Holy Name Library for the Franciscan Institute




Buildings Index


Photo courtesy of D. Higley in the SBU construction office.

The Friedsam Library Rare Books Wing is a state-of-the-art facility designed to preserve the Friedsam Library's vast collection of rare books. St. Bonaventure University has a long history of collecting rare materials, dating back to the first librarian of the college, Joachim Guerrini, O.F.M. Father Guerrini collected many rare material for the library during his tenure as the first librarian at St. Bonaventure's College, and he continued to donate materials to the library after he left.  The facility currently houses about 10,000 books printed in the 1500s, 1600s, and 1700s, 100 late medieval manuscripts, 100 modern manuscripts, approximately 300 incunabula--books published within the first 50 years after the invention of printing--and the facility has much room for the collection the grow.

A member of the Rare Books collection.

Planning of the building was initiated by Paul and Irene Bogoni, who also provided the initial funding for the building's construction. Additional funding was provided by Leslie C. Quick III and the estate of John R. McGinley, Sr. Construction was completed in August 2008. Shortly thereafter, all of the rare materials, which had been housed in the old Boehner Room, the vault, cabinets in the Reading Room, and other storage facilities in the library, were moved into the new wing. It took student workers about two weeks to relocate approximately 10,000 items. After the move, the wall that separated the Boehner Room from the Franciscan Institute collection was torn down in order to give the Institute badly needed space.

The entryway that connects the Rare Books Wing to the rest of the library is part of the library's original structure. This large room was originally split widthwise into two smaller rooms. The room in the back was the library's original vault, and the room in the front was the vault's antechamber, known as the Fr. Pamfilo Room. Named for the first president of St. Bonaventure University, the Fr. Pamfilo Room was the favorite space of Father Irenaeus Herscher, the Library Director of the Friedsam Library from 1937 until 1970. He also played a role in securing many donations to the Rare Books Collection. Father Irenaeus kept materials that he enjoyed showing to patrons in the Pamfilo Room, including a page from the Gutenberg Bible and a collection of miniature books.

Before being renovated for its present use, the entryway went through several different manifestations. After the rare books materials were moved to the newer vault in the basement of Friedsam, the wall between the two rooms was opened up to create a lounge area and copy room. Later, the room was converted into a conference room. Today it serves as a display area for some of the rare materials housed in the Rare Books Wing.

Father Irenaeus standing in the Pamfilo room looking into the vault. The portrait of Father Pamfilo was recently rediscovered in the Quick Center for the Arts. The University is looking into having it restored.

Father Irenaeus in the original vault behind the Pamfilo Room, showing rare materials to Olean schoolchildren, circa 1972.

Father Irenaeus standing by the door to the vault in the Pamfilo Room with Olean schoolchildren, 1972.

On the left side of the entryway to the Rare Books Wing, there stands a set of ornate wooden bookcases and an archway. This woodwork was originally part of the Theology Room in the Old Library that was housed inside Alumni Hall before the construction of Friedsam Memorial Library in 1938. Upon the completion of the Friedsam Library, all of the library materials were moved from Alumni Hall to the new building. This included the wooden bookcases and archway, which were relocated to the Pamfilo Room. The bookcases were used to house books proscribed by the Church, that could not be housed in the main collection. Today the shelves and their contents serve as decoration.

The archway as it stood in the Theology Room of the Library in Alumni Hall before being moved to Friedsam Library.

The archway and bookcases as they stand in the entryway to the Rare Books Wing today.

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Inside the Rare Books Wing

The Rare Books Wing itself sits inside an enclosed glass hallway. Access to the wing is highly restricted due to the rarity and value of the materials inside. The first room one enters in the wing is a study room, which allows scholars to have a rare item brought out to them for examination, as well as allowing certain classes to have a special session using some of the materials. For many people at St. Bonaventure, this is the farthest that they will be allowed to enter in the Rare Books Wing.

The Study Room in the Rare Books Wing

The main room inside the Rare Books Wing houses the Rare Books Collection. A number of high-density, movable shelves sit inside this room. These shelves, designed to hold the maximum amount of materials while using the least amount of space, are ten feet high and twenty-one feet long. The shelves move along a set of tracks, allowing one aisle between the shelves to be open and the rest of the shelves to be compressed together. This greatly reduces the floor space required to house such a large volume of material. 

High-density shelving safely houses the materials while conserving space.

In order to conserve space, the books are grouped by general size in addition to the cataloging system. The oversized and the smaller books are shelved separately from the "medium-sized" books that make up most of the collection. In addition to the main room in which the books are housed, the Rare Books Wing also contains a workroom that provides the space and the climate-controlled environment necessary for working to preserve the materials in the collection.

Due to the size, rarity, and value of the Rare Books Collection, the Friedsam Rare Books Wing was designed with a number of state-of-the-art features to preserve to collection. The facility is kept locked at all times, and the entire wing is monitored on closed-circuit television. The Wing also has state-of-the-art, electronically controlled environmental controls that maintain the safest temperature and humidity levels in the facility. This prevents the growth of harmful molds and the deterioration of the materials. A gas-based fire suppression system ensures that in the event of a fire, the surviving materials would not be damaged, as would be the case with a water-based sprinkler system.

The collection is protected in seemingly simpler ways as well. For example, the upward-reflecting light that hangs from the facility's ceiling has a purpose. Direct exposure to light is incredibly harmful to books, as can be seen on faded copies of older books in the Friedsam Library's main collection. By directing the light in the Rare Books Wing upward and reflecting it off of the lightly colored ceiling, the threat of light damage to the Rare Books Collection is reduced.

The upward-reflecting light in the Rare Books Wing reduces the threat of light damage to the collection.


Links of Interest:
Father Irenaeus Herscher Alumni Hall
Father Pamfilo da Magliano The Franciscan Institute
Joachim Guerrini, O.F.M. Builders of the Library Collection
Fr. Philotheus Boehner, O.F.M.

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Last updated: 03 December 2012