May 27, 2022

Improving Discovery: New LSTA Grant Will Fund Complete Catalog Records For Rare Books at the University of Oregon

From U. of Oregon:

With support from a new $85,216 Library Services and Technology Act grant from the Oregon State Library, some of the university’s most priceless scholarly resources soon will become fully accessible to researchers worldwide.

For the first time ever, the UO Libraries’ collection of rare books will be readily searchable via a complete and accurate set of online catalog records. The grant will fund both library staff time and vendor digitization support for the project, which is expected to take about one year to complete.

“It’s an understatement to say we have a very rich collection,” said David de Lorenzo, the Giustina Director of UO Libraries’ Special Collections, who spearheaded the grant application process. “We have around 300,000 rare books in the library, but over 60 percent of them have not been cataloged. In many cases, we just don’t know what we have.

“The idea here is to make our rare books more discoverable not only for the community in Eugene but also for people on the other side of the world. And the way to do that is to make the records available online, in a self-serve format, in their entirety. The process itself is pretty basic but many years overdue. What was missing was the money to do it.”

Isaac Newton changed the world when he invented calculus. Special Collections holds a 1711 first edition of his “De analysi,” in which Newton describes his mathematical discovery (via U. of Oregon)

Bruce Tabb, the UO’s rare books curator and public services librarian, has been working with the materials for more than two decades. Now close to retirement, he said the grant will help fulfill longstanding efforts to improve awareness and use of the priceless collection.

“For a number of years, I have been getting rare books into the online catalog piecemeal,” Tabb explained. “When I pulled uncataloged materials for people to use for their classes or for inclusion in a library or museum exhibit, when they were through using them I would send those books to our catalogers and have them added to the online catalog. I’m thrilled this grant will allow for a comprehensive approach, rather than just piecemeal.”


The foundation of the UO’s holdings is a cache of Western European and Near Eastern manuscripts that were donated to the university over the period of 1935-42 by Edward and Julia Burgess. In all, the UO holds 62 medieval and renaissance codices, 10 deeds and 27 leaves. It is the largest collection of these materials in any university library in the Pacific Northwest and the fourth-largest collection on the West Coast. Their donation also included 52 incunabula printed before 1501.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.