The college’s first book collection included books from the library of Father Nicholas Balleis, O.S.B., a missionary monk from Saint Peter’s Abbey in Salzburg, Austria. Father Nicholas arrived in the United States in 1836 and served churches in Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey. At his passing in 1891, Father Nicholas left his estate, including books, to Saint Mary’s Abbey (Newark, New Jersey). In turn, many of his books were subsequently moved to the newly constructed Saint Anselm College in 1893.

The Geisel Library at Saint Anselm College is named for Manchester businessman Joseph Herman Geisel (1871–1964), a member of the college’s first Advisory Board of Trustees. His substantial gift to the college in honor of his parents allowed for the construction of the library that bears his name. The Geisel Library was completed in 1960.

A Brief Chronological History of the Library at Saint Anselm College

  • 1891 - 1900


    After the death of Fr. Nicholas Balleis, O.S.B., funds and items (including books) from his estate are left to the Benedictines at St. Mary’s Abbey (Newark, New Jersey). His books will eventually form the first library collection at Saint Anselm College.


    A fire in February 1892 destroys Saint Anselm College’s first college building. Fortunately, Father Nicholas’ books are kept at St. Mary’s Abbey while construction on the college progresses. Rebuilding commences in March.

    October 1893

    The first classes at the college begin in October. A new library is formed with the books from Father Nicholas’ estate. There are two library collections: the students’ library and the monastic library.


    The college Catalogue announces the founding of the Library Association with 110 members. The “association tends to benefit its members by enlarging the fund of general knowledge and giving them an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the writings of standard authors.” Through a variety of donations, the library’s collections are increased by 400 books.

  • 1900 - 1940


    The Library and Reading Room is described by the college Catalogue as a “fully equipped library […] open to all students of the college. This library contains a stock of literary and scientific works and many other volumes to supply the wants of the students. An adjoining reading room is furnished with standard magazines, periodicals, pamphlets, and daily papers.” Fr. Vincent Amberg, O.S.B., is the faculty moderator; Fr. Celestine Nurnberg, O.S.B., is the librarian; and Edward J. Fayne is the student monitor.


    The library is only open at select times on Sundays and admission is charged (fifty cents). According to the student newspaper, books must be returned weekly and may be renewed for a second week.


    Paul Allen, Reference Librarian of Dartmouth College, reorganizes the college library and trains staff on modern methods of library science.

  • 1960 - 1980


    The Honorable Joseph H. Geisel, chairman of the Board of Trustees, donates funds for the completion of a library in honor of his parents. The library is a part of the college’s expansion project that added six new buildings to the campus. In 1960, the Geisel Library building stands at 25,000 square feet and contains 20,000 volumes.


    The Geisel Library is designated as an official depository for United States Government publications.


    Increased enrollment and academic programs drive an expansion project of the library. An additional 15,000 square feet is added to the north side of the library building.


    The 1662 edition of The History of the Worthies of England by Thomas Fuller was ceremonially added to the collection as the 100,000 book. This book was donated by the Faculty to the Geisel Library.

  • 1980 - 2000


    The Geisel Library is the first academic library in New Hampshire to install a computerized circulation system.


    A complete renovation of the Geisel Library increases the library by 20,000 square feet. Library services (and the collections) are moved to several sites across campus in order to facilitate the renovation work.

    September 1992

    With the capacity of holding over 295,000 volumes, the Geisel Library reopens in time for the fall semester. A variety of improvements to the building are made, including a newly renovated space for Rare Books and Special Collections.

  • 2000 - Present


    The Institute for Saint Anselm Studies is formed with space in the library for a reading room to house the O’Rourke Saint Anselm Collection.


    In 2008 the ACA Library Preservation Consortium, LLC purchased the ACA library collection from the Franco-American Centre (Manchester, NH) and donated it to Saint Anselm College. Robert Perreault (’72) served as bibliographer to evaluate and select books for the ACA/Lambert Franco-American Collection.


    In March 2012, Geisel Library unveiled the Learning Commons. The three largest rooms on the Main Level were fully remodeled to accommodate a wide range of workspaces for individual and collaborative study. As part of the project, the IT Help Desk was relocated to the Learning Commons in order to support the new technology in the library along with the broader technology-related needs of the campus.


    A renovation to the library’s upper level is completed. The Monsignor Wilfrid H. Paradis Archives & Special Collections suite includes space for an office, processing area, and reading room.