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Wednesday, 29th December 2010

"U of Saskatchewan Archive Holds Treasures"

David Bindle, the Special Collections Librarian at the University of Saskatchewan Library in Saskatoon, is profiled.

From an Article by Hannah Scissons in The Star Phoenix:

David Bindle pulls on a pair of white gloves and lifts up a manuscript leaf that's hundreds of years old.

"I can go back here and every single day discover something new," he says, gently placing the page back into storage, laying it flat in a drawer-like box.

A few rows away, a Bible that dates to 1509 sits on a shelf, not far from a 1611 King James version. The oldest complete manuscript in the room was written in 1471, although leaves from incomplete manuscripts in the room date back to the 1100s.

Bindle is the special collections librarian at the University of Saskatchewan, a job he considers one of the best in the library. The special collections room on the third floor is closed to the public; librarians fetch items needed by researchers and students. Many of the shelves are dominated by books with covers of brown, red, black and beige shades, although others have books and magazines in a rainbow of colours, neatly arranged and catalogued. The whole room smells of books. Pages upon pages of books.


"No matter what you do, I think students can really be inspired by the actual handling of the primary materials, rather than just seeing pages of the book online," he says. "I think there's something on an inspirational level when they actually hold a 1,000-year-old piece of history in your hands. Quite often that will be the spark that can sometimes drive them in a particular direction of research."

Plus, Bindle has a concern that's shared widely among librarians -- the issue of digital migration. Are the files he's creating today, the high-resolution scans and painstakingly photographed details, going to be readable 100 years down the road? Printed material lasts hundreds and hundreds of years, if stored properly. Our first digital files? Well, they didn't do so well. Take floppy discs, that may have languished in drawers before getting thrown out because they weren't handy to access anymore.

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