Not letting the Vietnam War be forgotten at the Vietnam Learning Center with Central librarian Steve Nash

Not letting the Vietnam War be forgotten at the Vietnam Learning Center with Central librarian Steve Nash

In the Science & History Division on the 3rd floor of the downtown Bausch & Lomb Public Library is a rich resource of books, magazines, maps and primary resources:  the Vietnam Learning Center.

Recently, I met the Center’s manger, librarian Steve Nash.  Himself a Vietnam era veteran–having served ten years in the Army Reserves–for Steve the Center is more than a job.  In many ways, the Center is his mission. Steve explained that becoming VLC manger was unplanned — just serendipity.  For those who use and enjoy the Center, that good fortune is also ours.

More on the Center from Steve:

Thanks to a generous grant from the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 20, a few years ago, the library was able to establish this center to inform and educate the public and not let the Vietnam War be forgotten.  Seating is available to watch news documentaries of the era and U.S. military combat films. Original maps of battles and military bases are readily available to view. Visitors can look at diorama built by a vet [featured photo] and a display of uniforms and equipment.


Center manager, librarian Steve Nash

I manage the Vietnam Learning Center. When I was a young teen, growing up in Syracuse, in August 1964, President Johnson came to dedicate the Newhouse School of Communications, located on the campus of Syracuse University. I was invited up to campus to hear the President speak by my mom who was a secretary at SU.

President Johnson arrives in Syracuse for ceremony at SU, August 5, 1964. (Syracuse University Libraries)

President Johnson arrives in Syracuse for ceremony at SU, August 5, 1964. (Syracuse University Libraries)

After speaking about the importance of education, the President’s remarks took on entirely different tone and message. Just days before the speech, a US Navy destroyer had been fired upon in the Gulf of Tonkin by the North Vietnamese. Little did I or anyone in the audience at the time realize the historical significance of the speech. Just a few days later the “Gulf of Tonkin Resolution” was passed by the U.S. Congress, which gave President Johnson authorization, without a formal declaration of war, to greatly increase America’s involvement in Vietnam.


Steve describing the collection

After graduating from high school in 1966, I received a tuition scholarship to attend Syracuse. During my time in college as the war raged, anti war protests increased, and the war affected each person in my generation. The war hit home as one my good high school friends was killed serving in Vietnam and my cousin was killed as a result of “friendly fire.” Just before my graduation in 1970, I enlisted in the Army Reserves and eventually served ten years. I was ready to serve if called upon, but the trend then was to rely on the draft and not call up the reserves.

I received a Masters in Library Science from SUNY Geneseo. and was hired by Greece Central as a school media specialist teacher. I chaperoned a number of 8th grade student field trips to Washington, D.C. We would go to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and I, along with my colleagues and students, would quietly and respectfully make rubbings of the names of family or friends whose names were on the wall.

There is a new, tremendously personal resource now available online to the public. Thanks to a grant from the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 20, the Office of the Rochester City Historian and the Monroe County Historian’s Office, the library recorded interviews with 68 local Vietnam War era veterans. Most of the oral history interviews were conducted by students from St. John Fisher and Nazareth College. The Veterans Oral History Project can be accessed online at Rochester Voices

I would heartily encourage you to visit the Vietnam Learning Center at the Central Library. Please call 428-8110 if you have a question, would like a our flyer, or if we can be of any help. Please contact if you wish to donate books and materials related to the Vietnam War.

The times I have been at the Center the couches and tables are usually used.  I have seen people intently watching the continuous videos of a bygone era in a foreign land.  No doubt, some of the viewers were there themselves. No matter how the Center is used, the Vietnam War will not be forgotten.

Also on Vietnam veterans and the Rundel library:

On Veteran’s Day at Buckland and Highland Parks. And the Moral Equivalent of War

Veterans visit the School Without Walls as students begin in depth study of the Vietnam War

Kitty Jospé provides noon nourishment for the mind at Rundel.

On a Cal Ripken signed 1989 glove, prized possessions, and the Rundel Library

About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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