and be present for the library’s dedication. Associate Professor Emerita Virginia Cartwright of the University of Oregon introduced Abbot Jeremy.

Housed in a world-renowned building designed by the famous Finnish architect, Alvar Aalto, the Mount Angel Abbey Library is one of the Abbey’s principal works of Christian service. Patrons of the Abbey’s library include the students, faculty and staff of Mount Angel Seminary, the monks of Mount Angel Abbey, scholars and religious professionals of many denominations, and any interested person who requests user and borrower privileges. The library provides access to a large collection of books and other materials in a wide range of subjects. Open to guests, visiting scholars, and the general public, the library is home to one of the most significant theological libraries in the Pacific Northwest.

Student Resources

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Illuminated Manuscripts

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Special Collections

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Aalto's Library

In the early 1960s, library director Fr. Barnabas Reasoner, O.S.B., approached the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto to design a new library building for the Abbey. A report of that meeting was published in the March 1966 issue of the Mount Angel Abbey Library Bulletin. Because of his love of libraries and the special qualities of the Mount Angel Abbey site, Aalto agreed to design the library for a nominal fee. The building was completely funded through the generosity of Howard and Jean Vollum, who also contributed to the library’s endowment.


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Library History

Mount Angel Abbey was founded in 1882 by Benedictine monks from the Abbey of Engelberg in Switzerland. The monks quickly became involved in pastoral work and in education, and in 1889 opened Mount Angel Abbey Seminary. The Swiss monks brought a sizable library with them to Oregon. Unfortunately, only a few books survived a disastrous fire in 1926, which destroyed the library as well as the rest of the Abbey. The few volumes which survived reminded later generations of monks of their roots and of the generosity of the founding monastery.

The nucleus of the current library collection was secured in 1932, when the contents of a used bookstore were purchased in Aachen, Germany. For the next twenty years, as the monks worked to rebuild the Abbey and the seminary, the library’s collection grew slowly. In 1952, Fr. Barnabas Reasoner, O.S.B., returned from library school to become the director. He introduced modern library procedures and began to build the collection. Fr. Barnabas adopted the Library of Congress classification system and planned the new Aalto-designed library, which was dedicated in 1970. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, library director Fr. Hugh Feiss greatly expanded the library’s holdings in philosophy, Patristics, and Latin Christian studies.

Mount Angel Abbey Library’s collection continues to grow in size and quality. Like libraries all over the world, the Abbey’s library must be concerned about the conservation and the preservation of materials. Traditional books will not soon disappear, but other media are here to stay as well. The threat to libraries does not come from the media, but from cultural forces which denigrate study and argument, faith-seeking understanding, and thoughtful exchange among people of different times, places and viewpoints. In the face of such forces, libraries – Mount Angel Abbey Library among them – are becoming more concerned to promote and foster understanding through study, argument and conversation.

Duke Ellington playing at the 1970 dedication of the library.


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Summer Hours
Monday – Friday: 9 am – 4:pm

Schedule fluctuates occasionally.
Please call 503-845-3303 for confirmation.
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The library staff consists of full and part-time Benedictine and lay employees, student assistants, and a good number of wonderful volunteers. Since the library is an apostolate of Mount Angel Abbey, all of the staff, whether clerical, support or professional, endeavor to serve patrons in a spirit of monastic hospitality.

Each staff member has his/her own area of expertise, but almost everyone takes a turn at the circulation desk to keep in touch with the most important part of a library—its patrons.
Meet the Staff