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Medieval studies librarian to head rare books library at Illinois


Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor
217-333-2177; andreal@illinois.edu

6/1/2005

Valerie Hotchkiss
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Valerie Hotchkiss will assume her new job as the head of the Rare Book and Special Collections Library at Illinois Aug. 1.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Valerie Hotchkiss has been selected to head the Rare Book and Special Collections Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Currently the J.S. Bridwell Foundation Endowed Librarian and professor of medieval studies at Southern Methodist University, Hotchkiss will assume her job at Illinois on Aug. 1.

She also will hold the rank of professor of library administration and professor of medieval studies.

“I am very pleased Dr. Hotchkiss has accepted our offer,” said Paula Kaufman, university librarian at Illinois. “I look forward to the leadership she will bring to continue the prominence of the Rare Book and Special Collections Library.”

Hotchkiss said she is eager to take up her duties at Illinois, describing her new library as having “one of the best – and largest – collections of rare books and manuscripts in the country.”

Her priorities, she said, will be “to make the collections more accessible to the scholarly community and to improve the physical space and conditions in which the books are housed and used.”

She also would like to begin a “serious exhibition and publication program” to make the collections more widely known.

“The wealth of the collections provides so much to build upon. I found the staff, faculty and students who use rare materials to be both knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the collection, and I am eager to work with them to bring the Rare Book and Special Collections Library into what I hope will be a new and exciting phase of its development.”

The Rare Book and Special Collections Library is the main repository for rare books, manuscripts and special collections in the University Library system.

It contains more than 250,000 books, including 1,100 incunables (books printed before 1501) and more than 7,130 linear feet of manuscripts. Materials include the four Shakespeare folios and Audubon’s “Birds of America” as well as noteworthy collections by and about Lincoln, Milton, Proust, Sandburg, Shakespeare and H.G. Wells.

The Rare Book and Special Collections Library is one of more than 40 departmental libraries in the University Library, which holds more than 10 million volumes and is the largest public university collection in the world.

The search for a new rare book librarian began in August 2003 when Barbara Jones, who had held that position from 1996 to 2003, accepted a job as director of the library system at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn.

Hotchkiss has directed the Bridwell Library at SMU’s Perkins School of Theology for 12 years. Under her leadership, the library added more than $16 million to its endowment, renovated public spaces to improve access and built up a “solid reputation” among rare book and manuscript libraries.

According to Hotchkiss, the Bridwell Library ranks fourth among university library collections in its holding of 15th-century books, running closely behind the University of Illinois, which has the third-place position behind Harvard and Yale.

Her own books include “Clothes Make the Man: Female Transvestism in Medieval Europe” and “The Reformation of the Bible/The Bible of Reformation,” co-written with Jaroslav Pelikan and David Price. Her most recent publication is the multi-volume “Creeds and Confessions of Faith in the Christian Tradition,” which she edited with Pelikan.

Hotchkiss also is author, editor or contributor to many works, and has published numerous articles in the area of medieval studies and edited more than 25 exhibition catalogs.

Hotchkiss says she has “always worked in libraries,” beginning at age 14 in the Cincinnati Public Library system. Prior to working at SMU, she was the director of the Austin Seminary Library. She also worked in several capacities as a librarian at Yale University before she began graduate work there.

Active in library circles, Hotchkiss has spoken on library development, the role of library administration in the book arts, and rare book acquisition at various conferences in the United States and abroad.

She has served on the board of the American Theological Library Association and the library board of the Dallas Museum of Art. She is a member of the Rare Book and Manuscript Section of the American Library Association.
Hotchkiss received her bachelor’s degree in classical languages and literatures from the University of Cincinnati, a master’s degree in Library Science from Southern Connecticut State University and a doctorate in medieval studies from Yale University.