By Lauren Masters
Some of the books are so small they can be cradled in the palm of a hand and others are so big there isn”t enough space in the library to shelve them.
Some books are too valuable to be left in the regular stacks – and students might consider some of them in violation of the Honor Code. Others are part of a science fiction, fantasy or western series printed in paperback.
Still others contain sets of prints that would be easier to steal if placed in the general stacks. Art and photography books find their way into the collection as well.
These books are part of the library”s locked case, a section of the library not as well-known or guarded as Special Collections, but just as diverse in content.
Two locked cases exist in the Harold B. Lee Library. The first is the general library locked case in the Interlibrary Loan Office supervised by Kathy Hansen, department chairwoman over access services, and contains materials that would be shelved in the general stacks. The second houses periodicals and is managed by Lanell Rabner, periodicals librarian.
Students can access books in the locked case at any time before the Interlibrary Loan Office closes at 5:30 p.m. A search for a locked case book on the library”s Web site will show the book”s call number and describe its location as “in LOCK.” A librarian in the Interlibrary Loan Office will retrieve the book from the locked case once a student gives the call number to him or her.
Books and periodicals are flagged for the locked case if they meet specific criteria. First, subject librarians select library materials in conjunction with faculty and what their particular research needs are, Rabner said. From there, the book is evaluated on its type of material, value, purchasing agreement, chance of theft and subject matter.
“What locked case does is removes from the main stacks materials that could be easily destroyed and books that patrons would find to be rather questionable,” Rabner said.
The locked case contains many books with prints and plates. A book about an artist or photographer may contain copies of his work on individual pages that would be easy to take out and frame, Hansen said. Science books also come with plates with intricate studies of plants that are equivalent to an artist”s prints.
“A few years ago, botanical prints were very popular in decorating and books were put in the locked case because they had plates of intricate drawings of plants that people would cut out to decorate their homes,” Hansen said. “Those materials would be sent to locked case just to protect them. It”s easier to check the material when it comes back and before it goes out to see if everything”s there.”
An expensive item that may be difficult to replace and is worth more than $200 but doesn”t qualify for Special Collections also goes to locked case, Hansen said.
Even paperback books find their way into the collection. Years ago, the library bought entire collections of early science fiction, mystery and western paperback novels. Serious damage could occur if the books were not carefully shelved, Hansen said, and the books would be more susceptible to theft on the regular shelves.
“Some of these, especially the early science-fiction and mystery materials are quite valuable because they were never put in hardback,” Hansen said. “For certain authors, we have some of their very early writings that only came out in paperback editions.”
The next category of books housed in the locked case are those relating to sexuality – what most people would probably thing of as being in locked case, Hansen said.
Books containing artistic or photographic studies of the nude body are in locked case, as well as medical journals with people in the nude, displaying symptoms of catalogued diseases.
The locked case is actually a room in the Interlibrary Loan Office behind a locked, wooden door. The room looks like an extension of the library with white shelves and rows of books organized by call numbers. Hansen occasionally lets patrons browse the books if they want to see the science fiction, fantasy or western paperback collection.
The room is cold. Last year, a flood in the library caused water damage to a large portion of the locked case and many of the books could not be salvaged. Others have just returned to the collection after being carefully restored.
Hansen pointed to rows of books that are part of the miniature Agate collection. Many of the books are leather bound and could fit in a shirt pocket. She pulled out a tiny New Testament and opened the cover.
“It looks like this belonged to someone back in the 1800s,” she read. “It says here that they carried this through ”the rebellion,” perhaps the Civil War.”
Books about the occult and Satanism have their own shelf. The library keeps such books for classes studying folklore and myths.
The vast majority of books are visual arts-related. Shelf after shelf contains books by some of the most famous artists in history. Hansen flipped through a book containing nude drawings of the gods.
“You see that we have books like this that aren”t pornographic in nature,” Hansen said. “Any serious study of the arts includes drawings of the human body.”
She then pulled out a large book that looked more like a portfolio. The book was wider than the space she stood in. She carefully untied the sides to reveal more than a dozen prints, individually labeled to prevent theft.
“If these were left on the general shelves, you could see why it would be so easy for people to take one print out, and we would never know,” Hansen said.
Hansen ended the tour with one last glance around the room. It was the first time she”d been in the locked case for quite some time. She turned to exit and locked the door behind her.
In the periodicals locked case, Lanell Rabner deals less with periodicals containing sensitive materials and more with journals that would easily be destroyed if left out on the general stacks.
She includes photography magazines that would be an easy target for people to tear out photographs and historic textile journals with swatches of fabric that would make the journal useless if removed.
Periodicals with supplemental material on interactive CDs are placed in the locked case as well to keep those materials together.
“We have very few periodicals that actually are in our locked case right now,” Rabner said. “There are a lot of issues that we take into consideration.”
She said some students find foreign periodicals objectionable, including Der Spiegle, which she compared to the U.S. newsmagazines Time and U.S. News. Sometimes, she said, the media in other countries are more liberal with their coverage of events and overall design.
“If there is a particular cover patrons find objectionable, we”ll put it in the folder,” Rabner said. “We don”t have a lot of those.”
If a patron finds material he or she sees objectionable, the library has a procedure for the person to fill out a sensitive materials form to have the item evaluated. The material is then examined by the periodicals librarian and discussed with the subject librarian, who usually selects the material.
If the concern is great enough, the complaint will be looked at by the university librarians to determine whether or not the complaint is justified. If the material is deemed inappropriate, the material will either be placed in locked case or canceled.
Rabner selects material based on department curriculum and research needs. She also feels foreign periodicals are important for the language classes and the number of students who come from other countries.
“I know, at times, people have been unhappy that we subscribe to Village Voice, and they would suggest, off and on, that we get rid of it,” Rabner said. “But Village Voice is heavily used by the Communications Department, by advertising and marketing, because they need to look at the ads. I go the rounds on Village Voice every year but I refuse to cancel it. It fills a particular niche that we can”t do any other way.”
The library made a compromise that allows Village Voice to be placed on the stacks until the microfilm comes. However, the microfilm does not contain the ads and students would need to visit the locked case to see past issues of Village Voice.
“I think we have a reasonable selection policy that we don”t subscribe to Playboy,” Rabner said. “It”s not feasible to evaluate every single journal that comes through because what”s sensitive to one person may not be sensitive to the majority.”
The Harold B. Lee Library is one of 160 American Research Libraries, and Rabner said she subscribes to the major journals that are needed to maintain BYU”s accreditation. Still, anything can be put up for review.
“Over time, as content does change, we”ll pull something and take a look at it and say, ”Well, it met a need that maybe it doesn”t meet now,” Rabner said.
Once a complaint is made and a decision is reached, the periodical might be placed in locked case, canceled or returned to the stacks. If the material is returned to general circulation, the final decision with an explanation will be sent to the patron.
“I think at BYU we walk a fine line on censorship, and I”m very sensitive to that,” Rabner said. “This is an academic research institution, and we need to take into consideration that there are a multiplicity of materials out there used for certain privileges. You have to take the good with the bad.”