JSU Newswire
Jacksonville, Alabama

Cole Library’s Alabama Gallery
A Special Gem

By Sherry Kughn
JSU News Bureau

March 5, 2004 -- The librarians at Houston Cole Library watch the newspapers, Internet, and magazines for new books by Alabama authors. They don’t order only one, as they do with most books. They order an extra to go into the library’s Alabama Gallery, a room on the tenth floor that’s kept locked mainly to protect the Old and Rare Books Collection housed there. It sits side by side with The Alabama Collection, both filling up the eastern half of the room.

The Alabama Gallery, which houses between 8,000 to 10,000 books, can be used with permission from a librarian at the front desk or by the one overseeing the remainder of books on the tenth floor. The books can’t be checked out, though, for security purposes.


The Alabama Gallery seems not only like a library but also somewhat like a museum because of some special artifacts. There is a Woodland Indian Bowl dated from somewhere between 100 BC to AD 700, and there’s a glass case full of proclamations honoring Jacksonville’s most famous Civil War hero, Major John Pelham. He looks out at passersby from two large portraits on the wall. Currently the other half of the room is used for storage.


Library director Bill Hubbard said the library staff does not actively acquire more old and rare books as they do of books written by Alabama authors. The reason is that JSU is a teaching university.


“We’re not a research library,” says Hubbard, “Our acquisitions are intended to support the curriculum. Research libraries, as a rule, concentrate on special collections.”


The Alabama Gallery is neat and well-catalogued, though, thanks initially to former librarian Thomas Freeman. He wrote a major bibliography in 1987 for the collection and updated it in 1995. Since then books are logged into the computer as they are received, which gives a student or a visitor to the library a complete search tool.


Any book aficionado would love lingering over the titles. Readers should be careful. Some of the books in the Old and Rare Collection are too crumbly to handle. A book called Ten Years of Preacher Life by William Henry Milburn cracked in the middle when examined. It was published in 1859. There are biographies on many Alabamians, including Tallulah Bankhead and Nat King Cole. There are collections of journals, magazines, Codes of Alabama, annuals reports and studies. There are surveys, histories of newspaper companies, and biological listings of plants, birds, and soils, from the areas of Calhoun County and throughout the Southeast.


There are minutes from meetings of the United Daughters of the Confederacy bound from 1897. There are children’s stories by several Alabama authors, including Jimmy Buffett and Mark Childress. Big Fish by Daniel Wallace is there, along with novels by two Alabamains who were classmates when young, Elise Sanguinetti and Harper Lee.


Helen Keller seems to speak from the pages of her journal: “The deepest sorrow knows not time – it seems an eternal night.” The journal was published in 1936.


The Alabama Gallery is a place that has its own charm, hidden gems, and useful information. Currently and certainly in the future, students might want to visit The Alabama Gallery, to conduct research on Alabama authors, to study Alabama history, or maybe just to absorb a little of the aura of being an Alabama citizen.



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