About Our Collection
The books chosen for study at St. John’s are collected in the best editions and translations that can be obtained. These works form the basis of the collection, with additional volumes serving as secondary sources and representative works in the major fields of learning. For a small liberal arts library the collection is quite rich in works written in French, Ancient Greek, Classical Chinese, Sanskrit, and German, in original papers of the great scientists and mathematicians, and in the works of classical philosophers. Many libraries provide a broad coverage of the classics. We do so in depth.
The library strives to keep at least one copy of every program reading readily accessible to students and tutors. The Reserve Collection, located at the Circulation Desk, contains program readings for seminars, tutorials, preceptorials and labs, as well as program music. It also includes printed lectures, senior essays, and a few periodicals. Additional copies of many program materials are available in the general collection.
The emphasis at St. John’s is placed on reading and discussion rather than research. The library’s special collections reflect this unique perspective. The library collects alternate translations and editions of authors’ works for the sake of comparison. If an edition is rare, it is kept in Special Collections, where access is carefully monitored. Special editions of authors’ works housed in Special Collections include an early copy of Newton’s Principia, and Cervantes’s Don Quixote. Works by alumni and faculty of both the Annapolis and Santa Fe campuses are actively collected and housed in Special Collections. The library has several collections of American author’s works, which do not circulate, including an Edgar Allan Poe collection, Peggy Pond Church collection, and Witter Bynner collection. The Bynner collection, formed by Mary Jane McLean, a dancer who was a close friend of the poet for forty years, contains books, pamphlets, translations, periodicals, photographs, and letters relating to Witter Bynner. Materials housed in Special Collections are listed in the library catalog. Requests for access to special collections must be placed with one of the Librarians.
Music plays an integral role in the College curriculum. Meem Library has several named collections of musical scores which circulate, i.e. the White, Grumman, and Schmidt collections. The recently acquired Horace Lamb collection of musical scores has not yet been cataloged. The Jac Holzman collection, donated by the founder of Elektra Records, contains scores and recordings from the American folk movement of the 1950s and 1960s. The Bruce Venable collection, named in memory of a beloved tutor, contains recordings of liturgical music.
Historical materials contained in the College archives include class manuals, photographs, minutes from committee meetings, and papers from college offices. Access to some materials is restricted. For details, contact Craig Jolly, senior acquisitions and archives librarian.
The library subscribes to a select group of newspapers, magazines, and journals that support the academic and extra-curricular interests of students and tutors. Students at St. John’s College do not write research papers. Instead, they write opinion papers based on their close analysis of a chosen text. Students tend to browse the collection to keep up with current events, and to sample scholarly literature in preparation for graduate study. Faculty members consult periodical literature to keep abreast of trends in academic disciplines and to conduct personal research. Occasionally tutors will augment class readings with journal articles, especially in laboratory classes, and in faculty study groups.