Why should not they benefit from rare books?

Meredith E. Torre (School of Library and Information Studies, The University of Wisconsin‐Madison, Atlanta, Georgia, USA)

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Publication date: 8 February 2008



Special collections departments are predominately portrayed or perceived as a place for researchers rather than as a means for enhancing the learning experience for the undergraduate student. The very nature of rare books and manuscripts means that arguments to discourage their heavy use prevail. The purpose of this paper is to address this issue.


This paper reviews these perceptions, considers why such perceptions continue to thrive, and provides examples in which the image of special collections departments can be refashioned into a more inclusive environment for the undergraduate student.


There are extraordinary barriers that face the average undergraduate experience with rare books at most academic institutions. Librarians of special collections departments and other primary resource collections can play a fundamental role in making these collections accessible to the undergraduate student.


This paper reexamines the notion that special collections should have limited use due to conservation concerns and demonstrates that using fragile materials may serve as a good opportunity to reflect on the collection's conservational health.



Torre, M. (2008), "Why should not they benefit from rare books?", Library Review, Vol. 57 No. 1, pp. 36-41. https://doi.org/10.1108/00242530810845044

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