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Sahyun Library Addition
updated: Apr 16, 2010, 4:36 PM

By Cari Thomas and John Woodward

Last Sunday afternoon marked the official ground breaking for the Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society's Sahyun Library addition. First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal, major expansion donors, top SBCGS officers and expansion chairpersons, and the project architect turned the first shovels-full. Each person who attended this groundbreaking also took their turn with a golden shovel. What a thrill, to help start the construction process.

The expansion will create a new stack room and multi-media area and will enlarge by 92 percent the footprint of this family history research library, at 316 Castillo Street. In 1998 the library - once a scientific laboratory - and its surrounding 1.5 acres of redwoods, stone pines, fruit trees, roses, and an additional seven out-buildings, were donated by the family of Dr. Melville Sahyun to the SBCGS, a non-profit 501(c)(3) and all-volunteer organization.

In the mid-30's Dr. Sahyun discovered the first practical method of producing crystalline insulin in its purest form, making the hormone available to millions of diabetics worldwide. His method, with modifications, is still used today in the commercial production of insulin. Further research during World War II led to his development of the first injectable amino acid preparation, "Parenamine," used to rebuild cell tissues of victims of severe burns, wounds and serious diseases. In 1950 he established the independent scientific Sahyun Laboratories in Santa Barbara on this property, where more than 50 discoveries were made, mostly for prescription medicines. The best known of these discoveries is "Visine" ™ for reducing eye inflammation. Dr. Sahyun died in 1977.

In the first nine months after the SBCGS took title to the property in 1998 and started the transformation of the laboratory, member volunteers tore out existing fixtures, walls, and plumbing; rebuilt walls and painted the entire interior; built by hand 960 linear feet of beautiful oak library shelving, supplemented those with an additional 18 sections of metal shelving for periodicals; transported and re-shelved 580 linear feet of genealogical books, maps, and periodicals; built a new handicapped restroom with tiled floor and walls; and even re-bricked the entryway! Since then the 500-plus member society has increased the genealogical research holdings of the Sahyun to almost 17,000 distinctly Dewey-Decimal-classified items.

To assist researchers and/or the public, multiple volunteer librarians are on hand when the library is open four days a week: T-Th-F from 10 am to 3 pm, and Sun from 1 - 4 pm. The Sahyun is located between the 101 Freeway and Montecito Street, at 316 Castillo St. Santa Barbara 93101. 805.884.9909. Look for the changes during our construction and for Public Open Houses when we have our Grand (Re-) Opening!

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