Donor Profile: Remembering Barbara D. Bryan, Librarian Emerita

Donor Profile: Remembering Barbara D. Bryan, Librarian Emerita

by Joan Overfield, University Librarian and Director of Library Services

Fairfield was a much different place in 1965 when Barbara Bryan became Fairfield University’s assistant library director at the invitation of Rev. Francis A. Small, S.J., University librarian. The library then was one large room in Canisius Hall with only about 13,000 books.

Fr. Small was beginning to plan the building of the new Nyselius Library, and needed the assistance of a skilled librarian like Barbara, who had held positions at Harvard, Yale, and the Fairfield Public Library. Nyselius Library opened in 1968, and Barbara was instrumental in managing the move into the new building. She became library director in 1974.

As academic needs changed, so did the library.

In the early 1990s, Barbara was the faculty escort at Commencement for Harold W. McGraw of McGraw-Hill. They shared a mutual love of libraries, and it was through her efforts that Mr. McGraw subsequently provided a $250,000 planning grant to the library. This grant was the start of the DiMenna-Nyselius Library. Many other grants followed from other foundations.

A strategic planner, Barbara devoted herself to the library and to Fairfield University, serving here for 31 years, and that is her greatest legacy. She had a vision of how libraries were developing, and she kept our University library moving forward, often ahead of our peers.

In 1988, Barbara was named Connecticut Librarian of the Year in recognition of her service to the profession. She was Fairfield University’s only library director who held the title Librarian Emerita, a recognition she treasured.

Barbara also foresaw the need to develop endowments to assure the growth of library collections and the expansion of services. As a result, she left a specific bequest to Fairfield University, augmented by a percentage of the residue of her estate, to establish the Barbara D. Bryan Library Endowment Fund for library resources. We depend on endowments such as hers to sustain the library’s databases, resources, and services.

Barbara was my friend for almost 38 years, and I had the pleasure of working with her for 22 years. She was an excellent administrator and mentor. After retiring in 1996, Barbara volunteered every day at the Fairfield Historical Society and served on various boards at the local, state, and national level. She was an avid reader, a crossword puzzle addict, a grammarian, a bird lover, and a collector of cartoons.

She passed away this January after a struggle with lung and heart disease. Many of those who helped her toward the end of her life were those who once worked under her here at the University — a real testament to the loyalty and respect that she had from her friends and colleagues. As one of them said, “Barbara was extraordinary — and knew that she was extraordinarily blessed.”


Fairfield University is a special place, and it is people like Barbara Bryan who have made it special.

Barbara invested in Fairfield by creating an endowment that will increase the number of library resources available to our students now and in the future. You, too, can make an impact on the student experience by including Fairfield in your estate plan.

We look forward to welcoming you into the Bellarmine Society, established to recognize those individuals who have helped assure the future of Fairfield University by including it in their will, living trust, or qualified retirement plan beneficiary designation — or by establishing life-income gifts, such as immediate and deferred charitable gift annuities and charitable remainder trusts.

For more information about how to include Fairfield University in your estate plan, or about joining the Bellarmine Society, contact the Office of Planned Giving at (203) 254-4020 or visit our Web site at