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Milestones of the Syracuse University Libraries

Moving in: From Downtown up the Hill

For the first two years of its existence, Syracuse University and its first library were housed in downtown’s Myers Block at the corner of East Genesee and Montgomery Streets. The library, together with reading rooms, classrooms and faculty offices, were housed on the second floor. The library’s first book was Benjamin Tucker’s Epitome of Ancient & Modern History (Philadelphia, 1822), which is now part of the University’s rare book collection. Syracuse University’s first librarian was John P. Griffin, who served in this role from 1871 to 1875 and oversaw the move of the library from downtown to the University Hill. The Myers Block collection was likely very modest, comprising probably not more than a few hundred books, when moved with the rest of the University to the newly completed Hall of Languages in 1873. At this location, the library’s hours were 9 AM to 1 PM, and books were non-circulating and locked away in wire cages.

Hall of Languages, circa 1873. Syracuse University Photograph Collection, University Archives, Special Collections Research Center.

When the University moved to its new location in 1873, the library was placed in a back room (Room 207) on the third floor of the first campus building, the Hall of Languages, a testament to the collection’s small size.

Location note and title page of Syracuse University Library’s first book. Rare Books collection, Special Collections Research Center.

According to a Daily Orange article from May 2, 1933, Syracuse University’s library collection came into being with Benjamin Tucker’s Epitome of Ancient & Modern History (Philadelphia, 1822), as indicated by its location notation, which predates the Dewey Decimal System. The book is still part of the University’s Special Collections today.