Rare Books

The Special Collections Department had a terrific year! So much was accomplished due to a knowledgeable staff who provide excellent user services. They developed an exceptional number of new Web sites that greatly increased the awareness of the Internet community, both local and remote, to the unique resources available through University Libraries. They accepted the challenge of learning to prepare Web pages while not relinquishing their other responsibilities, including collection, development, management, and processing; traditional outreach such as exhibits and presentations; and direct user services. The four key staff spent nearly 2000 hours at the Reference Desk and responded to an ever increasing number of e-mail messages generated by the new Web sites, in addition to the traditional postal, phone, and walk-in references queries.

New Web Resources Improve Access to Special Collections


New Web Homepages (McMillan)


Outreach included Online Exhibits


Major Collections Organized


Special Collections Policies (documented new and existing guidelines)


Disaster in the Rare Book Room

Mold bloom developed during the summer of 1995 when the cooling system malfunctioned and the war humid air was pumped into the Rare Book Room. Laura Katz Smith identified the problem and immediately assumed responsibility for removal, restoration, and cleaning. She called to action the Disaster Action Team--examining every single book and those with any indication of possible mold were removed from the room, air dried, and subsequently cleaned. She was able to save all the rare books. While about half of the Brittle Book collection was effected (circa 400 volumes), only about 250 brittle books had to be discarded (working with the Principal Bibliographer), with the remainder moved to Storage. Smith also initiated a regular monitoring and cleaning plan for the Rare Book Room.


Physical space in Special Collections is at a premium in every area. The Rare Book Room had paintings and art work leaning against the spines of value and rare books. The space in the Reading Room and the Basement was maximized by stacking map-type cases in each area, providing flat rather than rolled storage of blueprints and architectural drawings. The Processing Room and the Staff office space were somewhat improved by moving 500 cubic feet of manuscripts and books to offsite storage. However, there isn't enough space for the staff to have computer tables next to their desks; they average only ????? square feet of floor space person. These crowded conditions are not conducive to efficient work, but the staff are very congenial.


Presentations about Special Collections and its Internet Activities (McMillan)

"Digital Images and Special Collections on the World Wide Web" for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) annual meeting, May 1996, College Park, MD

"VIVA Special Collections: Web Design and Content Considerations" for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) annual meeting, May 1996, College Park, MD

IAWA for the International Archive of Women in Architecture Board in the New Media Center, for the IAWA's symposium and 10th annual meeting, Oct. 22, 1995


Presentations about the Special Collections Department

"Civil War, Genealogy, and Special Collections" (Smith)

for the Livesay Historical Society, July 1995

"Preserving Personal Papers" (Smith)

for the Coal Mining Heritage Association of Montgomery County, October 1995

"What is an Archive?" (Smith)

for the Blacksburg New School 3rd and 4th graders, October 1995

"Civil War and the Billings' Materials" (Smith)

for the Civil War Weekend (two groups of about 60 each), March 1996

"Special Collections at VT's University Libraries (Smith and Kennelly)

for the New Dimensions, April 9, 1996

"Special Collections Department" (Smith and Kennelly)

for the University Libraries' Reference Department, June 27, 1996


1996/1997 at the Special Collections Department

Special Collections Department 1995/1996

access to manuscripts, images, archives, and rare books
4,500 ft. manuscripts 3,000 digital images 1,000 ft. archival records 45,000 rare books

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