Gifts from the Past Enrich Generations of the Future

Printed words on crisp pages bound in a hardcover book seem to be a thing of the past in today's age of technology. Because of storage issues, costs and the desire for instantaneous access to materials, many of today's libraries opt to utilize more online books and journals. While the Baylor University Libraries do offer students access to the latest technological advances, we have also been given three great donations that will ensure future students will have a literal grasp of knowledge as well.

Dr. Peter Speers of Austin began collecting books when he was a teenager, and his lifelong respect for the people of the Middle East grew into a vast assortment of literature that he has graciously donated to the Baylor Libraries. The collection is made up of approximately 400 books about art, history, religion and politics of this region of the world. A third of the books are in Arabic and some even date back to the 1800s. Speers decided to listen to a friend's recommendation, which will allow future scholars unparalleled access to these texts.

"I was given some good advice," said Speers. "It would be more worthwhile to donate these books to some place like Baylor that was interested in starting up a collection rather than another school that already had a large collection."

Tom Parrish has also donated a sizeable collection to the Libraries. Because of his great love for Baylor and for books, Parrish gave almost 500 editions on various subject matters to the Libraries last October with a promise of more to come. An avid lover of books, he often spoke with other potential donors about giving their book collections to Baylor while he worked as Baylor's first development officer from 1963-1985. When the time came to consider the future of his extensive personal library, Parrish knew what he had to do.

"If you're going to give away books, give them to a university that has eager hungry minds. They will be used," Parrish said.

Of course, being able to donate a great text and the ability to access it electronically constitutes the best of both aspects of the Libraries. Anne Birkhead purchased the Journal of William Surtees Cook for the Armstrong Browning Library as a tribute to her mother and her grandparents. Cook was the brother-in-law of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and his four-volume handwritten journal will be digitized and made available on the Internet for scholars around the world to study. Birkhead set up an endowment to ensure rare items like the journal are not lost.

"The endowment provides support and makes funds available to purchase these items," Birkhead said. "I was trying to preserve the legacy Dr. Armstrong started."

Whether the materials are electronic or heirlooms, donors can be certain their treasures will be well-preserved and well-utilized by generations of future Baylor students.

-Tina Libhart
Library Advancement