Students in music, literature and gender studies will benefit from two separate gifts made recently by Appalachian State University professors.
English professor Elaine O’Quinn had collected vintage series books for boys and girls for more than 20 years, including the tales of Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames and Tom Swift. She has donated more than 400 titles and other materials to Belk Library and Information Commons’ Special Collections, where they will become a central focus of the children’s literature collection.
Noted organist Max Smith, who taught at Appalachian from 1969 to 1993, has established an endowment to support the purchase of rare materials for Belk Library and Information Commons’ music library. The collection has been named the Max Smith Endowment for Rare Music Books and Manuscripts.
O’Quinn’s and Smith’s gifts count toward the Campaign for Appalachian, which so far has raised more than $140 million in gifts and pledges for academics, the arts and athletics.
Many of 400 books Dr. Elaine O’Quinn has donated to Appalachian are first editions and still have their original book jackets.
“The fun of hunting for books became as interesting as what they said inside,” O’Quinn said of her passion, which was fueled in part by watching her niece grow up. “Discovering a book on a musty bookshelf in a lonely room made me feel like I was rescuing it. And I was in a very real way, because collectors preserve an important piece of humanity.”
O’Quinn’s research interests include girls’ studies and young female protagonists in texts. She is editor of “Girls’ Literacy Experiences In and Out of School: Learning and Composing Gendered Identities” published by Routledge publishing company.
The collection – which includes books from the early 1800s to the 1970s – will support the women’s studies program at Appalachian as well as its new minor in girls’ studies, an emerging academic field not offered at many U.S. universities. The minor attracts students from across campus, including students in English, creative writing, sociology, psychology, art history and education.
Studies of girls’ series books have exposed ideologies, provided a road map of societal expectations placed on girls, made sense of the literacy habits of girls, and noted the unorthodox agency and freedom that girls often take, O’Quinn explained.
The professor’s gift is “incredibly generous… not just in monetary terms, but even more because it comes from such a passionate attachment,” said Dr. Donna L. Lillian, who directs Appalachian’s program in women’s studies. “Elaine loves her collection, but her teaching and her students mean even more to her.”
Titles in the girls’ series include Vicki Barr, Trixie Belden, Honey Bunch, Kay Tracey and others. Titles in the boys’ series include Tom Swift, Horatio Alger Stories, Tom Corbett, The Rover Boys and the Lucky Terrell Flying Series. There is also a large collection of zines devoted to the girls’ series books.
Not only did Dr. Max Smith teach organ to hundreds of students, he performed frequently in the Boone area at churches and special events. He also took his musical talents to 26 states and five foreign countries.
“I have always been interested in early music,” Smith said, “and I think it is important for students to have the opportunity to examine early manuscripts.”
The proceeds of the Max Smith Endowment for Rare Music Books and Manuscripts endowment will be used to purchase significant materials for the library’s collection.
Dr. Gary Boye, music librarian, stated, “Even in an electronic age, there is no substitute for giving students an opportunity to look directly at primary sources. Digital copies, facsimiles, and heavily revised modern editions of music are all readily available today, but they cannot replace the experience of coming face-to-face with the past through a unique manuscript or centuries-old publication.”
Boye noted that the music library has very few examples of early primary sources for students who are studying the history of European classical music. “With Max’s generous gift, we will build a collection that can give our students experience with special collections and rare music materials from a variety of periods and in a variety of formats,” he said.
Smith is a native of Kansas and earned degrees at the University of Oklahoma and the University of Missouri. He was awarded the Doctor of Sacred Music degree at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
In addition to teaching, Smith served at one time as interim dean of the School of Music.