Housed in a building with a history as rich as its contents, LSU Libraries’ Special Collections has, since 1985, provided researchers with a gold mine of rare books, archives, manuscripts and photos detailing Louisiana’s past.
Special Collections in the Hill Memorial Library offers resources for original research in many fields. The program collects, preserves, provides discovery and access to, and promotes and instructs in the use of a wealth of research materials in areas including the humanities and social sciences, the natural sciences, agriculture, aquaculture, and art and design. These collections are largely donated by families with strong Louisiana ties.
Dr. Trent James, who, like his brother, uncle, father and grandfather, is an LSU alumnus, recently donated his family’s papers, detailing his father’s and uncle’s involvement in LSU and the Louisiana sugar industry throughout the early 20th century.
“[My father] loved LSU and appreciated everything it had given him,” James shared, continuing, “We have a lot of ties to LSU. We always loved it. It made me who I am.”
Seeing that the family’s papers were beginning to get scattered among family members, James decided to donate them. “It seemed to be the right thing to do,” he shared, adding that Special Collections is composed of “papers that would be otherwise lost and not available to anyone if they weren’t kept there. But they are available to those who want to study.”
James said he has a special passion for libraries—both his wife and daughter are librarians. “People want accurate information, and so much of it you can’t glean unless you read it and extract it yourself,” he explained. “That’s what libraries are good for. They get it organized, they make it accessible … That’s where librarians come in, and I think they’re essential. Somebody needs to judge, and constantly question, and make sure the information is accurate and true.”
Through the generosity of individuals like James, who donate both materials and funds to process those materials, Special Collections is able to build collections that serve students, scholars and the general public; enhance access to its unique holdings; provide educational public programming and exhibitions; and preserve the history of Louisiana and the Lower Mississippi Valley.
James feels libraries are the source of knowledge. “I believe in libraries,” he said. “They’re essential. I think there will always be a need for books.”
Published in Cornerstone Winter 2013 and Spring 2014.