In the summer of 2011 we worked with Sustainable Collection Services (SCS) to develop criteria for the withdrawal candidates and compile lists of books that meet these criteria. But we were also interested in identifying books that we should retain. We asked SCS to run a list of books that: 1) are held by fewer than 5 other U.S. libraries; and 2) that are not held by any other library in Connecticut.
12,216 books meet these criteria, out of the 825,000 books in our circulating collections (about 1.5%). They include books published in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but also many twentieth and some twenty-first century works. Authors include Horatio Alger, Charles & Mary Lamb, Spike Milligan, Rafael Sabatini, Rabindranath Tagore, Alan Watts, John Wesley, and Émile Zola. A wide variety of subject areas are represented, with call numbers in every Library of Congress class. It is a fascinating mix of obscure works by little-known authors and rare editions of the classics.
Michaelle Biddle, Collections Conservator & Head of Preservation Services, and Suzy Taraba, Director of Special Collections & Archives, are reviewing the list to determine which books should be transferred to Special Collections. Some of the books are not as rare as our catalog indicates. Several are photocopies—while they contain valuable content for scholarly use, they lack the value as an artifact that the original would have had. Others are a different, more common edition than the catalog indicates, and we are changing these catalog records to match the books.
But many books on the list are, in fact, original and rare. These are being transferred to Special Collections & Archives where they will be permanently retained. (The Special Collections & Archives blog will be featuring some of these books soon, if you want to know more.)
The number of rare books we hold is a testament to the depth and range of Wesleyan’s library collections. We take seriously, and have always taken seriously, our responsibility to support the wide range of scholarly work done by Wesleyan students and faculty. We are also committed to preserving rare books in their original form for Wesleyan and non-Wesleyan students and scholars.