Digital Effort Increases Access To Rare Books

By Dave Gong
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) – Stepping into the rare books room at the Allen County Public Library is like stepping back in time.

Antique furniture complements the character of a room devoted to the library’s ever-expanding collection of rare and antique – even ancient – books and artifacts.

Display cases containing replicas of important Lincoln documents line the walls in front of the hall windows, while a rocking chair – a replica of the one Lincoln was sitting in when he was assassinated – sits in the middle of the room.

A letter, handwritten by Gen. Anthony Wayne himself and framed by local enthusiasts, has a place of honor on one of the shelves, near more than a century of Harper’s Bazaar magazines.

Yellow lights, free of any ultraviolet rays, illuminate the room, protecting the sensitive pages contained in special display cases, which Cheryl Ferverda, the library’s communications director, described as “the maroon refrigerators.”

“These are certain books that are too rare, too delicate to ever circulate,” Ferverda told The Journal Gazette, pointing out the volumes of texts contained in special display cases.

One set of books in particular catches her eye – a set of blue, bound books with pages thicker than any normal book. It is an encyclopedia of wood native to North America, the pages of which are made entirely of wood.

“If, say, 100 years ago you were a furniture maker and you were going to make something out of wood, you could go through this encyclopedia, and it would show you three different cuts of wood going with the grain, against the grain and kitty-corner to the grain,” she said. “It’s a very unusual thing, because this being made of wood, it deteriorates very quickly. Wood’s not supposed to be a page.”

But that’s just the beginning. The main room, also known as the “anteroom,” is where the less fragile documents are stored and displayed.

The vault houses the bulk of the library’s collection of rare photographs, books and artifacts. It sits against the far wall of the rare books room, under lock and key.

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Posted by on Nov 1st, 2014 and filed under Literature & Electronic. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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