Andrew Farkas has faced many challenges in his life, but perhaps none more daunting than building a library from scratch in less than two years.
Farkas was hired in May of 1970 to develop a library for the state's newest university. When he started, the university was located in an office at the Florida National Bank building in downtown Jacksonville. He recalls that he started with a pencil and a pad of paper and was told to build a 100,000-volume library by the time the doors of the University opened in October of 1972.
"I considered it an exceptional opportunity, the greatest possible challenge of a librarian's career, to be entrusted with the creation of a new university library from the ground up," he says. "It was a magnificent professional opportunity to be asked to recruit and hire an entire staff, establish policies, set up all the rules and procedures, build the collection by individually selecting every title and to communicate to an architect how the interior of the library building ought to be laid out conforming to one's ideas."
The UNF challenge was different from anything Farkas had undertaken before. He had worked in the library at the University of California at Davis from 1962 to 1967. Before that, he was a stacks supervisor at Occidental College in Los Angeles, where he received his bachelor's degree. He received his master's of library science at the University of California in Berkeley in 1962.
But with his trademark determination, Farkas went about building a new library. On Oct. 2, 1972, at precisely 8 a.m., the doors of the new library were opened. "All the intellectual and physical hard work we had collectively invested in the enterprise of building a 100,000-volume library for our charter class, had borne fruit just as we had planned and envisioned."
Farkas, who is now the University's most senior employee, has not stopped building the library since the day the doors opened. It now has more than 600,000 books, periodicals and government documents and 1.1 million microfiche and several database collections accessible by computer. For this work and his work teaching, Farkas was awarded the 1991 Distinguished Professor Award.
A native of Hungary, Farkas still finds time to pursue his other passion -- opera. He has written five books and numerous articles on the subject. His latest book was published by Amadeus Press in September. The book, Jussi, is about the great Swedish tenor Jussi Bjoerling and was coauthored by the singer's widow. Farkas is also an expert on Enrico Caruso having coauthored a book with the legendary singer's son in 1990.
Whether it concerns operas or libraries, Farkas is a perfectionist. He defines a perfectionist as a person for whom good enough is not good enough. For the last 25 years, students, faculty and staff have been able to benefit from that perfectionism at the Thomas G. Carpenter Library.