Mason Acquires C-SPAN’s ‘Booknotes’ Collection

Posted: September 13, 2011 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: October 24, 2011 at 1:07 pm

By Catherine Ferraro

Adding to its vast collection of historical materials, Mason Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives (SC&A) has acquired the entire collection of 801 nonfiction books used on C-SPAN’s long-running “Booknotes” television series. The collection was a generous gift made by C-SPAN, with the cooperation of Brian Lamb, its founder and chief executive officer.

Hosted by Lamb, “Booknotes” was televised from April 1989 through December 2004. The hour-long show featured one-on-one interviews with nonfiction authors to discuss their latest writings. Beyond the book’s subject matter, authors were also asked about their research, writing process and their own lives and influences.

Notable guests included Hillary Clinton, David McCullough and David Crosby, as well as former presidents Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush.

“George Mason University will make a great permanent home for the ‘Booknotes’ collection and I am confident that it will be in good hands,” says Lamb. “My good friends Mason President Alan Merten and University Librarian John Zenelis immediately recognized the long-term value of the books and the historical perspective they represent.”

To formally celebrate the donation, Lamb will visit Mason’s Fairfax Campus on Wednesday, Sept. 21, as part of the Fall for the Book Festival, the oldest and largest festival of literature and the arts in Northern Virginia. The following events are planned for his visit:

– Lamb will host a masterclass for Mason students at 3:30 p.m. in the Johnson Center Cinema. During the class, Lamb will focus on topics such as how he prepared for interviews; the “art” of the interview; and his reflections on interviewing famous and influential people.

– An exhibit and reception will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in Fenwick Library. University Libraries will exhibit more than 50 selections of the books and archives from the “Booknotes” series, as well as video clips from various interviews.

– The reception will be followed by an evening event with Lamb at 7:30 p.m. in the Johnson Center Cinema. Lamb will join presidential historian and Mason Scholar-in-Residence Richard Norton Smith as they reflect on the “Booknotes” series, its participants and impact.

A $25,000 grant from the C-SPAN Education Foundation will allow SC&A to catalogue and preserve the collection. In addition to the 801 books, the collection will include associated archival materials, such as notes, letters and correspondence with authors and reviews. Many of the books contain marginalia, which served as the basis for Lamb’s interview questions with the authors. In addition, each hour-long interview and corresponding transcript will be available online.

Eventually, SC&A plans to develop programming for both teaching and learning purposes through the creation of a web portal that will enable broader research opportunities for scholars around the world. Also, SC&A will expand the collection and archive by acquiring additional primary related materials.

“I am very honored that C-SPAN and my friend Brian Lamb have chosen Mason as the permanent home for the ‘Booknotes’ collection,” says Merten. “During its 15-year run, ‘Booknotes’ captured the intellectual fervor of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. It is important that this collection be preserved for current and future generations of students, teachers and scholars everywhere. Mason is proud to be the institution of choice for Brian and C-SPAN.”

Since its creation in 1978, SC&A has acquired thousands of historical materials that researchers can use to learn about the past, present and future. Some of the materials housed in SC&A include rare books, manuscripts, playbills, screenplays, newspaper clipping and planning maps.

“We are privileged for being entrusted with the repository and curatorial responsibilities for such a remarkable teaching, learning and research resource as ‘Booknotes,’” says University Librarian John Zenelis. “We are excited to begin work on this project so that these original source materials, which comprise a unique American intellectual snapshot, will soon be available to the university community and beyond.”

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