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University Libraries - News, Events & Exhibits

And the Student Book Collecting Award winner is...

Apr 12, 2012 7:16 AM

Congratulations to Robert "Rob" Patrick Smith, a master of library science student in the School of Library and Information Science, who is the 2012 winner of the Thomas Cooper Library Student Book Collecting Contest. He will receive the first-prize award of $250 at the Thomas Cooper Society’s Annual General Meeting and Banquet on April 20.

An avid bibliophile with more than 3,000 volumes in his personal library, Smith won the award for his “Historical Radio Book Collection.” That collection, comprised of more than 60 books, includes handbooks for early radio experimenters, how-to manuals for vintage radio enthusiasts, texts for classroom use, training aids for the war effort, and detailed service manuals. The oldest book in the collection is An Elementary Manual of Radiotelegraphy and Radiotelephony for Students and Operators, published in London in 1908.

Smith began his collection some 30 years ago when, as a teenager, he purchased an old radio and related books at a neighborhood garage sale.

“In these books were diagrams and photographs of the technology of the past, yet to my fifteen-year-old eyes they were illustrations of works of art and things of beauty,” he wrote in his contest essay. “It was these first few books that began a lifelong hunt and collection of all things related to vintage radios.

“The technology that these books highlight is, in fact, the foundation of today’s semiconductor driven electronics,” he wrote. “In fact, the term ‘semiconductor’ is a reference to two vintage radio components. . .These radio books from the past form a link for me to the technology of this bygone era.”

In addition to the essay, Smith submitted a detailed list of each book in his collection.

“Robert Smith's collection of early radio books alone is impressive,” said Jeffrey Makala, Outreach Librarian for the Hollings Special Collections Library and coordinator of the Student Book Collecting Award.  “But the selection committee was especially impressed with the care and thought he put into annotating his bibliography to show the significance of each book and the ways in which a larger history of books on radio can be constructed from the collection.”

The results of Smith’s work will be on display in Thomas Cooper Library during the month of May, where visitors will be able to view a selection from his collection and read his exhibition text. His winning entry also will be submitted to the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest, co-sponsored by the Library of Congress, the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, and the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies. The University's 2007 winner was a runner-up in the national contest.

The Thomas Cooper Library Student Book Collecting Contest was created to foster student interest in establishing and building personal book collections. The University's libraries have many of the world's top literary research collections, including ones on F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, John Milton and Robert Burns. The award, sponsored by Thomas Cooper Library, was begun in 1993 by the Thomas Cooper Society to encourage beginning book collectors.

Collections entered into the competition may be in any field or may emphasize some particular area of interest within a subject. Collections may illustrate a certain bibliographical feature such as edition, illustration, typography and binding. Books and printed documents in all formats are acceptable for submission. Materials submitted by entrants must be owned and have been collected primarily by them. To enter, students must submit a brief essay describing how and why the collection was assembled, including plans for future growth and development, and an annotated bibliography of selected titles from the collection.

For a list of previous winners and the topics of their collections, visit