Take Up And Read

Authored by Ian Ustick

St. Augustine Hall on the Queens campus of St. John's University.

St. Augustine Hall on the Queens campus of St. John’s University.

Saint Augustine was one of the foremost intellectual thinkers of his time. He lived in the Roman Province of Northern Africa, which today would be modern-day Algeria. In a pluralistic society, not unlike ours, there were competing thoughts, ideologies, and religious faiths. With Christianity now legalized and having become the official state religion of the Roman Empire, Augustine, who had formerly been a pagan, took it upon himself to become the intellectual defender of the church[1].

What makes St. John’s University unique is its commitment to education through service. Unlike other colleges and universities that have a strict curriculum that students must adhere to, St. John’s wants the students to use their gifts and talents to be of use to the world around them. In this way, St. John’s University is taking on the role that the church did in Augustine’s time. So it is no surprise that the main library on campus would be named St. Augustine Hall.

The main inscription on the front of the library is “Tolle Lege” which is translated as “Take up and read.” It is said that Augustine heard a child chanting this phrase while he was in a friend’s garden going through an inner spiritual conflict[2]. He felt this was a command from God to read the bible. This ultimately led him to converting to Christianity and deciding to dedicate his life to study and education.

St. Augustine Hall officially opened for student use in 1964. Since then, it has become the main area of congregation for study and research at St. John’s University in Queens. In the same tradition of Augustine’s life, intellectual life in Augustine Hall is dedicated to the sharing information, researching new information, and engaging with fellow students in academic pursuits[3]. The Vincentian mission is one of service, following an example of Christ’s life.

The library inside Augustine Hall features a huge collection of books, ebooks, and ejournals. These tools make for a unique research experience with up-to-date technology available at the student’s fingertips. The building also has a study room on the first floor that is open 24/7[4]. It is here where students are able to study for exams, read up on classwork, and have a space where they can research on their laptops and write papers.

With a vast amount of physical and electronic data there for the student to access, this library truly harkens back to Augustine’s famous phrase he heard, “Take up and read.” It is the duty of the student, as far as the Vincentian Mission would feel, to understand that it is through service that we are educated. Augustine made it his mission to search for the truth, and the hall that bears his name definitely lives up to the name.

References:

Augustine, Marcus Dods, and Thomas Merton. The City of God. New York: Modern Library, 1950.

Augustine, and Rex Warner. Confessions. New York: New American Library, 1963.

“Library Looks to Revamp Image.” The Torch. Accessed March 22, 2016. http://www.torchonline.com/features/2015/09/20/library-looks-to-revamp-image/.

“Later Hours at Library Would Better Meet Student Needs.” The Torch. Accessed March 22, 2016. http://www.torchonline.com/contributors/2010/10/06/later-hours-at-library-would-better-meet-student-needs/.

“Provost Approves Funding for 24-hour Library Floor.” The Torch. Accessed March 22, 2016. http://www.torchonline.com/news/2013/10/17/provost-approves-funding-for-24-hour-library-floor/.

[1] Augustine, Marcus Dods, and Thomas Merton. The City of God. New York: Modern Library, 1950. p 49-52.

[2] Augustine, and Rex Warner. Confessions. New York: New American Library, 1963. p 40.

[3] “Library Looks to Revamp Image.” The Torch. Accessed March 22, 2016. http://www.torchonline.com/features/2015/09/20/library-looks-to-revamp-image/.

[4] “Provost Approves Funding for 24-hour Library Floor.” The Torch. Accessed March 22, 2016. http://www.torchonline.com/news/2013/10/17/provost-approves-funding-for-24-hour-library-floor/.

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