SBU Libraries Celebrate 60 Years of Knowledge, Innovation, and Community

On Friday, December 1, 2023, Stony Brook University Libraries celebrated a momentous occasion: the 60th anniversary of the Melville Library. The event, brimming with intellectual discussions, historical revelations, and a touch of nostalgia, celebrated the library’s rich heritage and its transformative journey over six decades.

A highlight of the celebration was a panel discussion held in the Charles B. Wang Center. Simeon Ananou, Vice President for the Division of Information Technology and Chief Information Officer at Stony Brook University, set the tone for the event with a warm welcome. The featured keynote speaker was Evviva Weinraub Lajoie, Vice Provost for University Libraries at the University at Buffalo. She spoke poignantly of her experiences in the Melville Library as a high school student growing up on Long Island. The distinguished panel was moderated by Karim Boughida, Dean of University Libraries at Stony Brook University, and welcomed back past SBU interim library deans and directors Charles Simpson, Andrew White, and Daniel Kinney. Together, they delved into the library’s evolution, sharing insights into its growth, challenges, and contributions to academic excellence. 

A reception in the Melville Library atrium followed featuring a jazz trio and a special appearance by SBU mascot Wolfie. Guests also explored a special exhibition of the library’s history. Drawing from collections in the University Archives, it vividly captures the library’s evolution, showcasing its enduring role as a hub for research, technological change, and socialization. The exhibition was curated by Kristen J. Nyitray (Director, Special Collections and University Archives, and University Archivist) and Jessica Infanzon (Resource Sharing Associate Access and User Services). 

The library became known as the “Frank Melville, Jr. Memorial Library” in 1964, in honor of SUNY and Stony Brook’s benefactor Ward Melville’s father. As documented in the 1965-1966 undergraduate bulletin, the library was envisioned as the first part of a larger structure capable of storing a million volumes for a student body of ten thousand. The library building’s physical transformation began in 1969, a feat made possible by the ingenuity of the original architects of the 1963 building, Damaz, Pokorny, and Weigel. Their modular design afforded architect Ervin Galantay to achieve a new vision, realized through the addition of four five-story wings around the original structure, creating a seamless blend of old and new. The interior design included seminar rooms, soundproof “typing rooms,” and a dedicated space for microform equipment.

This period also witnessed the introduction of computerized circulation methods. The library continued to adapt to technological advancements, introducing methods like “punch cards.” A symbolic SBU library punch card is displayed in the exhibition, representing the library’s forefront of innovation. In 1988, the library embraced a pioneering project to barcode its book collections, marking a significant step toward a database-driven library catalog. The entire library faculty and staff participated in this monumental effort, laying the foundation for a modern library system. A contest was held to name the online catalog, and the winning entry, the acronym “STARS,” stood for STony Brook Automated Retrieval System. 

In more recent years, the library has become a dynamic space hosting musical performances, pet therapy sessions, and exhibitions of artwork. Landmark achievements include opening of the LEED-Certified library at SB Southampton in 2009, and the 2016 renovations of the Central Reading Room and North Reading Room. In response to the changing research landscape, SBU Libraries launched the discovery portal “SEARCH” in 2019, aligning with a SUNY-wide initiative. Even during the challenging COVID-19 pandemic, the library adapted, developing new service methods for remote access and teaching, and creating a digital collection to preserve SBU pandemic experiences.

SBU Libraries just announced that it is a HathiTrust member library, part of a group of 200 plus libraries and institutions that comprise the HathiTrust community, providing access to more than 18 million digital items. It is finishing a five-year strategic plan that sets the course for achieving its vision, mission, and objectives – and continuing a legacy of innovation by leading new efforts in AI (artificial intelligence) and other cutting-edge, emerging technologies.

The celebration on December 1 not only marked a historic milestone, but also served as a reminder of SBU Libraries’ unwavering commitment to promoting new knowledge, innovation, and lifelong learning. As the library embarks on the next chapter of its history, it reflects on the past 60 years, and looks forward to reimagining its contributions to the intellectual, social, and cultural development of the diverse communities that it serves.

For more information about the SBU Libraries over the years, visit the timeline of library history.

Kristen Nyitray

Kristen Nyitray

Associate Librarian; Director, Special Collections and University Archives; and University Archivist at Stony Brook University Libraries
Contact her for research assistance with rare books, manuscript collections, historical maps, and SBU history. E-mail:
Kristen Nyitray
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