Not many students are aware of the large collection of rare and unique books in the Folke Bernadotte Memorial Library. The collections are currently in the process of being relocated from the third level to the second level of the library.
“Currently, the Special Collections are on the upper level of the library with the archives. The room next to the large computer lab is being renovated to house Special Collections,” Professor and College Librarian Michelle Twait said.
According to Archives Specialist Adrianna Darden, moving the books to the main level of the library will allow students to access them more easily.
“The collections are going to be moved so they will get used more. They will be secured in grates, and eventually it should be accessible to students the majority of library hours,” Darden said.
“It will take us a couple of years of budgeting to properly secure the collections in the new room, so we anticipate little fanfare until the project is completed,” Professor and College Librarian Dan Mollner said.
Impressively, the collection consists of various works dating back to the 1100s.
The librarians at Gustavus generally look for books that were published before 1850 when printing was much less common.
Although most books are over 150 years old, more recently published books are also a part of it. The newer works usually pertain to Minnesota or are first editions written by notable authors.
One of the more recently purchased works is a rare reprint of the diary of Fanny Kelly, a woman who lived during the Dakota War in 1862. The collection also features some unique books, such as the Selma Lagerlöf collection, illuminated manuscript pages from the 1100s, 1200s, and 1400s, the Gustav Vasa Bible, and first and unique edition copies of numerous other works. The collection also includes signed copies from authors such as former President Richard Nixon and former French Minister of Cultural Affairs Andre Malraux.
“We have a small, but growing Special Collections. Although we purchase very few items that end up with the Special Collections designation, we have bought some recently available items of local interest,” Mollner said.
With a small amount of money to spend on expanding the collection, the growth depends on the amount of donations the library receives.
“People often give us donations for our collections, and we select based on when it’s been published as well as what kind of condition the books are in,” Darden said.
According to Darden and Mollner, acquiring these books is a way to support research as well as general interests in the community.
“We have the opportunity to create a useful Special Collections space. Students in local history classes and students who wish to see contemporary editorial cartoons will eventually be able to spread out to work which also permits better treatment of fragile materials,” Mollner said.
“The purpose of these books is to have unique and rare items that people can use. The books cannot be checked out, but they are available to use whenever,” Darden said.
There are multiple ways to access the collection. A visit to the College and Lutheran Church Archives will give you the opportunity to look at the physical works, but they are not available for checkout.
The works can also be found in the library’s catalog via the advanced search option. College Archivist Jeff Jenson also created a research guide related to special collections that provides useful information (http://libguides.gustavus.edu/rare).