Created in 1968, the year the library moved into Moody Learning Center, the Morrison Collection contains valuable books.
The former dean of women at this college, Dr. Lois Morrison, started the collection.
A dean of women assisted all students but women specifically while promoting education, leadership and character building.
According to the 1963 college yearbook, El Alamo, Morrison was in charge of keeping attendance records, consulting students and also supervising clubs.
After 14 years at this college, Morrison retired in 1963.
She donated about 1,100 of the 4,200 items in the collection.
As a graduate student, Morrison based her doctorial studies on writer Eustace Budgell.
“She wanted to keep her personal library together,” Librarian Karen Balcom said.
Balcom believes Morrison started collecting the items in the mid-1940s.
Morrison graduated with a doctorate degree from the University of Texas at Austin, where one professor sold her a copy of The Bee, an 18th century British periodical, Balcom said.
Though none of the collection’s items are first edition, they are still very valuable, Balcom said.
Balcom believes it is hard to put a value on the collection, but an appraiser estimated the collection was worth $221,800 in August 1987. In today’s dollars that becomes $444,503.99.
The collection contains British literature pieces from the mid-17th to 18th centuries, with works from Edgar Allan Poe, Eustace Budgell and Joseph Addison, Balcom said.
Items include periodicals such as The Spectator, The Tatler and The Bee, Balcom said.
These periodicals were famous in coffee houses, where people got together and talked about politics, Balcom said.
The Tatler started in 1709 and was published three times a week, The Spectator started in 1711 and was published daily and The Bee started in 1733 and was published weekly, according to the Britannica Online Encyclopedia.
The Tatler still publishes in the form of a luxurious, fashion magazine.
The old, stained paper makes a statement that newspapers have certainly changed over the years.
What also fills the old-book-smelling Baskin Suite are plays, journals and novels, which represent British society, Balcom said.
A few pieces include “The Lady of the Lake” by Sir Walter Scott, “Christian Warrior Animated and Crowned” by Philip Doddridge, “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine and “The Dunciad” by Alexander Pope.
“They are a reflection of what people were thinking or saying,” Balcom said.
Items from the collection are not available for circulation, but can be viewed with supervision of a librarian in a special location, behind the stacks and near the librarians on the fourth floor of the library.
Librarians are required to supervise viewers because it is important to avoid exerting pressure on or misusing the items.
“They have to be preserved,” circulation technician Leticia Alvarado said.
The collection is so fragile, items must be handled with white cotton gloves, Balcom said.
The lights in the Baskin Suite are always on to prevent moisture.
When college officials were discussing four-day work weeks two years ago, librarians were worried the collection would grow mold because of fluctuating lights.
The items are supposed to be in a continuously cold temperature, but the actual temperature in the Baskin Suite is nowhere near that, Balcom said.
In fact, the temperature should be 10 degrees lower, but apparently cannot be because of energy conservation measures.
“It is not maintained like it should,” Balcom said.
Balcom also admitted it takes commitment to preserve such material because of the importance and special attention to the material.
Anyone who views the collection must have a picture ID and fill out an application at the reserve desk.
The collection is mainly used by faculty and staff who need to research British literature.
Balcom said researchers come from across the country to study literary text and criticism.
Scholars use the collection because it actually gives readers an idea of the past’s “manners and morals,” Balcom said.
The library and the collection are available 7:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday and 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. The library is closed on Sunday.
For more information, call the reserve desk at 210-486-0582.