Nesbit Traditional Reading Room

Nesbit Traditional Reading Room

Dr. Larry Nesbit gave 35 years of service to Mansfield State College and Mansfield University. In return, the council of trustees voted in November, 2004 to name the traditional reading room in the North Hall library in his honor. The reading room houses important books and documents relating to the institution.

Just before Nesbit’s retirement, Mansfield University held a ceremony to name the traditional reading room on May 22, 2005. 

“Dr. Nesbit’s contributions to Mansfield University have been significant and continuous for the last 34 years,” Council of Trustees Chairman Lewis Lee said at the November meeting, while reading from a resolution honoring Nesbit. “Therefore, be it resolved by the Council of Trustees on November 18, 2004 that the Traditional Reading Room should hereafter be renamed the ‘Larry L. Nesbit Reading Room’ as a fitting and well deserved honor for his lifelong contributions.”

Nesbit was highly involved in the project to save North Hall and oversaw its transformation into a state-of-the-art facility that houses the main, education and music libraries. It has been a model for other libraries around the world. The building had been abandoned in the early 1980s. It remained vacant and deteriorating until renovations were completed in 1996. 

 Nesbit has always been interested in expanding library services and made significant contributions to the Keystone Library Network and K-12 and K-16 library education. K-12 refers to primary school education (grades kindergarten through 12th grade) while K-16 refers to education from kindergarten through four years of undergraduate education in college.

Nesbit was also a driving force behind a project in the late 1990s called NorthCentral Net, which linked regional school libraries with the North Hall library, the J.V. Brown Library in Williamsport, and the Guthrie and Susquehanna health systems. The project linked those organizations to expand the often limited library resources in rural areas.

He also chaired the State Rare Books Library Committee, which secured a $6 million grant from the state department of general services. That grant money, along with other funding from the Capital Preservation Committee, is being used to build a rare books library in Harrisburg. Many old books and newspapers are deteriorating and such a library will help preserve these pieces of the past. Mansfield University serves as the fiscal agent for revenues collected for the project.

“They (the committee) all talked about the value of the collection and the need to preserve these historic books, which were used to forge the governmental structure of the Commonwealth and the nation and to write the Declaration of Independence,” Nesbit said in November, 2004. “In addition to these resources, the State Library also has over one half mile of bound newspapers from the Colonial period. It is the most comprehensive collection of Pennsylvania newspapers in the world. There are also collections of rare pamphlets, and Pennsylvania imprints which represent early printing in Colonial America.”

Earlier in his career, Nesbit chaired a university committee that looked into the feasibility of building South Hall Mall. That piece of land had been used as a parking lot and had space for 30 vehicles. In 1984, the student government leaders discovered a $20,000 surplus in an account for vending machine and bookstore revenues. The students settled on using the money to create a gathering place. Since most of the campus is built on a hill, there are few flat spaces for students, faculty, staff, and visitors to just “hang out.” At the time, the only major flat spaces on campus were the tennis courts and the football field.

The students pledged $60,000, including the extra $20,000 from the vending machine account, and challenged the trustees to match the pledge. The trustees did just that and aided the Mansfield University Foundation in securing additional money. The mall was built for about $160,000 with no state aid.

The 240-by-69 foot outdoor mall was officially dedicated during homecoming activities on Oct. 8, 1988. Nesbit said that the project was unique for several reasons. First, it is uncommon for students to issue challenges to the trustees. Second, a major construction project was completed without the use of state money. Finally, Nesbit told the Wellsboro Gazette in 1988 that the strangest thing was that a parking lot on a college campus was converted into open space and that rarely happens.

“Usually, it’s the other way around,” he observed.