During the summer months, the Empire State VI, SUNY Maritime’s 565-foot training ship, sets sail on the high seas for a 90-day Semester at Sea tour. This year, the Empire State VI voyaged across the Atlantic to the Canary Islands, Copenhagen, Cobbe, and Lisbon.
The ship is staffed by regiments of SUNY students in pursuit of the training hours they need in order to apply for Merchant Marine licenses from the Coast Guard. Two librarians, each assigned a 45-day tour, accompany the cadets throughout their journey.
The ship’s library is a welcome space for the cadets to catch up on life in the U.S. Each morning, the ship’s librarian prints an email detailing the latest sports scores, headline articles, and entertainment news. Over 6,000 items are housed in the library; a routine part of the job involves re-shelving items that fall to the floor during rough waters.
The Empire State VI spends the remainder of the year docked at SUNY Maritime’s campus on the Throggs Neck Peninsula in the Bronx. The college is located within Fort Schuyler, a pentagonal former U.S. Army base originally conceived as part of a “third system” of forts constructed after the War of 1812. Known as the New York Merchant Marine Academy at the time, the college came to own the abandoned fort in 1933. Rehabilitated through WPA grants, the campus was ready for use in 1938.
Terrence Hoverter, the college’s first librarian, was hired after the college joined the SUNY system in 1948. At the time, the physical space was comprised of a two-story mess deck. The award-wining Stephen B. Luce Library was built in 1960. The library was dedicated in 1974 to its namesake, a naval and maritime educator who was instrumental in founding the institution.
The library currently contains about 90,000 print items and a significant special collection of materials dealing with the history of the American Merchant Marine and the Port of New York. Among the most interesting collections are the Sailors’ Snug Harbor Collection, the Marine Society of the City of New York, and the Sandy Hook Pilots. Recently, the library has made great strides in acquiring even more archival materials in these specialized areas. Its oldest documents go to the 18th century and include letters from George Washington.
Images provided by SUNY Maritime. Copyright restrictions apply.