University of Iowa
125 West Washington St.
Iowa City, IA 52242
You're no doubt familiar with miniature poodles and miniature golf. You've heard of mini bikes, and MINI cars. If you're my age, you probably remember mini skirts, and if you've read my blog for the past few months, you know about mini libraries (a.k.a. Little Free Libraries). Lately even miniature houses have become popular. Are you ready for a whole new kind of miniature? I recently learned about miniature books and the people that collect, create, and exhibit them. Actually miniature books aren't new. They've been around for centuries, but they're new to me. I only learned about them a few months ago and was more than intrigued. So when I heard that the University of Iowa Library is home to a large collection of miniature books, I immediately added it to my bucket list. A large collection of miniatures? Somewhat oxymoronic, I know, but nonetheless a must see for me.
As luck would have it, my husband and I were already planning an August trip to Mason City, Iowa, for our annual trek to the Pyrotechnics Guild International convention. Perfect for a stopover on our way is Iowa City where the University is located. Coincidentally, I fell in love with Iowa City four years ago on a similar trip the last time the PGI convention was in Iowa. I'm a big Michigan State Spartans fan, but it wasn't hard to also become a fan of the Hawkeyes in such a fantastic college town. On that trip I had the good fortune to visit another place on my bucket list, the marvelous Prairie Lights bookstore. I didn't have to think twice about adding a stop in Iowa City to our trip this year.
|Library personnel, Paula and Laura|
Hungry and tired after a long drive, we checked into our hotel on a Thursday evening, had a lovely dinner, and hit the hay early. Temperatures were projected to climb into the mid 90's, so we wanted to walk to the University first thing the next morning while it was still only moderately warm. The library was but about four blocks away, so it didn't take us long to arrive at the expansive red brick building.
Once inside, we made our way to the third floor to find special collections, the library-within-a-library that houses the miniature books collection. We stopped at a large circulation desk manned by a cheerful and gregarious pair: Paula, a library assistant in charge of map collections, and Laura, a grad student staff member. They affirmed that we had indeed arrived at the right place and went on to explain the procedures to us. Security is tight here. Before being allowed into the viewing area, I had to put away my usual pen and notebook. As a matter of fact, we had to put away almost everything. No notebooks, no pens, no purses. We were directed to a bank of lockers where we left everything but our phones. Whew!! I was worried for a moment, but Paula assured me that I was allowed to take pictures. And I wasn't totally without the ability to take a few notes. Paula handed me a sheet of light blue paper and a pencil provided especially for such a task.
Next we had to fill out some request forms, one for each item we wished to view. Then Laura could go back to the collection and retrieve them from among the 4,000 items currently cataloged. Of course, not knowing much about the collection, I had no idea what to ask for, so Laura said she could bring out a variety of classic literature as well as some art books. My husband Jim volunteered to fill out some generic request forms while I took a moment to look around and take a few pictures of the waiting area.
One display case provided a preview of coming attractions with a set of miniature books entitled “Souvenirs of Great Cities.” Nearby a cozy set of wingback chairs flanking a large globe sat just outside the glassed-in viewing area where rows of numbered tables were ready to receive items for viewing. We were assigned to Table 2.
Never underestimate the sense of humor of library people, for standing guard over the viewing tables was a life-sized cutout of none other than Starfleet Captain, Jean-Luc Picard. How appropriate for our journey into this new realm. Jim very much enjoyed meeting him.
Coming soon: In my next post I will tell you all about the amazing miniature books that we were about to photograph and yes, even handle. Some were hundreds of years old, and all no larger than three inches. Stay tuned..
Read Part II here: Tiny Collection II.
Read Part II here: Tiny Collection II.