Friday, October 14, 2011

The first quarter century of the New York state library school, 1887-1912. New York State Library School, State of New York Education Department, 1912, page 61
Spring had just begun to take the chill out of the air, when we awakened one morning to find the New York State Library in ashes. As we stood on the street corner watching the smoldering flames, which now and again burst forth with renewed energy and played with awful beauty within the narrow confines of the tower, we wondered how this great library could ever be restored. But we did not doubt that the work would go on, for we knew our director and his staff. It was not long before we were all assembled in the audtorium of the State Normal College, and Mr Wyer standing before us held up one poor charred volume saying, "My friends, this is the New York State Library." Upon so small a foundation were plans quickly laid for the future; comfortable quarters were provided at the State Normal College, lectures delivered, books purchased, and with only a day's interruption our work proceeded with its former interest and efficiency.

As we looked upon the blackened walls of the Capitol we realized how great a calamity had fallen on the State but we were also filled with admiration for the courage and energy of our faculty. There was no faltering, no hesitation but a marvelous spirit of determination to save what was possible from the ruins and to rebuild upon the same broad lines.

To the class of 1912 there was one gleam of light in the darkness. The fire had been terrible but if it had to be, we were glad it had come at this time. Our recent examination in shelf and accession work had caused us many pangs of anxiety but out of the blackness peeped a silver-lining. Everything had been destroyed so our examination papers were no more. But our joy was short lived for everything was lost except one small iron box and this contained the examination papers, only blackened a little along the edges.

Then came the library trip, when we traveled from place to place, invested with somewhat the same feeling of importance that took possession of David Copperfield when he donned his first suit of mourning. In the eyes of the library world we were refugees from a great fire and
received with unusual interest. We told and retold the story of the conflagration and dwelt with pardonable pride on all that had been accomplished in the succeeding weeks.

On our return we found our room at the Normal College provided with unhoped-for conveniences and equipped with an excellent working library. So the year ended with a little fun intermingled with the long hours of cataloging and the bond between faculty and students was drawn more closely because of the great crisis through which they had passed together.

The next fall we assembled, our own class somewhat diminished in numbers, but not in enthusiasm. The gloomy loft of the guild house of the Cathedral of All Saints had been transformed into a pleasant study room and the walls lined with a splendid collection of books. In spite of the fire there seemed to be no lack of material for our work and we delighted in the soft strains of music which came to us from the choir boys in the cathedral.

Soon the strange faces of the juniors became familiar to us. We entertained them; they invited us to a dance; the months slipped by and we separated to do practice and research work in various parts of the country. All too quickly June arrived and our two years at Albany became but a memory.

Our course had been varied and broken, but was there one who was not glad and proud to belong to the " fire class? " We had lost much in the form of lecture notes and books, but we had gained far more in seeing the courage with which men and women could face a great disaster and the ability and perseverance which made it possible to build a new library on the ashes of the old.

Study Room, New York State Library School, 1897-1900
Room 51, southwest tower of Capital, fifth floor.

Lecture Room, New York State Library School, 1897-1900
Room 51A, State Capital. Afterward used as Director's office.

Lecture Room, New York State Library School, 1900-
Room 71, State Capital, southeast tower, seventh floor. [?]

Study Room, New York State Library School, 1893-1897.
Room 31, State Capital. Used also for several years for the summer school.

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