“Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future.”
Ray Bradbury, American Writer (1920-2012)
A Twitter post about the digitization of cookbooks from Mexico dating 1789 to the present in the special collections of The University of Texas San Antonio Libraries brought to mind that one should always consult with libraries and special collections before tossing out old papers and books.
I find it is often the case that you think your treasures have no value, but reconsider and ask a librarian. While donation restrictions do exist, be sure you are not giving away – nor selling off – items valuable to history.
As a tribute some of my favorite libraries, I wanted to mention my own contributions. I have provided links to each institution for ease of reference and I highly recommend you support them financially and with your own historical documents and book donations.
- Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at The University of Texas at Austin. Some of my college memorabilia dating from the 1970s and 1980s is included, and Civil War documentation and photography from my mother’s side of the family. See Carolyn’s Tumblr for a write-up about one set of items held by the Briscoe Center.
- Mary and Jeff Bell Library at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi. My Legorreta + Legorreta museum wing fundraising documents for the Art Museum of South Texas during the mid-2000s, including videotapes of Ricardo speaking during the capital campaign, are included in the special collections. From Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog, you can read about some of my work on the then-new Legorreta wing. The library also houses documents from the creation of the original Philip Johnson designed museum dating to the 1970s.
- Lake Travis Community Library. Various types of contemporary hard cover books have been donated, several of them autographed by the authors. This library has in the past accepted books that they do not wish to keep in the library, but they can use them as sale items, the proceeds from which benefit library operations.
- Texas State Library and Archives. I documented eight years of Commission work for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, in my capacity as one of a group of Governor-appointed and reappointed members of the Texas Environmental Partnership Fund Board, thereby helping the State of Texas document the work we conducted. My records, which took quite a bit of time to compile, also allowed the Texas Legislature to bring the Commission’s work to a formal conclusion.
- University of New Mexico, Zimmerman Library, Southwest Collections. I have added to my father’s existing family archive. He was born and raised in Santa Fe, and his family was active in bringing the railroad to New Mexico, and also in bringing a more sophisticated cultural life to Santa Fe, among other things. Artistic work including photographs of American Indians are included, as is scientific research funded by the WPA on “natural” means of eradicating tent caterpillar infestations in the aspen forests.
- University of Texas at Austin, Perry-Castaneda Library. I donated a hard copy, illustrated, color Arabic-to-English dictionary given to me while I was taking Arabic at UT Austin, by a member of a influential family who was living in my co-ed dorm back in the mid-1970s. PCL has strong restrictions on book donations, having many in its collections and many alumni.
- University of Texas San Antonio Libraries Special Collections. My family’s cookbooks dating from the second half of the 19th century through the 1960s, my personal 1960s vintage Camp Fire USA guidebook, and a 19th century guide to homesteading that I acquired at an estate sale in Austin in the early 1980s have been donated.
- Rob & Bessie Welder Wildlife Foundation conservation library. The library contains approximately 24,000 individual books and journals. In the rare books collection are numerous highly valuable volumes, some dating to the 1600’s. As an example, the collection contains a complete set of the journal Audubon. My personal opinion is that a new, larger and more secure library facility needs to be funded at the Welder Refuge. Several of the books I have donated over the years are autographed by the scientists who wrote them. Research is what Welder is all about!
In 2019, I joined the Austin Colony Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. I currently have three documented American Revolutionary War ancestors and I am researching two more. I also agreed to serve as Literacy Chair for our Chapter. In 2020, it looks like we will support the work of the Inside Books Projects, which sends free books and educational materials to prisoners. Stay tuned!