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Syverud speaks at dedication for Carnegie Library Reading Room

Kent Syverud “sprinted” into Carnegie Library while exploring buildings on his first morning as Syracuse University’s chancellor Jan. 13. The beauty of the library’s high-ceilinged Reading Room immediately impressed him.

At the time, Syverud was unaware that the building had undergone renovations after falling into disrepair in recent decades. The front doors he had just walked through had been sealed for more than 30 years.

“For decades the front door was closed, and it was really on its way to being lost,” Syverud said.

On Monday afternoon, Syverud spoke between two gleaming columns, commending the Carnegie Library Reading Room’s appearance and function during its dedication. The Reading Room, which was restored to its original appearance to offer silent study space, opened Jan. 13 with an unofficial ribbon cutting ceremony after nearly four years of construction.

Syverud applauded the work of planners and donors in leading the renewal of the library, which was originally built in 1905. He called the restoration, and what it represents, a “giant step forward” for SU.

Interim dean of libraries and university librarian K. Matthew Dames started the ceremony while Syverud sat at a table to his right with his wife, Ruth Chen, and vice chancellor and provost Eric Spina.

He reflected on the renovation process and the aura of the Reading Room, which he called “indescribable.” Dames said students and faculty have reacted just as positively, adding that the first student who entered the Reading Room after its opening simply said, “wow.”

Syverud agreed, adding that he now sees the room as a university landmark alongside Hendricks Chapel and the Carrier Dome. Syverud said he remembers stopping to relax after entering Carnegie Library for the first time, thinking, “Wow, this is a university.”

When the room was renovated, most of the space, including the columns, arches and a statue that sits in the front lobby, was restored to its original appearance. Syverud said that renovating the room was especially vital because most of the 2,500 libraries funded by steel magnate Andrew Carnegie nationwide have fallen into disrepair or no longer exist.

“This is a historic space but it also has to be a living space,” Syverud said.

After the dedication, Student Association president Boris Gresely said students have provided positive feedback about the Reading Room. They use Carnegie Library more now than before the renovations, he said.

He added that it offers a respite from E.S. Bird Library, where students find their studies interrupted by noise.

“Students can move from Bird Library and study,” Gresely said. “They can do the things they want to do in a quiet space.”

Syverud said after the dedication that students have expressed that they study in Bird Library because it is closer to areas where they can eat.

He added that potentially offering services like coffee or food sales could attract more students to the Carnegie Library Reading Room, which he believes students should use consistently.

“It ought to be packed with students 24/7,” Syverud said.

Dames said after the dedication that the university is still considering initial feedback from the Reading Room’s first few months before planning anything new. Parts of the building, including new second and third floor restrooms, are still under construction.

But he said that in considering adding any student amenities to Carnegie Library, the university would first have to think about preserving the library’s unique silence.

Said Dames: “It’s always about striking a balance.”

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