I am firmly convinced that Special Collections is UW-L’s secret treasure. It’s right out in the open, yet so few people seem to know of its existence. Located on the opposite side of Murphy as the entrance to the main library, SC tends to get overlooked. It doesn’t help that there’s a whole set of procedures to slog through in order to even enter: first you have to ring a doorbell and be buzzed in, then you have to sign in as a registered guest, then you have to leave your bags in a locker near the entrance. By the time you get to sit down you’ve been stripped down to a pencil, piece of paper, and whatever else you need to complete your research. It’s all a bit overwhelming for the student who is merely curious and has no formal research to do. And yet these steps (which do not include a pat-down or full-body scan a la airport security, thank you very much) ARE necessary to protect the books, documents and miscellaneous items in SC. They are not done merely to make visitors feel like a suspicious and untrustworthy outsider. I promise.
I hope to convey in this post what Special Collections is and show a behind the scenes (behind the stacks?) look at several aspects of Special Collections that students, researchers and visitors wouldn’t normally get to see.