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Library of the Month: E.S. Bird Library, Syracuse University (NY)
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Library of the Month: E.S. Bird Library, Syracuse University (NY)

Posted By Administration, 29 August 2019

Library of the Month: E.S. Bird Library, Syracuse University (NY)

Bird Library

We continue to travel this month to visit the E.S. Bird Library at Syracuse University in New York state. Thanks to Erin Lee, Graduate Archives Intern, for providing the article and photo.


Syracuse University, founded in 1870, boasts several libraries on its 200 acre campus in upstate New York. E. S. Bird Library, opened in 1972, is the current home of the University Library, Archives and Special Collections Resource Centre.

The original official location of the University Library was in the Ranke Library (1888-1907) succeeded by the Carnegie Library (now the Sci-Tech Library) with several satellite libraries to handle the overflow of some subjects. Bird was built as a home for all collections apart from Science and Technology in the late 1960s and won the ‘Ugliest building on campus’ award a couple of years later.

King & King Architects, a local architecture firm, designed the building with a bridge running from street level into the second floor but this was removed at a later date in order to enhance the security of the building. It is planned to be replaced in the not so distant future since the current descent into the library has an oppressive feeling, especially during the long, dark winter months.

The Archives have had several locations before finding their permanent home on the top floor of Bird, along with the Special Collections Research Centre with whom they share a reading room and stack space. The top floor has its own issues of leaks and the odd bat and these are handled as best they can be.

The Archives are concerned with collecting items which document the history of the University, be it memorabilia, which is used heavily for exhibitions, Faculty files or alumni papers. Related to the Archives, is Records Management which holds materials created by the schools and colleges on campus for a limited duration. The Special Collections Research Centre has strict collections policies relating to particular fields of research and focuses on rare books and manuscripts. The Belfer Audio Archive is another branch of the University Library and is one of the largest sound archives in America and collects materials from the earliest experimental recordings on tinfoil to modern digital media.

Syracuse University is the National repository for the archives of the Pan Am 103 Lockerbie Air Disaster which occurred in December 1988. There were 35 Syracuse students on board and Syracuse University naturally became the repository for the records of all victims and the legal proceedings that ensued.

Other important historical collections include the Chancellors’ Collection, the papers of Ivan Mestrovic (the Croation and Yugoslav architect), John D. Archbold (the American capitalist), Burton Blatt (pioneer in humanizing services for people with intellectual disabilities), Lorimer Rich (architect of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) and Floyd ‘Ben’ Schwartzwalder (Hall of Fame football coach) to name but a few and so is a varied and rich collection, ever growing due to generous donations of alumni and related parties.

Erin Lee

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