Contest rewards students for their rare-book collections

Ed Swaray

In high school, Jonathan Good taught himself the symbolism of coats of arms. Almost 10 years later, Good has collected more than 50 books of heraldry literature.

Good, a University graduate student, came in second in the Student Book Collection Contest in 2002 for his collection. The contest, launched by University professor Marcia Pankake four years ago, rewards students for essays written about their book collections.

Students are asked to write 1,500-word essays and compile annotated bibliographies of at least 25 titles in their collections, she said.

Contest entries’ subjects range widely, from one specific author to pop-up books to collections of authors’ signatures, Pankake said.

Winners are determined by a panel of three judges: one from the library board of directors, one faculty member and one library staff member.

The judges select three winners based on the quality of the essays and award cash prizes of $700, $500 and $300 for first, second and third places, respectively.

Pankake said Maxine Wallin, a University alumna and Friends of the Library member, funds most of the contest.

Friends of the Library is a group of students, alumni and community members who offer feedback for library programs and find outside money for University libraries.

Other Friends of the Library members also provided funding for the contest. George Swan, a library information technology professional, said he contributed to the contest when he saw how anxious and proud the submitting students were. He said he also wanted to inform students their work is appreciated.

If students are encouraged to collect books and later become life-long collectors, there is a high possibility they will donate their books to a library later on, Swan said.

“It was great to meet more like-minded people and share your love of book collecting,” said David Oosterhuis, a University graduate student and winner of the 2003 contest for his collection of 20th century novels set in ancient Rome.

The three finalists for this year’s competition will be identified in early March, Pankake said. The winners will be announced at an annual dinner of the Friends of the Library on April 28.