Community celebrates library renovation

The Santa Catalina School community came together March 9 to celebrate the reopening of the newly renovated Sister Mary Kieran Memorial Library.

The event was held in the Performing Arts Center because of rain, but the spirit of those in attendance could not be dampened. Speakers expressed gratitude for the people who made the renovation possible and praised the library as an inspiring space worthy of its namesake. Student performances rounded out the program, including a special song sung by the Upper School girls with rewritten lyrics to the music of “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang.

A man speaks into a microphone at a podium with a large image of the library projected behind him.

Matt Gibbs, a past parent and vice-chair of the board of trustees, noted that the renovation project preserved the library’s iconic exterior while transforming the interior “in a way that meets the academic, technological, and social needs of today’s students.” At the same time, he said, the library is “flexible enough that it can morph in the future as new ways to teach and to learn arise.”

Mr. Gibbs thanked the donors for their critical investment in the project, adding that some lent their expertise to making the building more efficient and healthier. He thanked Anderson Brulé Architects, owned by Pam Anderson-Brulé ’76, for their creativity of design and for taking the time to understand the school’s vision for the 50-year-old building. And he thanked Avila Construction for completing the project on time and on budget in just 34 weeks. “The team of Santa Catalina, Avila, and ABA faced every challenge head-on, came up with timely and elegant solutions, and delivered a fantastic new facility for the campus,” he said.

Head of School Dr. Barbara Ostos placed the Sister Kieran Library in historical context, tracing libraries from humble storage spaces in ancient Syria and Iraq to centers of knowledge and culture, as in the Library of Alexandria in Egypt and in libraries championed by Andrew Carnegie in the United States. “Carnegie believed ‘a library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never-failing spring in the desert,’” Dr. Ostos said. “Our newly renovated Sister Kieran Memorial Library is a place I hope our entire community will use as that never-failing spring—a place where words and stories will take hold of us and inspire us individually and collectively; a place where we will find private moments captured by an author's imagination; a place where we will fuel our empathy for one another and the world in which we live.”

Former Head of School Meg Bradley, who ushered in the renovation project, returned to Santa Catalina for the reopening ceremony. She echoed Dr. Ostos’ sentiment about the magic of libraries when she described how, after moving to Asheville, North Carolina, in retirement, one of the first things she did was get a library card. Ms. Bradley marveled at the way libraries bring people together. “Being present today, I can only imagine the potential for how many ways this beautiful, remarkable, open, airy, welcoming space will be used by the full community over the next 50 years,” she said.

The final speaker of the day was Peter Folger, a past parent and former chair of the board of trustees. He brought the audience back to the beginning of Santa Catalina in 1950 and to the visionary leadership of Sister Mary Kieran Hannifan, O.P., the school’s first head. “Every entrepreneurial success story has at its core an inspirational leader. Sister Kieran was that person for Santa Catalina,” he said. Sister Kieran oversaw the growth of the school from a few buildings to most of what makes up campus today. The library that bears her name was in the planning stages when she died unexpectedly in 1965; it was constructed that same year and was dedicated in 1967 as the Sister Mary Kieran Memorial Library. Mr. Folger concluded, “I believe Sister Kieran is looking down on all of you who have caused this day to happen, smiling and saying to you, ‘Well done.’”

See photos of the newly renovated library in use.

Watch a recording of the reopening ceremony.

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