Travelogue | October 2010 | Rebecca Rego Barry

A Trip to Syracuse

As promised, though a bit late, a brief overview of my day in Syracuse. First stop: Bird Library (seen here at left; the exterior is unaltered since my undergrad days there). I met some very lovely people, including the dean of the SU Libraries Suzanne Thorin, director of library communications Pamela McLaughlin, Sean Quimby, director of the special collections research center, and Peter Verheyen, head of preservation. As I had hoped, I had the chance to talk with Peter (who is, by the way, featured in our autumn issue) about what's going on in the book conservation lab these days. One thing that surprised me is the use of Shrink-wrap as a preservation 'enclosure' for older books in the circulating collection. Neat!

Then I had the opportunity to tour the Belfer Audio Laboratory and Archive. Located in a bunker-like building off to the side of the main library, it's one of those buildings most students pass by, thinking it "off limits." (It's not.) The fourth largest sound archive in the country, Belfer has an amazing collection of wax cylinders, 78s, reels, cassettes, and discs of music and spoken word audio. Like any good archive, Belfer is trying to both preserve the material and provide access to students, scholars, musicians, etc. (Did you know the LOC just released a report stating that "major areas of America's recorded sound heritage have already been destroyed or remain inaccessible to the public"?)

Finally, on our way out of town, we stopped at a bookstore. It's always fun to find a book you didn't know existed, and such was the case with the newly published Bound to Last: 30 Writers on Their Most Cherished Book. The writers focus on each book as an object—why he/she loves that particular book (not its literary value per se). I've only had the chance to read one of the essays so far—the one J. Courtney Sullivan wrote on The Viking Portable Dorothy Parker—and I have a hunch I'm going to love the rest of it too.