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.
The architecture of the Abbey’s library reflects and shapes its spirit and purpose. The building’s natural light illumines the multi-color bindings of the books which are offered on open stacks against a disciplined black and white background, softened by undulating curves and light-colored wood. The structure, including three stories and a mezzanine, was completed in 1970. The entire library, with the exception of the bottom floor, is awash in natural light.
The library seats 200 patrons in 30 closed and 40 open carrels. It accommodates a comfortable reading room with current issues of over 300 periodicals, a music listening and group study room, large study tables on the ground floor, and sunlit study areas around the staircases. The library collection numbers over 225,000 volumes while the building could hold up to 300,000 volumes.