UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 6 | April
When Everything Old Becomes New Again
Acquiring "new"collections of old materials makes UBC
By Michelle Cook
As libraries everywhere race to modernize by adopting web-based
holdings and wireless Internet portals, what is so important about
the UBC library's recent acquisition of a handwritten Anglican Church
service book circa 1873?
It, along with 100,000 other antiquated books and thousands more
old maps, manuscripts, and other archival materials, are what make
the university's library unique, says new special collections librarian
"Libraries acquire standard groupings of information, but
it's their special collections that distinguish them," Stanton
UBC's special collections include rare dictionaries, maps and
atlases, Canada's biggest collection of Stravinsky memorabilia,
and one of the country's largest accumulations of material on B.C.
history and literature.
In his first big purchase for UBC, Stanton added the Anglican
Church service book to the collection last month. He calls the one-of-a-kind
find, produced in Lytton, B.C., in 1873, a Rosetta Stone of sorts
because the standard Anglican psalms, prayers and hymns in it are
transcribed into the local Thompson language.
Like the other materials stored in the humidity and temperature
controlled stacks of special collections, it may be old but for
Stanton its value lies in the new information and insights it will
provide UBC scholars and the public.
A UBC graduate, Stanton returned to campus in February from Simon
Fraser University where he was head of special collections and rare
After only two months on the job, his goals for his newly created
position are clear.
He wants to improve and expand the space devoted to special collections.
He would like to develop endowment funds and attract more financial
support to help UBC's collection grow. Eventually, he would also
like to develop digitized presentations of many of the old pieces
but one of his first tasks is to complete a review of all the special
collections in order to determine how they should grow.
Stanton's life won't be spent in the stacks though.
Special collections develop through a combination of donations
and purchases. In order to do his job well, Stanton will draw on
his extensive network of book dealers and collectors.
To ensure that UBC's special collections inspire collectors to
donate items, he will be consulting with faculty members on what
they are studying and what they will need for future research.
"The challenge is to stay ahead of what our scholars are
going to want. On the other hand, you are working with collectors
who are moving at their own pace," Stanton explains.
"They want to know who on faculty will be using the material.
This can make the difference in their decision to donate to UBC
or to another institution."