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MSU Libraries' Special Collections offers 'a wealth of resources' to students, community

November 22, 2022
MSU Main Library on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022.
MSU Main Library on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022.

Though one of the university's lesser-known resources, Stephen O. Murray and Keelung Hong Special Collections houses a multitude of rare materials in the MSU Libraries.

The collection offers everything from comics to historical documents to students, administrators and the public.

“We have a huge collection, very broad both in topics and chronology,” instruction and outreach librarian Ruth Ann Jones said. “The second oldest materials in our collection are about 800 years old, up to early 2022. The oldest thing is 3000 years old.”

MSU's Special Collections also hopes to both maintain and promote history, all while keeping the materials accessible to the public.

“One thing we try very hard to make people aware of is that everybody is welcome,” Jones said. “In a number of universities, Special Collections, or the rare book room, is not officially off-limits to undergraduates, but they’re not encouraged to be there and not made to feel welcome.”

History senior and special collections student assistant Leah Welch has been working for the library for over a year. She has found Special Collections to be an incredibly useful resource throughout her studies, alongside being crucial to the preservation of history.

“Being able to touch it and have access to it – I feel strongly that we should have access to it,” Welch said. “It’s sort of like a museum where you can actually touch the stuff and it’s not behind glass.”

Although materials must remain in MSU Libraries’ specified viewing space during usage, Special Collections offers a rare opportunity to get in touch with history – literally. To visit the reading room, make an appointment through the MSU Libraries website.

“It is a different model of using library resources than what students will automatically think of going to check out a book,” Jones said. “It’s rare material that is not accessible online, or is actually very valuable. There are a number of things in the collection where we have the only known copy, or at least the only known copy of a certain edition.”

In addition to offering by-appointment access to materials, there is also a series of pop-ups throughout the school year. Schedules for the events are released by semester, with each date featuring exhibits highlighting specific parts of the collection.

The most recent event took place on Nov. 15, featuring teen magazines throughout history. Magazines dating back to the 1950s were available for passerby to browse and enjoy.

“I don’t know how familiar students are with all that we offer,” MSU Libraries communications manager Elise Jajuga said. “We have teen magazines here, which could offer a lot of historical benefits to the trends of today.”

The final event for the fall semester will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 29 in MSU’s Main Library. Titled “Asian Americans Fight Prejudice,” the exhibit will be open for viewing by walk-in from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. in the Special Collections classroom, with virtual tours offered by registration from 2:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.

“(MSU Libraries and Special Collections) helps to broaden perspectives overall ... What can be more important to continuing education or beginning education?” Jajuga said. “We just have such a wealth (of resources) that I don’t think a lot of the student population, or greater East Lansing population, has really realized ... There is so much to tap into.”

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