LIBRARY  OF  THE   SEMINARY  OF   SAINT-HYACINTHE    




THE LIBRARY


History

      The library of the Seminary of Saint-Hyacinthe exists since its foundation in 1811 by my lord the priest Antoine Girouard (1762-1832).  At first, the collection was very modest and it was taking up few shelves in a very small room.  This old room was situated in the earliest buildings who were destroyed by fire or modifyed by construction.  The room was always kept locked because they do not want to lose controll on the books contained in it.

      If you read the two volumes entitled " Histoire du Séminaire de Saint-Hyacinthe depuis sa fondation jusqu'à nos jours : 1811 un siècle 1911 ", who were written by Mgr Charles-Philippe Choquette (1856-1947), you could discover some mere details about the library.  Here is some of them :
In 1825, Mgr Jean-Jacques Lartigue (1777-1840), the first Bishop of Montreal, was writing in his multiple correspondence that the library collection of the Seminary of Saint-Hyacinthe was composed of 450 titles.  At this time, it was good in regard of the means available.
In 1866, it was reported that the Seminary, has received the legacy of the abbot Jean Olivier Chèvrefils (1790-1833) that was containing ; 729 books, 14 maps et 65 engravings.  This legacy represented at that time, one of the largest private library owned in Lower Canada.
In 1878, a letter from the Father Superior of this epoch reports that the library was situated in the room in front of his own bedroom.  The library was remodeled during some constructions projects.  Its room was enlarged by destroying many rooms used by the Father Bursar, the Father Assistant Director, the maids, and the kitchen's staircase.  The only architectural details described by Mgr Choquette, was about the ceiling's ornaments installed in 1901.
In 1911, during the Seminary's centenary feasts, the Fathers anounced that they will build a new library.  They will have to destroy the physics room, the chemistry laboratory and the museums rooms.  Meanwhile, to maintain library services to the students, they create smalls libraries of few shelves containing some hundreds books in each Rhetoric and Belles-Lettres classrooms.
In 1927, they decide to erect a new library on the site where it is actually standing.

      From 1927 to today, the position of the librarian was occupyed by many priests and few seculars.  The library of the Seminary of Saint-Hyacinthe was opened only for the priests living at the Seminary.  The students of the private school were not allowed to use this library.  A small library was dedicated to the students.  Until 1993, the library was restricted to everyone, you had to request a librarian's permission if you wanted to visit or to use it.  Since 1993, the library is opened to the public.  In 1991, the Seminary created a private corporation.  That non-profit-making organization manages the daily library's operations.  A professional librarian, Mr Bernard Auger, has been hired in 1993.  His main goal is to computerize the collections who are in handwritten card files.


The library rooms

      There is 6 rooms linked to the library activities :
  1. The first room is the main room and the larger.  It contains, on two floors,(ground floor and mezzanine), the monographic collections and the religious and non-religious periodicals collections.


  2. The periodicals and the newspapers that we continue to buy, are available in the reading room located near the main library room.


  3. The librarian office is located in the old periodical's reading room.  This room is actually used for administrative and technicals tasks, and also, when we receive searchers.   It is the main door to the library.  The old files of cataloguing cards and the partly computerized files may be used for searches with the librarian help in this room.  There is also a photocopier available for all.


  4. The fourth room is mainly used for genealogic studies.  It is located just across the corridor from the main library room.  This room is managed by the genealogist, Mrs Ghislaine Letarte (genealog@chsth.com).  The center of genealogy is opened to the following schedule :
    Tuesday : 13h to 21h
    Thursday : 13h to 17h
    Saturday : 11h to 16 h
    For more informations, about the genealogic center, and the fees charged for research or memberships, please call to the following numbers (450) 261-9722 or visit the internet website managed by the Historical Center of Saint-Hyacinthe (Centre d'histoire de Saint-Hyacinthe), see the genealogic section (Généalogie)at the following internet address : www.chsth.com.  The genealogy room is sometimes used by the library users during their readings.  This room contains many microforms and microfilms readers and one reader-reproducer of microfilms, and also a photocopier.


  5. The fifth room is a warehouse inaccessible to the public.  Its main goal is to store the items older than 1870 that were computerized in our automated catalog.  This room has an atmosphere controled for keeping the temperature and humidity at a level in order to give a longer life to the items stored in it.  This room is under the management of the Archival Center of the Seminary of Saint-Hyacinthe.  Actually, it contains mainly archives items, canadian and provincial government items very old, and more than 5 000 monographs dated before 1870.   Our oldest book dated from 1511.


  6. The sixth and last room is located at the first floor, it contains the binder workshop whose is used by the library staff, the genealogy staff and the binder of the College Antoine-Girouard (a private secondary school).

Historical curiosity

      At the mezzanine of the main library room, there is an architectural relic of an old Roman catholic moral's policy.  It is the wire netting and the wooden door that are still there to indicate where was "the Inferno", as it was called by the former students of the classical college.  His official name was the room for the Index.  We are talking about the room where the forbidden books were held because they were put to the Index by the Congregation of the Index.  This place was kept locked and it was allowed only to the priest librarian, the library staff or the priests that had the permission to read these forbidden books.  Only the Superior of the Seminary and the priest librarian had the key to that door.

      The Congregation of the Index was located at Rome in Italy.  She had the mandate to apply the Roman catholic moral by reading all written books, magazines or else that could be read by any catholics.  In brief, it was in charge to censure all texts or to forbid their reading if the author or the editor decline to censorship their contains.  For reading a such forbidden books by the Index, you should possess a written permission from your Bishop, and you should keep it on you all the time.  Because if you were caught reading a such book put to the Index, you had to hand over ipso facto the book to the ecclesiastic, or you were excommunicated right away.


What is the Index ?

      The policy of putting a document to the Index exists since a long time ago.  The first time that was applyed with severity, it was at the Council of Nicea in the year 325 .  The Church comdemned the book " Thalia " from Darius.  Since that time, the censorship policy was held until the end of the Council of Vatican II, in 1965.  Then, the Church decided at that time that the catholics were enough mature and intelligent to pick their own readings and avoid by themself what is immoral.

      The censured books were considered to subversives because of the ideas propagated, to much liberals (Pensées from Pascal), to much socialist tendencies, to much erotics (Notre-Dame from Victor Hugo) or for another reasons related to the Roman catholic moral or dogma of the Church at this era.

      Since the Pope Paul V (Camillo Borghese 1552-1621), in 1557, the Church has established a list of these forbidden readings.  This practice perpetuated then was managed by Congregation of the Index (1562 to 1965).  The administration of the catholic censorship was necessary because of the technological improvements made in printing and by the accelerating number of books, pamphlets printed.  It was easier to learn how to read with the democratization of the schools and literacy had dowgraded the Church in his monopolitization of the knowledge.  The Congregation of the Index gathered all the loose pages proclamed about the censored books since the first condamnation of this politics, and then it published periodically a book entitled " Index Librorum Prohibitorum " that contained the list of all the books prohibited.  Usually, the books were classified by the date of their comdemnation by the Index or by author,the text was printed in latin so all Roman catholics could read it easily.

      At the Seminary library, in the files of catalog cards, the books put at the Index wore the handscript mention LIVRES À L'INDEX inscribed in red and undescored.  Inside the cover of these books, the handscript mention LIVRES À L'INDEX is inscribed on the first page and on the Title page, so the reader was well warn to do not read the book, so he will not lost his soul by doing it.  Since the end of the Council of Vatican II, in 1965, all these books were put back in the regular shelves of the library.  We have kept the wire fence and the wooden door as architectural relics for the younger people, for telling them that those kinds of censorships was practiced in Québec and in all the world.



RETURN TO THE TOP OF THE PAGE