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Special Collections Continue to Evolve

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Comic books, science fiction, rare finds, poetry, and the history of Cal State Fullerton are just the tip of the iceberg awaiting patrons at Pollak Library’s University Archives and Special Collections.

Created in 1967, the collection’s focus is to reserve and provide access to special collections, including local history, first editions, and even rare volumes about fresh-water angling.

Sharon Perry, university archivist and special collections librarian, has overseen the collection since 1985, coordinating the day-to-day activities of the unit, providing service to its patrons and acquiring and processing new acquisitions.

Perry, who is retiring after 46 years with the University, is uniquely suited for the job: she attended Cal State Fullerton as a student, earning a bachelor’s degree in history in 1968, then became a campus reference librarian in 1969. We asked her a few questions about the collection and her thoughts on its future as the university embarks on the Library of the Future renovation plans.

What exactly is the University Archives and Special Collections?

It is a group of collections within the Pollak Library with a specific focus or focuses. The university archives document the history of this university, its schools, departments and units as well as its faculty, staff and students.  We collect documents, reports, publications, photographs, ephemera such as posters, postcards and souvenirs, as well as artifacts pertaining to and/or published/created by the university and its personnel since 1957.

Special Collections consists of approximately 60 different named collections that have a particular subject focus or represent a type of publication.

How has it evolved since it was created in 1967?

 At different intervals new collections were added, almost always by donation. Also, existing collections were augmented by gifts of materials or some funding from our Patrons of the Pollak Library Support Group.  In the past, the library’s acquisitions budget paid for new materials for some of the collections. But in my 30 years in the section, only a very small number of items have been purchased with state funds. As collections grew or were acquired the lack of adequate space has become an on-going concern.

What is the most requested collection and also the most unique request you have had over the years?

The most used collections are equally the University Archives, the Freedom Center and the Science Fiction Manuscripts and their first editions.

The most unique question was an email from a young woman in the Bay Area who hoped we had a writing sample from one of our science fiction authors that would include her sister’s name so she could have it copied and framed for her sister’s birthday.  Her sister was a great fan of the particular author. The request was completely unrealistic and incapable of being fulfilled, but I thought it was very, very sweet of her to want to do this for her sister.

What are a couple of the unique collections?

Jan Amsberry/James Boyer May Poetry Collection contains a unique focus and depth for California, American and world poetry in the 20th century. The Kerridge Angling Collection arguably may be one of the five largest collections on the subject of freshwater fishing in the country, and Dr. Walkup’s collection provides a unique overview of a woman faculty member’s life and career.

What is the future of special collections?

The last few years has seen a renewed interest in the University Archives and Special Collections unit by teaching faculty in history, English and other disciplines. They recognize that we have primary sources to offer their students and can offer those students insights into finding and using such materials located here and at other institutions. If non-state funds are successfully raised in the next few years, our unit will share a new and larger space with the Center for Oral and Public History, which would be very exciting. So I am optimistic about the future of special collections.