St. Olaf College’s Hong Kierkegaard Library will relocate to Steensland Hall. Home to one of the world’s most extensive collections of works by Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, Kierkegaard Library will fill the original College library which has sat vacant for over a decade. The College had planned for the move to be completed in November 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, necessary renovations were put on hold. A new completion timeframe is currently unknown.
The project summary states that repurposing Steensland Hall to house the Hong Kierkegaard Library will revive the building’s original purpose as a library space on campus, and that Steensland’s location between Old Main and Holland Hall will position the library between the two departments of Kierkegaard’s scholarly focus — religion and philosophy, respectively.
“I’m excited about it, I think it’s going to be really cool,” said Gordon Marino, emeritus professor of philosophy and current curator of the Kierkegaard Library. “I think it’s really exciting to have your own building. I think the Kierkegaard Library will stand out more.”
As listed in the project summary, renovations to Steensland to accommodate the library include installing new windows and a mechanical lift, creating offices for staff and visiting scholars and constructing a seminar room for course instruction. The lower floor will house the library books and include a reading room, while the upper floor will house the offices and seminar space, Marino said.
With its own building, the library will provide more opportunities for undergraduates to become involved with the scholarship of Kierkegaard, which Marino sees as one of the many benefits of the relocation.
“Our biggest task and aspiration is to get as many undergraduates as we can involved in the library,” Marino said. “A lot of times, that’s people interested in philosophy and theology and literature, but we also have a number of students go on to graduate school and careers in library science after they work in the library, which has been really nice.”
The Kierkegaard Library is currently located on the second floor of Rolvaag Memorial Library, and it consists of three sections, two of which — the main room and the reference room — will be moved to Steensland. The third section, the rare book collection, consists of materials from before 1856, and this section will not move to Steensland due to the sensitivity of its contents, which will remain in a climatized vault in Rolvaag.
According to Marino, Steensland Hall will not have as much shelf space as the library’s current space in Rolvaag, which will force a cut-down on some of the library’s contents.
“I’m going through the library now and looking at books,” Marino said. “There’s selections from Aristotle, things that we don’t need, so there might be a bit of an issue with how that works out.”
The project summary notes that the purpose of the Steensland renovation has changed since the Board of Regents first approved it in the 2019-2020 fiscal year. Steensland was originally supposed to house the Institute for Freedom and Community and the Lutheran Center for Faith, Values, and Community, but since both recently received new homes — in Tomson Hall and Buntrock Commons, respectively — the College decided at the beginning of the 2020-2021 fiscal year to renovate Steensland to house the Kierkegaard Library.