May 1, 2007

C.U. Book Collection Contest Attracts Diversity in Entries

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Yesterday, the winners of the annual Cornell University Library and Library Advisory Council Book Collection Contest were announced at a reception in the Kinkeldey Room in Uris library. The competition provides both undergraduate and graduate students with the opportunity to display their aptitude and interest in books and assembling book collections.
First prize in the undergraduate category was awarded to John McReynolds ’09 for his collection entitled “Travels in Poetry.” First prize in the graduate category was a tie between Diana Looser grad for her collection “Dramatic Literature of Oceania, c.1970-Present” and Brent Morris grad for “The Abolitionist Mind.”
The reception also gave the winners an opportunity to showcase and discuss their collections.
For most of the students, their collections are tied to their academic interests and fields of study. Morris began his collection as a graduate student in American history and used his collection to get inside the minds of abolitionists. Looser, born in New Zealand, was a theatre studies major at Cornell and taught a Freshman Writing Seminar based on her collection on dramatic Oceania literature.
For McReynolds, the experience of collecting was his focus. His collection comes from books, mostly poetry, that he traveled with or found on his extended road trips.
“The thing that tied the collection together is my interest in used book stores themselves,” McReynolds said.
The books in every collection came from varied sources, including used and rare bookstores, trash cans and the Internet.
“Some of my books were bought in rare book stores, some on EBay,” Morris said.
The collections were not judged on their monetary value, rarity or visual strength, but rather on the “imagination, ingenuity, taste and discrimination displayed in its formation,” according to the library website, and “how well the focus of the collection was articulated,” according to David Corson, curator of the History of Science Collections and one of the judges for the competition.
Corson was excited by the diversity of the collections this year. The students ran the gamut of academic fields, from mechanical engineering to English to veterinary medicine. Corson was also impressed by the range of areas represented, from the more traditional to the more groundbreaking, which Looser’s “Dramatic Literature of Oceania” collection exemplified.
“This is probably the most comprehensive collection of the region as a whole to be brought together in this way, as far as I know,” Looser said about her collection.
According to Elisabeth Boas, member of the Library Advisory Council and one of the judges, Looser’s collection represents new knowledge and what libraries have always been about.
“The Library is at the heart of the University, and [this competition] represents the beating of the heart,” Boas said.
The Cornell University Library and Library Advisory Council Book Collection Contest was introduced in 2003 and continues the Arthur H. Dean and Mart Marden Dean Book Collection Contest, which was held in Uris Library from 1966 to 1987
First-prize winners automatically qualify to compete in the national Collegiate Book-Collecting Championship. In 2006, Cornell graduate students Daniel McKee and David Rando tied for first-prize locally and went on to win first- and third-prizes in the national competition.