Vol. 12. No. 2
Fall 2002


M A R R I O T T * L I B R A R Y

The J. Willard Marriott Library and I first met a decade ago thanks to a professor who correctly assumed that undergraduates were unlikely to explore this intimidating edifice on their own. I was terrified, frankly, during that initial tour — and remember, this was years before the 210,000-square-foot expansion in 1996, years before the holdings housed at the Marriott swelled to nearly three million volumes and the institution became ranked among the largest university research libraries in North America. A few days after my introduction to the library, I returned alone and, with call numbers hastily scratched on a tablet, dived into the stacks after the books I thought I needed to consult for the senior thesis I was writing. Half an hour, tops, I thought, and I'm out of here.

What I hadn't counted on was serendipity — or whatever you might call it when, without any rational explanation, a title you had no idea existed falls off a library shelf onto the floor before you and turns out to be the keystone of your research. (Yes, this really happened.) But if you're a skeptic who puts no stock in benevolent library genies shoving good books your way, fear not — the magic of the Marriott is available to everyone.

For less-than-intrepid visitors like me, the library staff is arguably the single most important feature of the Marriott. Behind any information desk on any floor anywhere in the library can be found specialized trained personnel to assist you — and get this even if you don't know precisely what it is you're looking for. A research library like the Marriott is invaluable not only because it's where important stuff is stored, but also because it's where dozens of people work who know how to get you to important stuff wherever it's stored — be that on a shelf around the corner, in an environment-controlled vault upstairs, in a library in another state, or in a database in another part of the world.

Most library patrons become acquainted early on with services such as General Reference, Interlibrary Loan, and General Reserve. But there's so much more. Special Collections, located on the fifth level, comprises several fascinating divisions. Here reside the library's holdings of scarce books and materials on topics such as Western Americana and the state of Utah; collections of the personal papers of eminent individuals; and rare photographs, films, and recordings. The Rare Books division oversees the most precious holdings, including cornerstones of Western thought such as Galileo's Dialogo, published in 1632, and Isaac Newton's Principia, in 1687. The fifth floor is also home to Red Butte Press, where a working 1846 Columbian handpress extends the tradition of fine printing into the new millennium, and to the Book Arts Program, which offers classes, workshops, exhibitions, lectures, and a K-12 initiative in bookmaking.

The Marriott can be thought of as several libraries nesting within one building. The Middle East Library's collection, also on level five, is ranked among the top 10 in the nation. Hundreds of thousands of state, national, and international publications are held in Government Documents on the first level, as well as a complete collection of more than 6.9 million U.S. patents issued through 2001. The Marriott is one of 87 U.S. Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries in the country, and the only one in Utah.

The Katherine W. Dumke Fine Arts and Architecture Library on the second level contains materials as diverse as original sheet music from the early to mid-900s, architectural plans for the Vatican and the works of Frank Lloyd Wright, and facsimiles of rare Japanese scrolls. The Science and Engineering Library houses a map collection of 200,000 sheets, representing all land areas of the world, a collection of national atlases, geologic maps, street maps of large cities, gazetteers, nautical charts, satellite images of Utah, and virtually all maps published by the U.S. Geological Survey, including nearly 60,000 sheets of topographic maps.

In the Information Age, a research library must be on the cutting edge of electronic media and services, and the Marriott has more than met that challenge. Through the Technology Assisted Curriculum Center, students and educators are pushing the boundaries of the classroom outward, into the virtual environment, and the Marriott's state-of-the-art Multimedia Center on the first level offers more than 450 computer work-stations and a wide range of audiovisual services.

Behind the scenes are employees of the Marriott you may never meet, performing inconspicuous but critical functions. In Preservation, specially trained workers protect and restore the library's holdings by using ingenious methods to halt or forestall damage to materials from mold, acidic deterioration, or simple wear and tear and by constantly monitoring the facility's temperature and humidity. Meanwhile, technological visionaries at the library maintain 18,000 electronic journals and databases and support more than 850 computers in student computing labs campuswide with a variety of online indexes, reference tools, and software applications.

My long and wonderful relationship with the Marriott began with a mystery. I'll take you to the very book I watched falling to the floor 10 years ago, if you like — but we may make a few detours on the way. I have a lot I want to show you.

—Dawn Marano is acquisitions and development editor at The University of Utah Press.

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