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Syracuse University Libraries receives donation to boost adult education materials

Logan Reidsman | Senior Staff Photographer

Alexander Charters and Margaret Charters will create the Alexander N. Charters Library Initiative Fund at SU Libraries.

Syracuse University Libraries recently received a $50,000 donation from former faculty members to digitize materials like cassette tapes from the adult and continuing education collection.

The donation from Alexander Charters and Margaret Charters will create the Alexander N. Charters Library Initiative Fund, and the money will go toward the 96 different materials in the adult and continuing education collection, said Lucy Mulroney, senior director for the Special Collections Research Center at SU Libraries. The collection has photographs, films, recordings of lectures and schedules of classes, Mulroney said.

In addition to digitizing the resources, the library will also continue to build the collection in partnership with community and local organizations, such as ProLiteracy, which aims to increase literacy rates of adults in Syracuse, said David Seaman, dean of SU Libraries and University Librarian.

“It’s a nice collection built up over the decades,” Seaman said. “The resources are a very strong international collection.”

Seaman said the resources are not only for SU students and faculty members but also for researchers and visitors from around the world to come and work with the materials.

“It is particularly nice to have some resources to really help the collection to be more useful and more convenient to use,” Seaman said. “We are grateful to have this gift that allows us to set up the fund.”

Alexander, who is 99 years old, began his career as the assistant to the dean of University College at SU and later became a professor of adult education, according to an SU News release. Alexander and Margaret, his wife, are strong advocates for adult education and literacy in the community.

Adult education is an important field, Alexander said, because it is largely ignored, adding that education for children is provided, but adults are often left out.

He said people began to realize adult education was important after World War II, when soldiers had to learn to use new weapons and equipment, such as radar and radio, and women learned to do jobs that were previously done by men.

The establishment of University College at SU in 1946 has great significance, said Alexander, who is a veteran of WWII, because it was a new idea of having part-time adult students, although it was not called adult education at that time. It placed adult education on an equal status with other SU colleges and schools, he said.

“It had a place in the academic role of the university,” he said.

For Mulroney, adult education is a continuation of thinking about women’s rights, the rights of immigrants and the rights of minority groups.

She said contemporary issues like prison education and the Syracuse refugee population are all closely related to literacy and adult education. Illiteracy is a big issue among all different groups, Mulroney said.

“Usually adult education is also seen as like outside of the mainstream, so we care for it very much,” she said.

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