My research colleagues and I can think of no better way to launch our new blog on the research collections than to begin with our readers. Our goal for the blog is to highlight the known and less well-known strengths of the research collections as well as the latest updates from our ongoing collection development and outreach activities.
One of my favorite ways to take a snapshot of the collection and its use is by browsing the reserve shelves in the Rose Main Reading Room. The reserve shelves hold the books that patrons have requested for use onsite in the various reading rooms. Rather than returning the books to the closed-stacked shelves and repeating the retrieval process all over again, patrons are able to put books “on reserve” or, in other words, “on hold” for as long as they need to use them. (More details on the Library’s new online research “holds and renewal” service forthcoming in a future post.)
The reserve shelves reveal and reaffirm the breadth and depth of the collection in unexpected and surprising ways. Here sit the works of Machiavelli next to a study on Walt Whitman; books in Hindi and German bookend a handful of studies on Marie Antoinette; 19th-century volumes of Bicycling World, a popular magazine devoted to the interests of cycling, return from offsite storage; Simón Bolívar and the early British coal industry compete for shelf space; heavy volumes of House & Garden from the 1930s and 1940s overflow onto book trucks; and nestled between the Craft of the Ancient Historian and Andrea Dworkin’s Woman Hating are a cluster of books on the life of Raja Rammohun Roy.
There have been many attempts over the years to find just the right metaphor to describe such a collection—a universe of libraries, a coral reef, a memory bank, a treasure trove, an iceberg?—yet I think the best is, simply, a research library. Please follow us as we explore the many contours and hidden corners, the new and the old, and the standard resources and obscure treasures of this great collection.