From State of the Art to All but Satisfactory: The ‘Can Years’
As with the von Ranke Library, the euphoria of a new library building was relatively short-lived. It became clear that Carnegie Library would not be able to accommodate the ever-expanding demands of the growing University. The rapid growth of the collections and the student body quickly revealed the long-term inadequacy of the Carnegie Library. Students reportedly sat on radiators or on stairs due to lack of reading room space. By the 1940s, University Librarian Wharton Miller complained that Carnegie Library was “an ill-suited, over-crowded, poorly equipped, wretchedly lighted, noisy, inefficient building [… which …] can only be more forcefully related as the number of students increases and as new demands are made on it by recently appointed faculty members who are accustomed to better conditions, better treatment.” Between 1927 and 1954 the library’s collection would grow from 136,000 to 487,000 volumes. To save valuable space, the Syracuse University Library became a leader in microfilm reproduction.
Until Syracuse University Libraries’ transition to automated information retrieval systems in the 1970s, the card catalog was the central tool to browse their ever-growing collections. In 1981, Syracuse University Libraries were one of the first major libraries to retire their card catalog.
By 1959, the demand for storage space became so bad that the University decided to purchase the former Continental Can Company building on Erie Boulevard for the storage of overflow books and – despite its less than ideal storage conditions – a large part of the Library’s manuscript collections. It also came to house the Syracuse University Press, the Library’s Order Department, the Gift and Exchange Department, and the Music Library.