By Karen Baker, Clarion Herald contributing writer
Every building has a story, and the new Rouquette Library at St. Joseph Abbey and Seminary College has quite a story to tell.
The 19,000-square-foot, $6 million building was barely in the works when the Abbey grounds north of Covington were inundated by flood waters in March 2016.
“I thought it was gone,” librarian Bonnie Bess Wood said of the project, which was put on hold for a year while the Abbey grappled with restoring its flooded campus.
But on Sept. 15, the college’s longtime librarian stood on the third floor of a “dream come true,” waiting for Archbishop Gregory Aymond to bless the building.
State of the art
While the second floor houses the traditional book stacks, the third floor includes two conference rooms, gathering spaces and opportunities for students to work together. The first floor is an open area that will eventually include a nod to the library’s namesake: Father Adrien Rouquette, whose poem. “The Nook,” will grace the walls.
Since the library opened its doors at the beginning of the semester, Wood said, student use has been up dramatically in comparison to the old library. In the old library, there would be about 150 visitors a month, she said, while one month in the new space has brought in 700 visitors. “And I expect more, because we provide the students with the space they need. It is student-centered.”
The library, built with funds from the “I Will Give You Shepherds” campaign for priestly formation, is definitely all about the seminarians. “This is a gift to you” from the many generous donors who supported the effort, architect Steve Rome told the students gathered for the blessing and dedication. “Please embrace it, foster it, and nurture it.”
Rome, of VergesRome Architects, called the library project “an incredible journey” – a journey that took eight years from start to finish and included collaboration among many stakeholders. Voelkel McWilliams was the general contractor for the project.
“We are happy to come to this point,” said Benedictine Father Gregory Boquet, president rector of the seminary college, which started the fall semester with 144 students. “It would not be possible without the strong support of Archbishop Aymond” and the generous donors to “I Will Give You Shepherds.”
“It is a beautiful structure,” the archbishop said. “This library is a sign of God calling us to wisdom and truth. God calls our seminarians and all of us to be wise, enlightened and to seek the truth, for Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.”
The public is invited to get a look at Rouquette Library during an open house on Sunday Oct. 7 from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. The library is situated next to the Abbey Gift Shop.
Karen Baker is a contributing writer and can be reached at email@example.com.