Last weekend during River Romance weekend, one of the tours available was a tour of the Rundel Building of the Rochester Public Library. You had to register ahead of time for the tour. The response was great. On Friday when I went there were about 75 people that showed up. We had to be split up into 3 groups of 25.
We started in the lobby with brief history of the building. The money for the building a library was left by Morton Rundel who died in 1911. Law suits over his estate delayed the construction of the building until 1934.
The building is built over what was the original Erie Canal and also the Johnson & Seymour millrace that was used to power early flour mills. Water still running in that millrace is used by the library to cool the building in summer. The Erie Canal had been abandoned by the time the Rundel building was constructed. At that time the Rochester subway ran in the Canal bed.
There are plans to make the veranda on the building that over looks the Genesee River available on a limited basis. It hasn’t been open for many years. It is very narrow. It appears to be only a couple of feet wide.
Our tour started the top. We went all the way to the roof. (You can click on any of the pictures for a larger view.)
Broad Street bridge, Blue Cross Arena on left, Lawyers Co-op in center, First Federal building on the right. There used to be a rotating restaurant in the top section of the First Federal building but it closed for lack of business.
Then our group moved down to the second floor…
This is the Kirtas book scanner that is used to digitize books. It uses mirrors to take pictures of two pages before using a jet of air to automatically turn to the next page. They also have another book scanner. They are currently scanning a scrapbook of the riots from the 1960s and also the obit scrapbooks. The obit scrapbooks have clipped obits from the 1930s to the 1960s. All the books, scrapbooks, etc are available for free on the library website.
Anita (black shirt) gives are group of the Local History and Genealogy Division. She pointed out that they are the only Division that still has a card catalog. In there are also old school yearbooks, newspaper clipping, old newspapers on microfilm and lots of books that only can be used within the division.
Next we down to the basement…
This part of the basement is the lower stacks. Before the Bausch & Lomb library building was built, 80% of the books were in closed stacks. Now only 20% of books are in the stacks. For the most part these are books and magazines that aren’t used very often. I looked around and found…
In a maintenance room in the basement is this trap door (right) about 3×2 feet which opens to a metal ladder going down into the former Johnson & Seymour millrace. Seeing as the water in there is used to cool the building, occasionally workers have to climb down to maintain the piping system. The trap is usually locked from vagrants in the subway bed and urban explorers.
The last area we saw I didn’t get a photo of. It is the inter-library loan department. They move books between all the libraries in the area. In 2012 they sorted and moved 3.8 million books. Yo can order a book that is only in one library and have it brought to your local library. They also return the book to its original library after use.
I really enjoyed this whole tour. It was great to see some of the areas that aren’t usually open to the public. If you want to take the tour, you will have to wait until next year in October for the next available tour.