Manila Library Tour: University of Santo Tomas

Last March, we had a library educational tour in notable university libraries in Manila. Last post was about UP and Ateneo Libraries, and our next stop was University of Santo Tomas. This was my favorite part of the day, and I was utterly amazed (I'm not exaggerating) of their library! Thanks to the librarians of UST who were so hospitable in catering us. We saw the step-by-step process of restoring books, and they have a special laboratory where books centuries old are restored as good as new. Its like magic, when you see the 'before and after' pictures of those books.

University of Santo Tomas is the oldest university in the Philippines and also the first in Asia. Trivia: the library was first before the school itself! It started with a collection of books donated by a priest.

There is the main Miguel de Benavides Library, and the Antonio Vivencio del Rosario Heritage Library, which specializes in preserving, restoring, and digitizing rare books. We had to make a separate letter of permission for the heritage library, and we were lucky to have our visit approved!

Miguel de Benavides Library

The University of Santo Tomas is the oldest university in the country, and the University Library can be considered as the oldest in the country. In the early 17th century, Fr. Miguel de Benavides (whom the library is named after) and Fr. Diego Soria, donated their private collections for a future college. Through the history of the University other Dominicans contributed books indispensable in the education for the priesthood.

This explains why the oldest books in the collection are related to Philosophy, Theology or Law. As new faculties were opened in the University the collections widened to form a precious collection of rare books unique in the Philippines. This library was located in the old city of Intramuros for three hundred years. When the University expanded its campus outside the walls, some collections were also transferred to its new campus. The library occupied a room at the ground floor of the new Main Building. As the University grew with the opening of new courses, the library expanded and the collection increased in volume.

The UST Central Library building was inaugurated on October 29, 1989. The Benavides Library contains a rich collection of books and periodicals, listing more than 300,000 volumes in its catalogue, with hundreds of new materials added regularly.

The Library has been in continuous service since the first opening of the "Colegio de Santo Tomas" centuries ago. Even wars did not interrupt this service and it has adapted to the needs of every generation. The University Library takes pride as it contributes to the fulfillment of the University's mission in its continued commitment to serve its clientele beyond its four hundred year anniversary.

Going to the University of Santo Tomas is like stepping into the history of the Philippines. It is the oldest university in the country and our famous national heroes and notable people in history have been in this school. It has existed for hundreds of years since the Spanish occupation. The campus is full of beautiful, classic architecture. It is interesting to note that the whole university didn't start with the school but the library. The books from the library of Father Miguel de Benavides was the start of the college.

One can see that they consider their collections as priceless treasure, and they have initiative and effort in ensuring that they are conserved. Though they keep old books, they also embrace new technology and they can be said to be the pioneer of book conservation and restoration in the country. Aside from books, they also have computers and gadgets for electronic resources.

What we noticed in the library is centralized Reference and Circulation Services. There is one big Circulation section on the ground floor where all books from all sections are being checked out. This is convenient not just for the users but for the librarians as well, who can also focus on their jobs and generating of reports in easier.

We can learn a lot from their library on the aspect of preserving our historical and heritage collections. We must honor our tradition but at the same time adapt to changes. For centuries, this library is a prime example of a library that has adapted to changes and is a dynamic library that cares for its collections and providing the best service for their university community.

Antonio Vivencio del Rosario Heritage Library

Located at the 5th floor of Miguel de Benavides Library, the Antonio Vivencio del Rosario Library specializes in rare books, in restoring, conserving, and digitizing the heritage collections unique to the University of Santo Tomas. The library was inaugurated on January 28, 2006. It is supported by a grant from the family of the late Ambassador Ramon V. del Rosario, Sr. The Section was named after their grandfather, Antonio Vivencio del Rosario, an outstanding Thomasian, and the former Secretary General of UST.

This section is the depository of the vast printed collections of the University of Santo Tomas of approximately 30,000 volumes of historical materials such as: Rare Books from 1492 through 1900; Filipiniana Rare; Rare Periodicals; Rare Legal Collections, Medical Books and Books on Pharmacy.

Presently, the UST Miguel de Benavides Library is engaged into a remarkable project called Lumina Pandit II (spreading the light) which is being supported by the UnionBank of the Philippines. This sustainable project focuses the inherent value of the Heritage Library collections. It consists of three major components: conservation, digitization, and publication of the rare collections as well as the Archives collections.

Ms. Diana Padilla showing us the restored books.
Look at the old book. Once restored, it would look like the
book she's holding! Amazing! It takes a long time to restore.
This Library specializes in conserving Rare Books. With the University of Santo Tomas being the oldest university in the country and also housing one of the first printing presses, this library is indeed a treasure trove of rare and valuable books. Books from the 15th century to the 20th century are housed here. Upon entering this special and restricted section of the library, it felt like stepping into the past. But though they house antiquarian books, the library also had the most technologically-advanced equipment on restoration, conservation, and digitization.

Ms. Diana Padilla, the librarian, welcomed us. Since the place contains expensive books that may cost millions of pesos, there is tighter security. Only authorized personnel are allowed to enter through a bioometric system.

What’s unique about their library is their laboratory for restoring books. The personnel walked us through the different processes of restoring rare and damaged books. It was our first time to see actual hands-on with restoring books. It is surely an expensive and time-consuming process, but seeing the final product is worth the effort.

The library also enjoys support from organizations that value these rare books. The Heritage Library has a separate budget from the University Library.

Aside from restoring books, they also digitize these books and make them available online for the public. They also have specialized equipment for digitizing books. They use an expensive DSLR camera mounted on a special scanner made for scanning rare books, where they can adjust the pages and angles in order to take a picture with the best quality.

As visitors, we can see the effort and passion of the people in the library for their work. The work is laborious and expensive, but these are books that can never be found anywhere else. It reminds us librarians that we should take care of our own historical heritage. Though most of our libraries can’t have the same support or budget as this library, it is also our responsibility to value our own historical and heritage collections.

Restoring Books
1. The books are first washed with a special solution to de-acidify the paper

2. The pages are washed with paper pulp to seal holes, mend tears, and make each page whole.

3. Each pages are ‘laminated’ in a special paper to make the paper more stable and to also protect the page. Once dry, the pages are hand-sewn and bound.

The books are restored and now ready for use!

Digitization Project
“The UST Miguel de Benavides Library is engaged into a remarkable project called Lumina Pandit II which is being supported by the UnionBank of the Philippines. The project consists of three major components: conservation, digitization, and publication of the UST Heritage Library rare collections housed in the Library as well as the Archives collections.

The digitization of rare, historical and fragile books and documents of the University of Santo Tomas, which have been gathered through its long history, is a brilliant endeavor of the two institutions
The library converts its heritage collections to digital format and makes them available to a wider public through the World Wide Web. A digital repository is created not only for preservation but to provide its users a trusted digital library that help support information discovery.

The Library is  using the CONTENT digital management (CONTENTdm) software which supports the upload, description, management and access of digital collections. This is one of the best softwares available in the market by Online Computer Library Center (OCLC). Presently, we are uploading the digital copies and evaluating the possibility of a hosting service based in the Asia Pacific region to ensure speedy access and continuous availability of the collections.”

The digital library and its collections can be accessed at

For the next and last post about the library tour, we go to MAPUA and De La Salle University. We will see the pioneers in the latest library technology in the country. Stay tuned!

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