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National Library Week: Bird Library at Syracuse University

National Library Week: Bird Library at Syracuse University

If you walk through Syracuse University’s campus late at night, you will likely find only one building that still has its lights on: Bird Library.

Open 24 hours a day on weeknights during the academic year, Bird is the main library on SU’s campus. Along with its seven stories and seating for nearly 1,500 people, Bird Library is easily one of the most highly used spaces on Syracuse University’s campus.

Undergraduates and graduate students alike come to Bird every day to study and socialize. Along with browsing the library’s 4.5-million title collection, students take advantage of the many available technologies, and exploring the university’s Special Collections.

Browsing at Bird Library
Browsing at Bird Library

The History of Bird

The library opened its doors in 1972 after three years of construction and over a decade of struggling to finance the project. The idea for the library was proposed in 1958 by then chancellor William P. Tolley.

Tolley wrote in the Syracuse University Library Associates Courier that SU was in need of “a library adequate for the standing of this university”. At the time, the main library on campus was Carnegie. Carnegie was struggling to house Syracuse University’s quickly growing collection.

After several failed attempts to raise funds for the project, Tolley reached out to Ernest Stevenson Bird, a 1916 graduate of SU. Having no children, Bird agreed to bequeath his significant fortune to the university for the construction of a library that would be named for him.

Special Collections Research Center

Today, Bird is a hub of activity on the SU campus. Bird houses resources that SU students depend on and use every day. Aside from the study spaces and resources the library has to offer.

One of the main attractions at Bird is the Special Collections Research Center, located on the sixth floor. Special Collections is home to the many rare objects and texts that the university has acquired. Some favorites include a collection of 4,000-year-old cuneiform tablets and an Oscar awarded to composer Miklós Rózsa for his music featured in the film Ben-Hur.

Within the Special Collections area there is also the Plastics Room, a displayed collection of plastic items manufactured from the end of the 19th century to now. The room also doubles as a study space, making it a great are to do some work. Studying among the toys and gadgets in the collection is a unique experience. It transports you into a world where the material we take for granted today is an exciting novelty used to create unexpected things.

Blackstone Launchpad at Bird Library
Blackstone Launchpad at Bird Library

Learning Commons and Blackstone Launchpad

The Learning Commons is also home to the Blackstone Launchpad. Located a small glass room that provides guidance and resources to new entrepreneurs on campus who are looking to start a business.

The Launchpad at Bird is one of about 20 Blackstone Launchpads in universities across the country. The Blackstone initiative aims to promote diversity within entrepreneurship and encourages students to spark their interest in entrepreneurship regardless, of background or past experience.

At Bird Library, the Blackstone Launchpad offers business tools and resources that can’t be found anywhere else at SU. The professional staff at the Blackstone Launchpad have helped many SU students launch their own businesses.

The first floor in Bird Library
The first floor in Bird Library

Six Floors for Studying

Aside from the Special Collections floor and Blackstone, Bird also offers six other floors of study space, including the basement. The different parts of the library vary greatly in atmosphere, from the bustling Pages Cafe to the silent study space on the fourth and fifth floors.

On the main floor is the Learning Commons. Users can check out materials and resources and get help with their reference questions.

Bird Library offers a reliable study space for SU students, but it also does so much more. The resources that Bird offers create many opportunities for study and discovery outside of the classroom: lifelong learning, which is one of the core values of librarianship.

If you’ve never been to Bird before, I highly recommend that you go have a look sometime. And, if you’re a frequent Bird Library user, try exploring parts of the library that are unfamiliar to you. There’s no shortage of ways to inspire your curiosity at Bird.

References

Greene, J. R., & Baron, K. A. (1995). “The planning and funding of the E. S. Bird library.” The Courier. Paper 324. Retrieved from https://surface.syr.edu/libassoc/324/

Syracuse University Libraries (n.d.). “About the collection.” The Plastics Collection. Retrieved from http://plastics.syr.edu/page-about_the_collection.php

“What is Blackstone Launchpad” (n.d.). Blackstone Launchpad. Retrieved from https://www.blackstonelaunchpad.org/

Pauline Schwartzman

Pauline Schwartzman

I am a graduate student at the iSchool pursuing a M.S. in Library and Information Science, and I also hold a B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies from Oberlin College. My areas of interest include cataloging and metadata, youth services, community outreach, and collection development. I also enjoy cooking, reading YA novels, and playing with my cat, Gordon.

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