Carnegie Library to celebrate 100th birthday

More than a century after a donation from Andrew Carnegie himself, one of Syracuse University’s oldest buildings is ready to blow out the candles.

The SU libraries and math department will host Carnegie Library’s 100-year anniversary today from 2-4 p.m. in the second-floor Reading Room. All are invited.

The event will begin with a celebratory cake in honor of the building’s birthday and will close with a guided tour displaying rare math books and historical photos of the building.

Professor emeritus of math Phil Church, University Librarian emeritus David Stam and Dean of Libraries Suzanne Thorin will each speak at the event.

‘The most interesting part of my speech will be about Pi Mu Epsilon,’ Church said. ‘About 100 years ago, Professor Edward Drake Roe formed an undergraduate math club called Pi Mu Epsilon. The club that started right here now has 326 chapters – including one in every state and Washington D.C.’

Stam will talk about the library’s history.

‘One of the curious things about Carnegie is it has never been dedicated; it’s never happened for some funny reasons, I’ll talk about those,’ Stam said. ‘I’ll talk about the fate of the library over the years and fill it in with a few anecdotes. I’ll make it relevant to students.’

And appropriately, Thorin will lay out her plans for Carnegie’s future.

‘I’ll talk about our plans for renovating the Bird Library and eventually the Carnegie Library,’ Thorin said. ‘I’ll talk about getting ever closer to the needs of students, and how they live their lives, and how they study, and how they congregate. The library is trying to be the very best we can to support learning.’

On display throughout the library will be rare math books and historical photographs of Carnegie.

‘The tour will show how Carnegie was back then,’ said Mary O’Brien, assistant university archivist.

She said rare editions proclaiming breakthrough theories, both in English and other languages, will be pulled out of the stacks.

‘The photographs that will be shown are some of the ones of Carnegie being built, some of the original photographs from inside and some gorgeous shots of the reading room,’ O’Brien said.

In 1905, industrialist Andrew Carnegie gave a $150,000 donation for the construction of a new library, which would bear his name.

Two years later, Carnegie was open for use. Exactly 100 years ago, the front page of The Daily Orange informed campus that Carnegie was open.

Carnegie became the university’s main library, replacing the Van Ranke Library, which is now the Tolley Building.

Architecture professors Frederick Revels and Earl Hallenbeck constructed the building, O’Brien said.

When Carnegie first opened, it held about 71,000 volumes. ‘By 1972, when the move to Bird Library was made, there were well over one million volumes, and it was shockingly overpopulated with books,’ Stam said.

Though the main library moved out of Carnegie 35 years ago, the building is still home to the science and technology and mathematics libraries.

Stam wonders whether students will care enough to attend today’s ceremony.

‘Will they care? I don’t know. Should they care? Yes,’ Stam said. ‘Their involvement in this institution as students is closely connected to the development of the institution as an important, intellectual endeavor. They should be a part of the celebration.’

Most students were unaware of the building’s centennial birthday.

‘I didn’t know it was 100; it looks very well kept,’ freshman Tracy Schilder said.

Sophomore Elizabeth Powers said that she did not know of the building’s birthday but she cares ‘because it shows that Syracuse has a lot of tradition and appreciation of its buildings.’

Stam said students often neglect the resources that Carnegie offers.

‘Not just for their classes at Syracuse, in the four years they’re here, but for the training it can give to them to find information sources for the rest of their lives,’ he said. ‘I believe that really strongly.’

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