View of the Pattee Library in the 1940s
Penn State University Archives
Originally uploaded by pennstatelive
We started in the main room of the Paterno library special collections, which generally has displays open for the public to enjoy. Currently, a Civil War display is up and running, with many facts, photos, and interesting memorabilia from the time period. Pictures of the display will soon be on Flickr as well. After browsing the display, Michelle and I headed up to the third floor of Pattee library, where the Fred Waring's America and the Charles L. Blockson Collection of African-Americana and the African Diaspora are housed.
Fred Waring was a bit of a Renaissance man, who made a name for himself in music, television, and radio as well as being a connoisseur of comics. Many of Waring's music and memorabilia are on display, but the most interesting part of his collection that I saw was behind the scenes. In the Waring back room, there were all kinds of recording equipment, everything from records to disc, wire, tape, kinescopes, videotape to a large soundboard, which is used to convert all of the other types of recordings into things that can be listened to and appreciated in the digital age. I was amazed that such a small back room could be full of so many different types of audio recordings (and the gigantic soundboard, of course). The whole Fred Waring collection is worth seeing, but just knowing that our library hosts that kind of technological power is amazing.
After leaving the Fred Waring collection, Michelle took me to see the Charles Blockson collection. This one we only stopped at briefly, because it has more limited hours and therefore was not open when we went to see it. Once inside, I saw a room full of all kinds of memorabilia, from figurines to books to displays all about Africa and the African Diaspora. Though we only stayed a short while, I'd love to go back during open hours and explore the room at my leisure.
It was only after touring these two collections that we got to the really cool stuff. Not to say that the collections weren't cool, and I would highly recommend checking them out, but this is when Michelle took me behind the scenes. We went to the map room, which intuitively houses maps, and apparently those of Central Pennsylvania get a lot of use around here. We went into a room that housed a lot of the records of Penn State itself - records on buildings and the people who shaped Penn State over the years. And this is where we encountered one of my favorite types of book storage: movable bookshelves. At the push of a button and pull of a lever, these shelves collapse on themselves to create more room for storage. Michelle confessed that she thought they were fun too. Though this is quite a digression from the point of this post, I couldn't help but mention the bookshelves.
We traveled down into cold storage, which, trust me, was quite cold, and full of all kinds of good stuff like color photographs (the black and white ones are kept upstairs because they need to be accessed so often) as well as things like VHS tapes and other forms of media. Many of the pictures are logs of the campus and surrounding areas. Central Pennsylvanian history is apparently a very popular and researched subject.
Outside of cold storage was another storage room for books, in which Michelle specifically showed me the collection of older fantasy and sci fi books. We looked at these books mainly because their covers were so ridiculous. Between that and Michelle's favorite illustrator/author Edward Gorey, we had quite a good time going through the books in this area. As my dream in life pretty much consists of spending as much time as possible being surrounded by books, this was a little slice of heaven for me.
I absolutely loved my tour of the special collections library here at Penn State. Besides the rooms I saw, there are also three warehouses full of material. All of these things are at our disposal as undergraduate students. Though one who wants to work with the special collections materials in the library probably needs to have a clear idea of what materials they want to work with, it is completely worth it to check out special collections materials the next time you research a topic. Thanks again to Michelle for my tour of all things special collections! Check out the special collections website for more information.