Barbara Opar Celebrates 50 Years at Syracuse University

Sep 20, 2023 by Syracuse University
Syracuse University is hosting an event on October 5 to celebrate Barbara Opar’s 50th anniversary as Architecture Librarian and French Literature and Language Librarian. All are welcome to attend.

For 50 years, Barbara Opar has devoted her working life to serving the students and faculty of Syracuse University, as Architecture librarian and as librarian for French Language and Literature, as well as a Syracuse University Libraries’ student employee. Barbara spends much of her time in Slocum Hall helping students with their reference and resource questions, while assisting with library collections, reserves and other faculty support issues pertaining to the Libraries. Generations of faculty and students know Barbara and have benefitted from her expertise and service.

Barbara has made continuous and outstanding contributions to foster excellence throughout her distinguished career as part of the Libraries, the School of Architecture and the profession. She has been firmly committed to building trust among the architecture community and improving the undergraduate experience. For decades, Barbara has supervised and mentored students who are an important part of the King + King Architecture Library team. She has been active in providing library instruction, including sessions for all incoming School of Architecture freshmen and graduate students, thesis preparation sessions, and architecture peer advisor sessions.

In her own words as told in the news story “Reminiscing on 50 years of Bird Library with Architectural Librarian Barbara Opar ’73, G’74”, Barbara said, “My purpose has not changed. I’m always here for the students to help answer their reference questions. I still like doing reference work, I enjoy working with our students and I enjoy the public service nature of the job… Syracuse University is my home, and it has been my life all these years.”

Nationally, for many years Barbara was a team member of Educators-Practitioners-Industry Connection, a special project of the American Institute of Architects Continuing Education Division, where she advised on architectural resources and provided academic perspective on collaborative projects. Barbara has been a frequent presenter at national conferences, including the Association of Architecture School Librarians. Barbara has published extensively, including editing An Anthology of Building Technology: The Field Condition by Theodore Ceraldi; a book chapter in Using the Engineering Literature by Bonnie Osif; a book chapter in Library Collection Development for Professional Programs: Trends and Best Practices by Sarah Holder; and a book chapter in The Handbook of Art and Design Librarianship by Judy Dyki and Paul Glassman. She has also extensively published various peer-reviewed journal articles, including Art Documentation, Bulletin of the Art Libraries Society of North America. Barbara also authors regular book reviews and blog posts for the Art Libraries Society of North America. Since 2001 she’s prepared the monthly booklist for the Society of Architectural Historians. She co-moderates the Women in Architecture Register’s Committee and is working on the Second edition of the Women in Architecture Bibliography. 

Barbara has not only been a long-time board member but served as an officer of the Association of Architecture School Librarians, the Art Libraries Society of North America and Beta Phi Mu, Pi Lambda Sigma Chapter (the librarian honor society).

At Syracuse, Barbara has been a longtime co-sponsor and organizer of the University’s annual French Colloquium, where she has presented on various topics. Barbara has also contributed to various committees, including those actively promoting women and People of Color in architecture. 

As an undergraduate student employee of the Libraries, Barbara worked on the moving crew responsible for transporting the contents of the Fine Arts branch library from Slocum Hall to the newly built Bird Library in 1972, logging countless evening hours packing up books and ensuring they were properly organized in their new home.

Years later, Barbara Opar was central to the successful transformation of the Architecture Reading Room into the King + King Architecture Library. Her insight into day-to-day operations and usage of the space were instrumental in helping improve placement of service desks and seating. This resulted in better-defined collection areas and brought enhanced teaching technology into the architecture library for the first time. Barbara sought faculty input on refining the core collection and identified over 1,500 monographs for transfer. Simultaneously, her review of journal holdings in Bird Library resulted in dozens of titles going to the Facility, which provided much needed shelf space to absorb the monographs. As the project unfolded, she collaborated with staff from various departments across the Libraries, Advancement and Campus Planning, Design and Construction. Barbara successfully managed multiple deadlines at a rapid pace with ease.

From publishing an article about the first eBook at Syracuse University in 2003 to an article outlining the Libraries’ pandemic response in 2022, Barbara has been fostering change her entire career.

In 2015 she was awarded the Distinguished Service Award from the Association of Architecture School Librarians (AASL). At the time, Dean Speaks observed that “Barbara’s contributions are essential to what makes our school distinct among others in architectural education and discourse. Her commitment and ceaseless work over the years have been invaluable, as has her understanding of the vital significance of the human element in supporting the work of the school.”  That sentiment remains even more true today.

Barbara Opar
has served as the SAH Booklist Editor since 2001. Her monthly booklists and exhibition catalog lists highlight recently published architectural books and related works and are eagerly anticipated features of the SAH Newsletter. She joined SAH in 2010 and has attended many SAH Annual International Conferences. She is an active member of the SAH Women in Architecture Affiliate Group and created the SAH Women in Architecture Bibliography.