Behind the Scenes at the Rakow Research Library for National Library Week

It’s National Library Week, a time to recognize the valuable contributions made by library workers everywhere—and especially at our very own Rakow Research Library! As the foremost library on the art and history of glass and glassmaking, the Rakow has everything from Tiffany design drawings to what are essentially cook books (aka “batch books”) for glass. It is the Rakow’s mission to acquire everything published on the subject of glass—in every format and in every language!

The collection has grown from 500 items in 1951 to almost 500,000 items today, including 75,000 books and periodicals, thousands of design drawings, archival collections, photographs, maps, databases, films, oral histories, and a host of other informational resources.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It’s impressive to walk up the glass stairs leading to the collections of the Rakow. Daylight fills the space lined with bookshelves, computers, and researchers pouring over piles of books. But, just like a book, you can’t judge this library by its cover. There’s more here than what meets the eye.

Let’s take a look at what goes on behind the scenes—in the “secured stacks”—of the world’s largest library devoted to glass.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

With about 150 rows, 40+ filing cabinets, and thousands of books and design drawings, there’s a lot that lives on the second floor of the Rakow—which supports the 541,300 pounds of the fully-loaded stacks! Having the collection live on the second floor came out of necessity after many books were damaged during the flood of 1972.

The numbers tell the story of the world-class collection you’ll find at The Rakow:

  • 25,008 – The number of design drawings in the Rakow’s collection.
  • 2,908 – The number of rare books the Rakow owns.
  • 139 – The number of children’s books on glass.
  • 46 – The number of copies the Rakow has of the first book devoted to the subject of making glass.
  • 8,716 – The number of DVDs available in the Rakow.
  • 1,555 – The number of items and collections donated to the Rakow in 2014
  • 5,000-7,000 – The number of stained glass cartoons in the Whitefriars collection, which the Rakow is currently conserving and digitizing with the help of an IMLS Grant, received last year.
  • 58 – The number of different languages in which Rakow has materials, including Azerbaijani, Macedonian, Papuan, and Welsh.
  • 375 – The number of years of experience the current Rakow staff has collectively spent working in libraries, archives, and museums.
  • 22 – The number of people on staff at the Rakow Research Library.

The Rakow is a very impressive place, indeed! Make sure to stop by during your next visit to the Museum. The Rakow’s atrium is used for the exhibition of temporary exhibits, and Selections from the Rakow Library is on display now through May 17. On June 6, America’s Favorite Dish: Celebrating a Century of Pyrex will open.

The Rakow's exhibition space.

The Rakow’s exhibition space.

The Rakow Research Library is open to the public 9am to 5pm every day. We encourage everyone to explore our collections in person or online. If you have questions or need help with your research, please use our Ask a Glass Question service.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: