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Taking a trip through the Libary's Special Collections

Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013

Updated: Thursday, February 7, 2013 00:02


Tucked away on the fourth floor of the USF Library lies what Melanie Griffin, an assistant librarian in the Special and Digital Collections, calls “the greatest kept secret on campus.” 

To some it may be the greatest kept, but the collection exhibit was never meant to be a secret. The collection is home to thousands of extremely rare books, assorted documents and maps and even a cuneiform tablet dating back to 3000 B.C. that are not in circulation but still open to students.

In the front of the room a chest with large flat drawers contains maps of Florida, the Tampa Bay area and Hillsborough County, which date as far back as 1846. Students can study the maps or go through an expansive collection of genealogical information to find a glimpse of their family’s past.

There is a vast amount of Floridana Literature, including everything from family documents to texts on the histories of local businesses are available for specific research. 

Andrew Huse, an assistant librarian, calls it a “local Google.” 

The collection contains boxes of newspapers and documents outlining the history of the Tampa Bay area.  Just past this section is the collection’s assortment of USF lore. Old documents and photographs are on file along with every edition of The Oracle dating back to the 1970s

The collection also houses science fiction journals from 1939, books older than the country and a few of the original hand drawn sketches from Disney’s “Dumbo.”

“It really runs the gamut,” Huse said.

The collection also contains a section of 19th century American Literature from some of our country’s first American printers as well as a section of antique textbooks.

Huse said the textbooks are especially interesting and noted that while math and grammar has remained the same, “the way we teach
history has changed.” 

In the back of the room that houses the collection lies the vault. a small separate room that contains the oldest and most valuable books in the collection, such as secular and religious texts from the 1400s printed on vellum, the Library’s copy of “Brevis Narratio” by Le Moyne, a text about Florida and its original natives from 1591, and the cuneiform tablet. They are kept together for evacuation purposes.

“It wouldn’t matter if you had millions of dollars,” Griffin said. “They can’t be replaced.”

Peter Cannon, a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in library and information science, said books are a part of history. 

“They’ll be here when we’re gone,” he said.

Use of the collection is not limited to students alone. Anyone can visit the library and study the texts. Many of the works included in the
Special Collection are protected by copyright laws and cannot be digitized and can only be viewed in person. While visitors are unable to
physically browse through the collection on their own they can access any of the works from the reading room.

The special collection is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Students can walk in or make an appointment if they want to look through the collection for research or for fun. 

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