At the core of The Rakow Research Library is the book collection, numbering approximately 37,500 titles. We try to obtain every book on the history and art of glass and glassmaking, meaning new, old, and rare volumes are constantly being added to the collection. The acquisitions team is responsible for purchasing books and receives suggestions from reference librarians, curators, and other museum staff. There are three primary ways in which books are acquired. They can be purchased from a vendor, they can be received as an exchange from other libraries, museums or universities, or they can come in as donations. With “glassy” books, we try to obtain one copy for public use and a second non-circulating copy.
Along with the obvious glassy subjects such as glassmaking techniques, stained glass, glass artists, and glass company histories; topics range from architecture to Christmas ornaments to neon and beads. Fiction, children’s books, craft instruction and pattern books, glass dictionaries, and identification and price guides are here, too. We have unique materials that are self-published by contemporary artists. In addition to those, we also collect in subject areas that support glass research, including archaeology, ceramics, and other decorative arts, to name a few. Materials in our collection can be found in more than 50 different languages. The oldest book dating back to approximately 1150 is the Mappae Clavicula, which was hand-copied by monks and contains formulae for making colored glass.
Kelly Bliss is in charge of cataloging the book collection. Nearly 50% of the book cataloging that Kelly does is original, meaning that no other library reports holding that item. Kelly’s favorite book in the Library is a William Leighton Batch book, which was donated by the family in 1993. A batch book is a glassmaker’s recipe book for different types and colors of glass. Dated October 1850, this miniature book inside a leather case was written by hand and contains 46 pages of recipes that easily fit in the palm of your hand. Additional miniature pages contain typed up recipes. Like many other items in our collection, it is one-of-a-kind.
Though we used to microfilm rare books for preservation and circulation, they are now being digitized for increased accessibility. Some books have been put on “page turning” software and are available on our website allowing patrons to read the digitized versions. We are happy to lend any books through Interlibrary Loan provided that we hold at least two copies, and we encourage you to visit and see the collection first hand. Kelly says, “People can’t imagine what we have . . . to look at all of the different topics we have, they would be amazed.”
The Rakow Research Library is open from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Monday – Friday
Telephone: 607.438.5300 | Email (general inquiries): [email protected]
Explore the collection online using the classic catalog or the Library’s collection browser.