Bringing Focus to the Materials Collection

Barbara Opar
Librarian for Architecture, French Language and Literature, Judaic Studies and Religion Research and Scholarship
Bird Library at Syracuse University

The first blog post on the topic of the (Physical) Materials Collection housed in the Architecture Reading Room was produced almost a year ago: This unique collection is jointly supported by the Syracuse University Libraries and the School of Architecture.

Since then, programming has been added. Scheduled vendor visits have been introduced to help promote the existing collection and to grow it in different ways with new products and expanded information on existing samples. Student and faculty feedback obtained through a survey strengthened our resolve to introduce this educational component. Developing the materials collection through focused sessions, therefore, provided the opportunity for involving students and faculty and acquainting them with this new collection. Since 96 percent of survey respondents indicated a need for more product information, this was seen as a mandate to offer Material Focus sessions.

The existing materials samples collection was reviewed to identify potential vendors based on the quality of the product, use patterns and depth of holdings. Additionally one of the comprehensive design studios in the School of Architecture was researching metals. Vendors with regional representatives were identified; an email drafted and sent and appropriate dates determined. Several viable candidates responded. Hendricks Manufacturing agreed to an April 1st date and was able to offer continuing education credits. This became our first Material Focus session with an informal demonstration, a presentation and an opportunity for questions. Hendricks sent three representatives to the event, with the Vice President of Sales, John Brandt, conducting the lecture session. The chat session drew a good number of attendees with about 14 or 15 people attending the more formal meeting.

Hendrick 3form

The fall program is now underway and our second Material Focus session was led by Russell Blanchard of 3form. 3form is known to many in the academic and professional architecture communities for their innovative products including translucent resin and recycled glass. The September 17th program again afforded the opportunity for informal discussion, followed by an overview of the company’s products at 11 o’clock. About 25 attended this presentation.

After our first Material Focus session, we were contacted by several vendors, who now see this as an opportunity to educate those who will soon be specifying their materials. Just this fall, Larry Liberatore, a part-time School of Architecture faculty member, actively began helping us identify and recruit additional speakers.

Additional Material Focus events are planned for the fall, so stay tuned! Patterned after the lunch and learn partnerships of many firms and vendors, the goal of the Materials Focus sessions is student training on how architectural products and systems are designed. Faculty, alumni and guests are offered the opportunity to earn continuing education credits and learn about new vendor lines. The sessions often result in more products coming into the materials collection. We hope that Materials Focus sessions will gain momentum, provide outreach and educational opportunities, while expanding use of this unique collection.


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