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Locating Writers’ Libraries

February 18, 2013

Guest post by Richard Oram

Although my own institution, the Harry Ransom Center, has one of the largest collections of Anglo-American authors’ libraries (arbitrarily defined as 50 or more books belonging to a given writer), several years ago, I found that we didn’t have a listing of them (a problem that has since been rectified.)

It soon became apparent that curatorial staff in other large research libraries more often than not didn’t know how many such libraries they owned.  As a result, Joseph Nicholson, a cataloger at Louisiana State University, and I sent out a survey to special collections in the U.S., U.K., and Canada. We also began searching likely library catalogs and web sites, discovering in the process that there are many inconsistencies, to put it mildly, in provenance cataloging.

Despite various obstacles, we have assembled a listing of information about more than 500 libraries (primarily English and American authors), to be published next year by Scarecrow Press. But there are so many gaps in the data!  This is why I will be furiously taking notes at the Writers and their Libraries conference.  Our survey response rate from the U.K. was quite low, so we would be particularly grateful for additional information from British institutions; please contact me (roram[at] if you think you might be able to contribute to the project.

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