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BiblioMystery Collection at Beatley Library: History

Candy's Article Published in The Journal of Mystery Readers International

The GSLIS BiblioMystery Collection is a project of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS) at Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts. The collection consists of "mysteries in which books, manuscripts, and libraries of any kind, archives, publishing houses, or bookstores occupy a central role, or mysteries in which librarians, archivists, booksellers, etc. are protagonists or antagonists (and preferably the location or occupation is important to the plot or theme)." We currently have about 650 titles, and we also have a wish list that is roughly twice as long.

It all began when the DorothyL listserv list was founded, in 1991. I was an early member, and was responsible for maintaining some of the lists of mysteries by topic. Somehow I obtained a copy of Alison Hall's work on the image of librarians in detective fiction, and she either included or referenced a list of library mysteries. (A short version of Hall's article was published in Canadian Library Journal, 49 (1992):345-337. That formed the basis of the BiblioMystery list which I made available through DorothyL. I had several motivations for moving beyond a list to an actual collection. As a professor in a school preparing future librarians, I thought the students would appreciate some recreational reading, and they would also be reminded of the fun side of their chosen profession. I also enjoy bibliomysteries for their own sake, and at the time, I had just read Charles Goodrum's Dewey Decimated. GSLIS Librarian Linda Watkins found a home in the library, arranging for cataloguing, and designed bibliomystery spine labels. If memory serves, my copies of the Goodrum books were the first on the shelves. At some point early on we expanded from strictly library-related mysteries to the broader definition quoted above, mostly so that we could have a larger collection, and also because we have a strong archives management concentration in our program, and include courses on publishing and related topics.

The collection isn't funded out of the library budget, although we do receive a modest amount annually from the GSLIS student association. Mostly, we rely on donations of used books, and we trade non-bibliomysteries for items on our wishlist. Periodically I gather together the donated books and head off with one of our alumnae to the legendary Kate's Mystery Books for an afternoon of trading in and scouring the shelves. I keep the collection list and wishlist online at the Web site, and we occasionally receive donations in the mail, sometimes from complete strangers (most recently from Diana Killian, author of the bibliomystery Poetic Death series). Mystery reading students and alums have known to take copies of the wishlist with them when they travel, since you never know when you will find yourself in a used bookstore. The Web lists are annotated where possible, and in this we initially received a great deal of help from the late Marsha McCurley (keeper of the Bibliomysteries website, still available at www.bibliomysteries.com, but no longer maintained).

The hardest part of managing the collection is keeping up to date with new bibliomysteries, I periodically check amazon.com and amazon.co.uk for new titles by known bibliomystery authors, and I peruse the monthly Bloodstained Bookshelf at Cluelass.com for my own favorites as well as for bibliomysteries. I am on the mailing list for new acquisitions from Buckingham Books, who will identify titles as bibliomysteries. Otherwise, I rely on the community of readers to bring new authors to my attention.

It is a pleasure to be involved with the BiblioMystery project at Simmons. In managing and researching the genre, I have made many mystery-reading friends, some only virtual, and have found new authors to add to my favorites list. I like to think the students enjoy using the collection. I know that some of the library staff do. The GSLIS BiblioMystery Collection is currently the featured exhibit in the College Library, and both the GSLIS Librarian and I are proud to be its keepers.

Source: Schwartz, Candy. Bibliomysteries at Simmons College, Mystery Readers Journal: The Journal of Mystery Readers International, 21(3): 2005, pp. 9-10.