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Department of Special Collections and University Archives

The Jack and Tybie Davis Satin Rare Book Room


The Jack and Tybie Davis Satin Rare Book Room was originally, simply, the Rare Book Room when the 1967 east wing was built onto the McFarlin Library building.  During the planning stages for the new building, then University President Ben Henneke questioned the need for a Rare Books Room, but acceded to the advice of a friend to the University, Pauline McFarlin Walter.  The appearance of the room has changed somewhat over the years.

The 1970s to the early 1980s

Initially, the Rare Book Room held the rare book collection, and offered scholars a place to study those materials in comfort, while at the same time protecting and preserving those same materials for the future.  The alcove to the side was intended to be the librarian's office.  The rare books collections soon outgrew the room, and the manuscript collections pushed into the rest of the 5th floor.  Eventually, the staff began to office in the current office area (although with a dramatically different configuration).  The Rare Book Room was still used for readers at this time, although occasional events were scheduled in there as well.

By the late 1970s, it was becoming obvious that the Rare Book Room, as it existed at that time, was inadequate as designed for a modern special collections department reading room.

On 30 September 1980, the Department was renamed the Jack H. and Tybie Davis Satin Rare Book Room.  At about the same time, easily monitored, partly glass-walled reading rooms were built elsewhere in the department, and the Satin Room was adapted for classroom use and event space. This configuration is the most familiar one for many older patrons.

The 1980s to the Present

In 1984, Joan Skelly Stuart donated $28,000 in antiques and artwork to The University, including the Waterford crystal chandelier, and the round rosewood table shown here.  Over the next fifteen years, the Satin Rare Book Room became a major, beloved showpiece for The University.



By 2000, however, the Satin Rare Book Room was showing sufficient wear and tear to deserve a face-lift.  Also by this time, the glass-walled reading rooms were obsolete, and were taking up far more space than they really warranted, so the decision was made to remove them as part of the remodel.  Through the generosity of the Chapman Trust, the Satin Rare Book Room was reconfigured once again into a more modern reading room for the Department of Special Collections and University Archives, with fixed reading tables, (based on those in the British Library.) and large display cases were installed.



In 2006, the room was closed for a few weeks as the old asbestos ceiling was stripped away, and in 2007 a modern fire suppression system was added, along with more security features.