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Library plans updates for Leather Room

By , Reporter  |  Wednesday, December 12, 2012 8:46 PM

A large moveable bookcase will now allow the O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library to place its collection of special edition books in the public eye and out of the library’s environmentally controlled room.

Library director Dan Gjelten said the initiative all began with the generous gift from John O’Shaughnessy to the university.

“John O’Shaughnessy loves books, and he obviously feels a strong connection to this library,” Gjelten said.

O’Shaughnessy is part of the Folio Society, an organization devoted to providing books that are not just beautiful from a literary standpoint, but physically as well. Books from the society are printed on the finest paper with illustrations and ornate details such as gilded pages.

<p>The library holds an extensive collection of Folio books. With some retrofitting, the O'Shaughnessy Room will provide a perfect environment for the collection to display books like "King Arthur." (Alex Goering/TommieMedia)</p>

The library holds an extensive collection of Folio books. With some retrofitting, the O'Shaughnessy Room will provide a perfect environment for the collection to display books like "King Arthur." (Alex Goering/TommieMedia)

After acquiring a large number of books from the Folio Society, O’Shaughnessy donated around 60 to 70 collector books to the university.

The collection includes the complete works of Shakespeare, as well as other classics, including “King Arthur.” Because of limited space, the books have been stored in an environmentally controlled room in the library’s special collections department, out of regular sight for the students.

The rolling display bookcase will allow the library to showcase the donated books in the O’Shaughnessy Room, commonly known as the Leather Room. In addition, the built-in bookshelves of the O’Shaughnessy room are to be retrofitted to accommodate the larger style of Folio books.

Gjelten said in an era of cheap publications and electronic books, we should be reminded of the artistic physical beauty books can offer.

“We’re getting away from the era of really beautifully made books,” Gjelten said. “Maybe this room can be a place where we can be reminded of that.”

Gjelten said students will have access to the books in the library, and won’t be able to check them out to keep their condition.

Junior Sarah Nunne said the changes would be a great addition to the library.

“It’s definitely a great idea to have these books accessible to everyone, where they can be fully utilized and appreciated for what they’re worth,” Nunne said.

Gjelten said the project will be somewhat expensive with the rolling display costing about $3,000, but said it easily falls into the library’s budget.

Junior Theo Larson said the new books could draw him to the O’Shaughnessy Room.

“I don’t normally find myself spending time there, but with the effort they’re putting into it,” Larson said. “I may have to think again or at least go check out the books.”

Gjelten said his initiative is not to turn the room into a museum, but to change the overall environment for the better.

“We’re trying to change the nature of the room,” Gjelten said. “I want it to be a place where people can really relax.”

Alex Goering can be reached at goer8777@stthomas.edu.

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