sealPurdue News

April 12, 2003

Gift turns the page for Purdue's largest library

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University's largest library celebrated its completed renovation and modernization today (Saturday, 4/12) with a gift announcement.

The Humanities, Social Science & Education Library event, at the library's new west entrance in Stewart Center, included an open house, library tours and demonstrations.

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At the heart of the two-year, $4.6 million transformation is the Walter and Saraellen Veon Electronic Reference Center, named in honor of the Veons' $1.2 million gift to aid the renovation. Walter Veon was presented with an Extraordinary Boilermaker Award during the Discover Purdue event.

"Purdue Libraries is a crucial part of Purdue's strategic plan to improve the learning environment and its resources for students on campus," said President Martin C. Jischke. "The Veons' generous gift – the largest single gift Purdue Libraries has ever received – is critical to the university's mission of discovery, learning and engagement."

Walter and Saraellen Veon, originally from Indianapolis, are members of the Class of 1934. Walter Veon graduated with a degree in engineering, and Saraellen earned a degree in home economics education. Their son and daughter-in-law also graduated from Purdue in 1966. The Veons met and courted at Purdue, spending time together at the libraries. Saraellen died in February 2000, and Walter, who was in the real estate business, now lives in Santa Fe, N.M., and Bradenton, Fla.

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"These two people, who used the library as students in the 1930s, shared our vision of a modern library," said Emily Mobley, dean of Purdue Libraries. "The library, then known as the General Library, brought back fond memories for the Veons. When the Veons were dating, Saraellen often studied in the library, and Walter would stop by at night to escort her home."

The hub of this renovated facility is the reference center, a 40-foot circle where staff members provide assistance and training in electronic research skills. There also are two information technology pods, which are part of the Electronic Academy concept at Purdue Libraries. In these pods, students and researchers can access electronic materials via the Internet while consulting library staff.

"The academy facilitates collaboration among students, faculty and librarians," said Mark Tucker, Humanities, Social Science & Education librarian. "This concept will allow students to learn how to become creative navigators when guided by sophisticated interactive technologies and librarians' instruction and support."

As part of the renovation, the library houses the Center for Scholarly Communication. The center is a laboratory in which students and researchers can convert text from print and microform into a digitized form.

In addition to the reference and communication centers, the library's new features include improved lighting, an enclosed copy center, 13 study rooms and a periodicals reading area.

The first floor houses the hard copy reference center, and the interlibrary loan is located on the second floor. The third floor contains a new conference room.

The second and third floors were updated with Marmoleum flooring, which is designed to withstand heavy loads, soften shoe noise and inhibit mold growth. Lights on the second and third floors were placed to eliminate shadows near bookshelves.

The renovation also allows the library to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Wider aisles between shelves, accessible workspace and rest rooms are some of the ADA-compliant features.

The Humanities, Social Science & Education Library contains the most extensive collections on the Purdue campus, featuring more than 806,000 books and bound periodicals, 1 million microforms, and thousands of U.S. government publications. The Humanities, Social Science & Education Library was opened 1913 and served as the general library until the John W. Hicks Undergraduate Library opened in 1982.

Purdue Libraries has more than 2.3 million volumes in 14 libraries on campus.

Writer: Amy Patterson-Neubert, (765) 494-9723,

Source: Martin C. Jischke, (765) 494-9708

Emily Mobley, (765) 494-2900,

Mark Tucker, (765) 494-2828,

Judith Schumaker, director of development and public relations, (765) 494-7987,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;


Courtney Thompson, a second-year master's degree candidate in American studies, consults Pam De Bonte, library secretary and reference assistant, and Monica Turner, library reference assistant, during an electronic search in the Walter and Saraellen Veon Electronic Reference Center. The reference center, in Purdue University's Humanities, Social Science & Education Library, is the result of a two-year renovation made possible by a $1.2 million gift from the Veons. (Purdue News Service photo/David Umberger)

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Walter and the late Saraellen Veon's $1.2 million gift to Purdue Libraries made possible the two-year Humanities, Social Science & Education Library renovation. The electronic reference center was named for the couple. The center is a 40-foot circle where staff members provide assistance and training in electronic research skills. (Photo provided)

A publication-quality photograph is available at

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