Materials and value stacked within collections

Paley Library is easily dwarfed by the architecture of taller surrounding buildings and the frenzy of construction on campus. But up close, Paley is much more majestic in stature.

Even more impressive are the numerous resources and collections housed within. The library is home to literally millions of books, journals, pictures, databases – anything and everything students may need for their research.

Even after earning his undergraduate degree, English graduate student Michael Black frequently uses Paley’s General Collection.

“As a graduate student, I have to dig through a lot of materials, so I’m in and out regularly,” Black said.

Paley’s General Collection is by far the oldest collection within the library. Paley Library was built in 1967, but some of the General Collection materials are as old as Temple.

Chief Collection Development Officer Frank Immler affirmed just how massive the collection is.

“We have three million books in the system,” Immler said. “We have 35,000 live serials, hundreds of electronic databases. We have specialized collections; the libraries are rich in historical materials.”

General Collections

Overflowing with information, the materials that are outdated or don’t circulate often are sent to the library’s offsite repository. Students can’t access the repository in person; however, Immler noted that students can still view and checkout books through the Diamond Library Catalog.

“We wanted to clear out Paley to make room for the new materials coming and for stuff that people use all the time,” Immler said.

The Leisure Reading Collection helps complete the General Collections with 1,500 books that have nothing to do with traditional research material. Immler said it is an attempt to give a public library feel to Paley. Unlike many public libraries, not all of Paley’s resources must be accessed in person.

Kristina DeVoe, a reference and instructional services librarian, is familiar with Temple’s extensive online database collection.

“The libraries have well over 400 online resources, and those run from anything to specific subject area databases to broad current events to statistical resources,” DeVoe said.

She also underlined the convenience of Temple’s online databases.

“Students don’t necessarily have to be on campus,” DeVoe said. “That’s one of the great things about library resources now. There are so many options and possibilities, and students have much to choose from.”

Special Collections

A trip to this collection is like traveling back in time. The mezzanine level room exudes eccentricity with a pair of antlers set over a wooden sign that marks the entrance.

Inside, old-type cases, a wooden board cutter, faded magazines and science fiction books are proudly displayed. Students can find some of Temple’s rarest and most unusual collections within the room.

“We’re composed of a certain number of specialty collections, plus a variety of odd materials, books, manuscripts and collections that don’t fit into any place else, but deserve some type of protection or special handling,” said Thomas M. Whitehead, the head of the Special Collections. “Here you have the University Archives. It’s anything by or about the university, its faculty, its students, its alumni and its founder, Russell Conwell.”

It all began with the Conwellana-Templana Collection, or University Archives, in 1946.

Later, Special Collections expanded to include a contemporary culture collection that started in 1967. The Paskow Science Fiction collection started in 1972, and includes books, magazines and fanzines The Philadelphia Dance Collection archive was started just a few years ago.

The materials are collected in the name of research and cannot leave the room.

“We wouldn’t end up with a collection if we circulated them,” Whitehead said. “We’re in a city where half the institutions were founded by Ben Franklin, so we’re catching up. We’re working hard to catch up.”

Urban Archives

Senior biology major Angeline Louis is no stranger to the library’s collections. She spoke passionately and fondly of her time spent at the Urban Archives on the lower level of Paley.

“In my freshman year for my English 50 class, I had to use the Urban Archives because we had to write a paper,” Louis said.

The Urban Archives – probably the most famous and most heavily used collection by students and outside researchers – opened in 1967 and houses a large part of Philadelphia history dating back to the mid-19th century. The bulk of the collection consists of 500,000 news clippings from the now-defunct Philadelphia Evening Bulletin.

Additionally, students and researchers can find hundreds of Philadelphia-related pictures, directories, maps, atlases and early records from African-American organizations, such as Philadelphia’s chapter of the NAACP.

The newest addition to the Urban Archives is 20,000 reels of videotape and film footage donated by Philadelphia’s CBS3 in September. Urban Archives interim head Brenda Galloway-Wright said she is pleased with the latest addition from CBS3.

“It really complement the Urban Archives collections,” Galloway-Wright said. “With the Bulletin stopping in 1982 and pretty much covering the last 30 years, it really completes the history of Philadelphia for the time.”

Actually watching the material from CBS3 won’t be possible until viewing stations are made available. In the meantime, there’s still plenty to do at the archives.

“We’re very well advertised and I think that outreach on the part of Urban Archives to the community of researchers as well as students makes us a really fun and popular spot,” she said.

Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection

The Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection is the newest collection. It was started in 1984.

“We specialize in Africa and its diaspora with a special emphasis on Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley region,” Diane Turner, the new curator, said. “We have everything you can think of, including sheet music.”

The one-room collection is not actually located in Paley Library, but instead is found on the first floor of Sullivan Hall.

“When Charles Blockson came to Temple, he actually ended up in the space where we are in Sullivan Hall because of his relationship with President Liacouras at that time,” Turner said.

There are plans to expand the collection so it has a more prominent space within Sullivan Hall. Turner estimated that the new space will be ready sometime by February.

In addition to Philadelphia history, the Blockson Collection also features slave narratives, documents from Haiti, a collection based around the Underground Railroad and negative stereotypical images of blacks from various points in time.

“One thing that I promote is that African-American history is American history,” Turner said.

Angela Moseley can be reached at amoseley@temple.edu.

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