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Melville Milestone

Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the Melville Library


By Kristen J. Nyitray, Contributing Editor

In this issue, “Rare Treasures” celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Melville Library, and the library’s history from its first home in the Gold Coast mansion Coe Hall at Oyster Bay through the present. Highlights from the timeline illustrate the library’s dramatic transformation in the past six decades. What has remained constant is its central role in producing outstanding research and scholarship, and as a place that builds community for the entire university. 

The full timeline of library history is available on the website of Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA), the library division that stewards the university’s distinctive collections of rare books, manuscripts, historical maps, and archives. For more information, visit the SCUA website here. 


1963: The original library on the Stony Brook campus opened in July 1963 with seating for 700 students. A modular design, the intent was to eventually increase the footprint of the building to keep pace with the university’s rapidly expanding programs and growing enrollment.

Original Melville Library building 1960s

Students walk along the east side of the Library, circa 1965. The original Chemistry building (now Frey Hall) is pictured in the background. Source: University Archives, SBU Libraries.


1969: Architect Ervin Galantay transformed the existing library into one of the largest and most imposing buildings on campus. Designed as an addition to the original library, it wrapped around the perimeter of the original library, which remained intact. Construction involved building four, five-story wings around the original library structure. A glass atrium connects the original building to the new areas of the building.

1970s Melville Library building

Before the days of parking permits and the grassy Staller steps: cars parked outside of the Melville Library, circa 1971. Source: University Archives, SBU Libraries



2000s: The University Libraries provide new ways to discover information through remote access to electronic resources. In 2019, its comprehensive content discovery portal named “SEARCH” is launched. This new system is part of a SUNY-wide initiative that allows researchers to search collections across all SUNY campuses. 

Melville Library building

The Staller Steps outside the Melville Library is a favorite gathering spot on campus. Photograph, circa 2013. Source: Stony Brook University.


Kristen J. Nyitray is Associate Librarian, Director of Special Collections and University Archives, and University Archivist at Stony Brook University. A Certified Archivist (Academy of Certified Archivists), she is recipient of the Chancellor’s Award (SUNY) and the President’s Award (SBU) for Excellence in Librarianship. Her current scholarship focuses on Indigenous histories and representations in archival sources. Among her publications are the books Stony Brook: State University of New York and Long Island Beaches