Libraries' Texana collections house unique, historical gems

May 1, 2019Andrea Vasquez

Calling all Texas history buffs. If you want to browse a collection of pretty much anything "Texas," the San Jacinto College libraries should be on your list.

The College's Texana collections were created in 1986 in honor of the state's sesquicentennial. Special collections featuring Texas-related books were authorized for the Central, North, and South Campus libraries. Over the years, the Central and North Texana collections have downsized due to library renovations, making the South Campus' Texana collection the College's most extensive. Materials range from Texas historical icons to 100-year-old phone books from Galveston and church cookbooks.

What remains of the Central Campus' collection is now circulating among its open stacks, meaning that those materials can be checked out, something unique to that collection.

"We chose to do this so that the College community could have easier access to the material and be able to check the material out," said Karen Blankenship, Central Campus library director.

Lyn Garner, North Campus library director, adds that her favorite thing about the collection is seeing students stumble upon it and get lost in curiosity.

"Our Texana room is designed as a reading room, and we often come upon students who just wandered in and found something that piqued their interest," Garner said. "That always makes me happy."

Some of the most rare and unique items are housed in the South Campus' Texana collection. With more than 16,000 volumes, one of the rarest includes a copy of "Memoirs of Mary A. Maverick," published in 1921, with handwritten annotations by Rena Maverick Green, Mary Maverick's granddaughter, who was also editor of her memoirs. Maverick kept diaries of her experiences and observations of life on the Texas frontier and in mid-19th-century San Antonio. Today her memoirs are often cited in studies of Texas pioneer life.

"My long-term goal for the collection is to see it curated by a librarian with an interest in Texana and some experience handling rare or antiquarian books and magazines," said Richard McKay, South Campus library director.

Due to all of the state and institutional historic materials in the collection, McKay humorously added that some supernatural spectres may still be attached to some of the items.

"I'm trying to start a rumor that the room is haunted," he said. "Most larger schools have ghost legends about one of their buildings. Now it's our turn."