A window inside life at Augustana College

What Happens on the First Floor of the Library?

I’ve realized, more and more, that one thing I really want to do with this blog is talk about places, people and aspects of campus that the general population doesn’t really know much about. The things you don’t see on your Admissions tours.

One of the best-kept secrets (for me, at least) about Augustana was Special Collections. Last year, I’d heard it mentioned a few times, knew it was on the first floor of the library, but didn’t really know what happened there. Until one of my professors told me I should apply for a job in Special Collections! I did, got hired and have spent one happy term working there 7-8 hours a week.

Almost as soon as I began working there, I came to believe that Special Collections is really one of the coolest places on campus. Maybe that’s just because I’m a nerd. Because Special Collections is the archival section of the library. It has lots of information about the Quad Cities and the whole Mississippi Valley as well as Augustana itself. And I don’t just mean books about the area, though there are a lot of those. I mean letters and artifacts and papers of people who lived and worked in this area many, many years ago. If someone wants to look at the 1925 Augustana yearbook, we have it. We have the papers and letters of famous Augustana professors–Fritiof Fryxell, for example (after whom the Geology museum is named).

And (this is the part that really excites me), we have a lot of really old books. I’m a bit of a purist about books. I like holding them, feeling the pages run through my fingers. The year my parents got me a Kindle for my birthday was the only year I’ve been unhappy with my birthday present. So you can understand that I almost hyperventilated when I discovered that we have The Complete Works of William Shakespeare in two volumes that are each about half a foot thick and were published in, I think, 1865. We also have a set of books that were donated to Augustana by Sweden’s King Gustav VI (though hardly anyone uses them now because they are, of course, in Swedish).

Unfortunately, you can’t just walk in to Special Collections and browse through the stacks. You have to have an actual topic you want to research, and you will get materials brought out to you. But I get to do a lot of cool things as part of my job–see the old books, for example. The most awesome thing I did, though (in my opinion, at least, because I’m a nerd) was that I got to use a typewriter to type up labels for some folders. Now, it wasn’t the sort of ancient typewriter you see in museums. In fact, it was probably about as modern a typewriter as you can get. But it was a typewriter nevertheless!

And now that I’ve sufficiently expressed my nerdiness, I hope you’ll think, as I do, that Special Collections really is a pretty great place. Even if you never have a chance to visit, you’ll at least know a little about where it is and what it does.

One Response to “What Happens on the First Floor of the Library?”

  1. That is really cool! I did not know about Special Collections, I will have to check it out soon!

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