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American & British Literature: Special Collections Resources: Introduction to Special Collections

Special Collections Resources for English and American Literature Students

Special Collections

What is a Special Collection?
A separate part of a library that includes materials that are too valuable, rare, or delicate to be included in the general collection. Special Collections often include smaller collections of works by/about a specific author or on a particular subject.

Why use Special Collections?

Anthologized versions of books are often drastically different from original editions. An early copy might contain a different version of the author's words or include images or notes that provide insight to the work. Special Collections also holds some rare books that can provide context to the place and time of better known works. You may even find helpful non-book materials such as the papers or journals of an author you're studying, for example a letter written by Herman Melville when he was a child. Non-book materials such as books and journals are in a separate catalog, so you will need to visit Special Collections to identify these resources.

Using Special Collections

What can you find in Special Collections?

Here you will find rare books including notable copies of works of literature, history, religion, and other subjects. In addition to books, Special Collections also has archives of materials relevant to Southwestern University, Georgetown, and Texas history.


How can you access Special Collections materials?

To view Special Collections materials, follow the signs on the second floor of Smith Library Center to the Special Collections Suite - Room 241 - just come in and poke your head into one of two offices! Don't worry that you're interrupting! The collections are open from 9:30 to 12:30 and 1:30 to 4:30, Monday through Friday. The Special Collections staff will have you sign in and then they will retrieve books for you. You can study the materials you requested in the reading room, which is labeled on the map as John G. Tower Library.

VISIT OUR WEBPAGE for contact information and more!

You may discover special collections materials while searching the online catalog, but if you want to deliberately search just special collections materials, use the special search box at our WEBPAGE - or ask for help in special collections.  We're eager to help students and researchers find what they need.

Care and handling of materials