Info One - Fall 97

Fall 1997

Priceless Treasures

Special Collections Librarian scouts out valuable books

To be a Special Collections Librarian in today's computer gilded society, is to be somewhat of a treasure seeker amongst dusty library stacks, to have a sense of what is valuable, not only monetarily, but what books might be important simply because of what they represent. Books within our Circulating Collection find their way to our Special Collections, not only because of their age or their market value, but sometimes because they "may be representative of the thought of a period of time," says Doris Brookshier, Special Collections Librarian at Ward Edwards.

She begins looking for books by reading numerous rare book catalogues and searching our collection for them. Searching not only by title but by author, allows for the possibility that we have other books by the author that might be valuable. If she finds something, she determines if it is a first edition or a limited edition and if it is signed by the author which would make it more valuable. "You wouldn't believe the treasures I have found on our shelves," she says, "and when I find something I ask, how did we get this? Why is it here?"

Determining it's worth is the next step and for this, Doris turns to Bookman's Price Index, a yearly publication indexing rare book catalogue entries and their prices by book dealers. "Sometimes I find a book is more valuable than I thought," Doris admits, but the condition of the book, the shape it is in when she finds it determines much of its value. If it's in good condition and has a dust jacket, the price will be more. "Our books are reduced somewhat because of the items librarians stick in them, book plates, labels, etc. But I've discovered that some dealers aren't that picky." Doris has found several interesting books on our shelves this way, among them, Book of a Thousand Nights which turned out to be worth about $400 in 1983, Library Publications by William R. Holman valued at $325, and a 1933 edition of A Bibliography of the Periodical Works of Charles Dickens, Bibliographical, Analytical and Statistical, priced at $350. "The more familiar I get with this collection and the more time I take to look at the collection critically, I realize that the Circulating Collection is here to support the curriculum, but the things that separate libraries from each other are the extraordinary things they have, the priceless, rare treasures."

And the library can be proud of it's treasures, beginning with an extensive Missouri Collection, an Isaack Walton, Complete Angler Collection (begun by Ward Edwards,) a unique Speleology Collection (begun by Dr. Oscar Hawksley, Biology and recently enhanced by donations from Mr. Hedges from Pennsylvania), a rare Hymnals and Bibles Collection, a Historical Textbook Collection, and a Civil War Collection which has been cited as one of the best in the state of Missouri.

Who knows how many more treasures lie on these library shelves, but rest assured that Doris will find them. She is as special as the collection she manages.