ALLEGANY, N.Y. — During a recent blessing and rededication of the Friedsam Memorial Library at St. Bonaventure University, Sr. Margaret Carney, OSF, university president, shared these words from an Allegany man who did not attend SBU:
“’You know, Sister, have you ever looked at the steps of the library? They’re worn away. Think of the thousands of people who have crossed on those steps and all that they have done in this world.”
HNP friars are among the thousands of people who have climbed those large stone steps. Some were present at the March 7 ceremony, which was attended by 75 members of the community.
The program included a blessing by Francis Di Spigno, OFM, executive director of university ministries, and prayers by Provincial Councilor F. Edward Coughlin, OFM, SBU’s vice president for Franciscan mission, and Fr. Robert Karris, OFM, of the Franciscan Institute. There were also brief talks by library director Paul Spaeth and Dr. Michael Fischer, provost and vice president for academic affairs, and a state senate proclamation read by Bill Heaney, representing state Sen. Catharine Young.
“I can well imagine that if we continue to plan for and steward this treasure appropriately, the library will continue to be all that was envisioned when it was first created, while continuing to adapt appropriately to the needs of new students and faculty in the decades and centuries to come,” Fischer said.
Several friars were involved in the original building’s construction. A shovel wielded by Albert O’Brien, OFM,then-librarian, was the first to dig into the sod during the groundbreaking ceremony held on May 21, 1937. Albert provided the inspiration for the construction of the library, according to St. Bonaventure University’s archives, though he died in an accident soon after the groundbreaking. His successor, Irenaeus Herscher, OFM, was the library’s first director.
The university’s president at the time, Thomas Plassmann, OFM, obtained funding for the building through a donation from the foundation of Col. Michael Friedsam, a wealthy New York City businessman.
Today, the library has more than 375,000 titles and more than 35,000 periodicals in print or digital form. The building also houses two computer labs and the university’s archives, as well as special art, poetry and journalism collections.
Its latest addition is the Holy Name Library for the Franciscan Institute, opened in 2008, that was blessed last year by Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM. Holy Name Library includes the most important collection of Franciscana in North America, more than 9,000 rare books and manuscripts dating from the 12th century up to and including the seminal journals of Thomas Merton, who taught at SBU in the early 1940s, according to a press release from the university.
A detailed history of the Friedsam Memorial Library can be found on the university archives’s website. The university is encouraging alumni to share their memories of the library on a blog created for the anniversary.