A Grand Tour Around the SCUA Reading Room

General view of the SCUA Reading Room with green chairs and tables, bookshelves and a bright window vies.
The SCUA Reading Room

Hello! Welcome to a tour of the SCUA Reading Room on the 4th floor of Parks! You’ve just stepped foot into maybe the most peaceful room of Iowa State’s library. Isn’t the bright full daylight coming in from the big windows nice?

Glass constructed front desk of the SCUA Reading Room. Has a little red Cy mascot plush!
The Reading Room Front Desk

First stop is the front desk! Here you’ll meet one of our friendly archivists to help you with any materials you want to look at. While you get your materials, you can put your spine-killing backpack in the lockers and take a seat in the comfy table chairs.

Now here’s a secret. . .

When you sit dow in SCUA, you don’t just get to look at awesome old manuscripts and rare books. . .up here is the best view in Parks Library! Right now in the beautiful last of winter, it’s a peaceful spot to look at the 23 CyRide clocking by, the Campanile in the distance, and students walking to class.

Downward view outside the SCUA Reading Room window. Students walking to class on a snowy day with Cyride driving past.
One of the views from the SCUA Reading Room

What better feeling than delicate old paper in your fingers and beautiful Iowa State view? Take a few minutes up here for the best part of your day.

View of the Hub as well as the Campanile n the distance on a snowy day with a pale blue sky and bare trees.
View from the SCUA Reading Room

Famous Firsts

Red jacket first American edition of 1984 by George Orwell with clear library cover jacket over it.
First American Edition of 1984 by George Orwell

Imagine it’s 1925 and you’re strolling along Fifth Avenue in New York City. You’ve got your hat on and your excellent stiff blue blazer. A little rain is falling. It’s April, after all.

Choosing to stop and look into the Scribner’s bookshop window, you check out the new releases—

The Great Gatsby. . .hmph, that sounds interesting? Haven’t heard Fitzgerald’s name much lately!”

In 2022, what’s always most astounding to me is that there was a first time everything was released. Hamlet was once performed for the first time, “Hey Jude” wasn’t always on the radio, and long, long ago, once upon a time, Michelangelo debuted the Sistine Chapel. . .

It’s amazing to imagine witnessing the fundamental bricks of our shared human culture being built in real time. It’s even easier to forget these were things that weren’t simply always around.

So here’s two icons of 20th Century culture you can warp back in time to experience, just by coming up to the SCUA Reading Room. Here, we have a first edition (without the famous cover, it’s super super rare) of The Great Gatsby. Reading the last few pages of this green copy shot hairs up on the back of my neck.

Peeking inside the dust jacket flaps of SCUA’s 1st American edition copy of 1984 by George Orwell can do the same. Take a look. . .

Inner vintage jacket flap of first American Edition of 1984 by George Orwell. Black and red text.
Text reads:
"The new novel by George Orwell is the major work towards which all his previous writing has pointed. Critics have hailed it as his "most solid, most brilliant" book. Though the story of Nineteen Eighty Four takes place thirty-five years hence, it is in every sense timely. The scene is London, where there has been no new housing since 1950 and the where the city-wide slums are called Victory Mansions. Science has abandoned Man for the State. As every citizen knows only too well, war is peace."
Inner jacket flap of 1984 first American Edition

“The new novel” by George Orwell has over time come to define our image of a dystopia and tyranny. And yet at one point, it was completely new, hot off the press, in the bookstores.

So come by the SCUA to sit down with living history in your hands and read like you were strolling Fifth Avenue in 1925. To go forward is to see these past dreams. . .

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. . .

Old 1925 green hardback first editon of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Title text barely legible.
First Edition of The Great Gatsby, 1925

#FlashbackFriday – Postcards

Today I took a look at the Iowa State University Archives Postcard Collection. I’ve been wanting to check out this collection for a while and I am happy to say that it did not disappoint. There were hundreds of postcards in just this box and at least six boxes in the collection. Here are a few of my favorites from box one.

I look forward to exploring more of this collection in the future! Materials from Box 1 of the ISU Archives Postcard Collection.

#WomenOnWednesdays – Taking the Road Less Traveled Conference

On April 4th, 1987, Iowa State University hosted it’s first “Taking the Road Less Traveled: Science, Math, Engineering and Technology” Conference for Girls Grades 6-12. The 1987 conference was proposed and organized by the Margaret Sloss Women’s Center. Iowa State’s event drew inspiration from a similar conference for women in STEM fields at Western Michigan University, which had taken place the year prior. The conference was much more popular than anticipated, with an expected turnout of 200 participants compared to the actual 600 that showed up. The goal of this conference was to educate young women, parents, and educators on how women can be successful in fields related to science, engineering, and math.

One way they sought to achieve this goal was by exposing the girls to successful women in STEM career fields, along with providing information about the types of classes they should take in high school to prepare for a college program in these fields. I found it very interesting that the conference also provided information on programs from several other universities, and not just the ones available at Iowa State. To me, including information about other options for the girls shows the organizer’s commitment to giving the girls at the conference an overall look at all their options, rather than simply attempting to get more students to attend the university.

Image from RS 3/10/4 Box 1

The above image depicts an advertisement brochure promoting engineering programs at Iowa State, and can be found in collection RS 3/10/4 Box 1. In that same box there are also letters from speakers and mentors who were present at this event, and future events like it, all relaying how much they enjoyed the experience, and several inquiring about future opportunities. A great deal of effort went into organizing and running this conference, and it appeared to be very successful. This incredible event was made possible by funds provided by a Carl Perkins Vocational Education Grant from the Iowa Department of Education.

SCUA 104

Thanks for coming back to the blog!  This is the 4th post in a series about using the Special Collections and University Archives at ISU.

Today I’m going to talk about your options if you need reproductions of our materials.  While we highly encourage researchers to visit us to see our collection, we understand that sometimes that is just not possible due to distance or other factors. Don’t fear—there are still some options for those who can’t come to the archives in person.

We can make photocopies through our document delivery program.  These are low-resolution photocopies we make on our overhead scanner.  Depending on the size of the order, we can have these copies sent to you via email or through the “snail” mail in about 2-4 weeks, though it can take longer for large or complicated orders.

Our Bookeye overhead scanner. The black pads fold up to create a book cradle!

We are also able to make publication quality high-resolution scans of our images.  Depending on your use, you may also need to fill out a request to publish form when you order your images.  There are fees for both document delivery and image reproduction; please consult our website or send us an email to learn more!

Of course, we must comply with copyright law when making scans and reproductions.  Unfortunately, this sometimes blocks us from being able to make reproductions of things that we do not have rights to, are not in the public domain, or whole volumes.  While copyright law is extremely complicated, a good place to start learning about what is and is not allowed is the library’s page on copyright issues.

Have any questions about any of these services? Feel free to email us at archives@iastate.edu. Want to know more about SCUA?  See our previous posts in this series about our reading room rules, what happens when you visit the reading room, or finding student records in the archives.

Our Cy and baby Cys would love to see you, but we understand that sometimes that’s just not possible. Photo credit Olivia Garrison, taken 6/19/18

Visiting SCUA 102

Hello everyone! This is the second in the blog series about visiting Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) from the perspective of someone who is pretty new.  In SCUA 101, I covered some of the reading room rules and why they exist. Today I will cover what will happen when you visit us here on the 4th floor of Parks Library.

If this is your first time to the archives during this calendar year, we will ask you to fill out a registration sheet.  We will also ask to see a photo ID (don’t worry—you can definitely use your ISU student ID).  We will also ask that you sign into the reading room, which is the only thing you will have to fill out for each subsequent visit.

Rachel Seale ready to help a patron at the desk.

The friendly desk staff can help you with what you are looking for.  We can help teach you how to search for materials on our website and explain how to use a finding aid.  Throughout your visit, staff is happy to answer any questions you have; whether that be a question on how to handle a certain set of documents or suggestions for places you might look for further research.

When you are ready to request materials, you will fill out the form below so that someone on staff can retrieve the materials from our closed stacks.  The stacks are closed to the public for security reasons and also because our very special materials need to be kept in a certain temperature and humidity range.  You would definitely need a jacket if we kept the reading room the same temperature as the stacks!

Pull Slip

Before you look at materials you will need to store your bags, coats, umbrellas, etc. in the lockers or the closet.  Now you are ready to take a seat and wait for your materials.  When they come, SCUA staff will give you a brief handling demonstration; then you are ready to start your research!

Throughout your visit, please let us know if there is anything we can help with.  We know it can take some time to get used to the rules and feel comfortable handling the materials, and we want you to have the best experience possible.

The reading room is open from 9-5, Monday-Friday.  If you have more questions about visiting SCUA, feel free to email us at archives@iastate.edu or visit our tutorial pages on planning a visit and using our materials.

When you visit, be sure to allow yourself a few extra minutes to check out our latest exhibit: “Do[ing] their bit” Iowa’s Role in the Great War.

Visiting SCUA 101

This is the first in a new series of posts about visiting the Special Collections and University Archives written by someone who is fairly new to archives herself!  The first time (or the first few times) you research in a special collections or archives, it can be a bit intimidating.  There are special rules for handling and viewing materials.  There are methods for searching for materials that you might not have encountered before.  On top of that, handling the only copy in existence of a document that may be over 100 years old is enough to give anyone pause!

Fear not!  This blog series is designed to help you feel more comfortable in coming to visit our reading room and using our rare and archival materials.

The first topic to address is: why are there so many rules?

Rules Sheet
Folder marker with rules for using the reading room.

While every special collections will do things a little differently, there are suggested best practices that we adhere to.  The rules are not in place to scare researchers off.  Trust me, we really want you to use our materials, and we love seeing a full reading room!  The rules are in place to protect the materials and ensure they are available to researchers now and for generations to come!

As you can see, there are many rules, so I’ll only go into detail about a few.

  • We don’t allow food or beverages of any kind for a couple of reasons.  Most immediately, this eliminates the possibility of crumbs or spills on the materials.  Secondly, people might find a bag of chips too tempting to resist, but so do pests that may come for the chips, but stay to chew on important documents.
  • We ask you to use book supports for all bound volumes, which helps alleviate pressure on the spine.  This is important whether the book is new or old.  After all, someday that brand new book will be an old book.

Demonstration of book cradle and weight use with class catalogue from 1904-05.

  • An important aspect of using the archives is preserving the original order of materials.  Because of this, there are several rules that are in place in order to preserve the order the files are in currently.  For example, bringing up the entire folder when you scan something helps ensure the item gets put back in the correct place (and helps prevent bending, creasing, or tearing of the item on the way to or from the scanner).

If you have questions about any of the other rules, we’re more than happy to answer them!  Stop by the reading room anytime between 9 and 5, Monday-Friday or email us at archives@iastate.edu.  Stay tuned to future posts for tips for finding materials using our website, help with materials handling quandaries, and other helpful information.


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