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Researching Isaac Asimov

Posted by btoren@wvu-ad.wvu.edu.
March 21st, 2004

two library employees

Alisha Myers didn’t know what she was getting herself into last summer. An art education major at WVU, Myers, who works in the university’s newly renovated Wise Library, spent her summer in town, expecting the doldrums to seep in and take over.

The days were lazy, until the Web Services Librarian Beth Toren, who is also her supervisor, came to her with a project proposal – to help her put one of the library’s most extensive collections on the Internet.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) is the showcased author. He’s best known for his science fiction, but also wrote commentaries on the Bible and numerous books on science that could be understood by the common layman.

With the roughly 600-piece collection of books, audiovisuals, and games donated last year by WVU alumnus Larry Shaver, it made for an in-depth project.

Toren had read about Shaver’s donation from the Library’s newsletter and had also read about an upcoming movie titled “I Robot”, which was to be based on one of Asimov’s books.

So Toren thought it was a great subject for this online collection experiment.

“The site was a good way to feature our unique collection on the Web,” Toren said. “It is exciting to see something really different: a late 20th century science fiction collection and the complete works of one author. The sci-fi art lends itself to a great graphic display, as do the hardcover editions with their book jackets intact.”

Shaver donated his collection after realizing he didn’t want to see it sit around on his shelves anymore.

Shaver grew up in Fairmont, and graduated from WVU in 1974. Now an air traffic control instructor at the Federal Aviation Administration Academy in Oklahoma, Shaver credits Asimov for stirring his interest in academics.

“I noticed through the internet that WVU was going through a major expansion, and thought they might be able to find room for a ‘few’ extra volumes,” he said.

His interest in Asimov sparked when he noticed a colorful book cover in a Pittsburgh bookstore in the early 1970s. After buying and reading that first Asimov book, the number quickly grew to 100.

Now, more than three decades later, Shaver had read all 600 of Asimov’s books. His collection grew to be more then just words on pages, as it included board games, posters, and audiovisuals.

The collection contains all but 25 of Asimov’s works.

The summer days spent slaving away in front of the library’s computer and under the scanner paid off for Myers.

“The site is a way of recording something rare for history,” Myers said.

“Readers have access to titles of books on genres of history, religion, mathematics, physics, chemistry, ect. (It can) give them ideas for research projects.”

Inspired by the cover artwork on many of Asimov’s books, Myers added the artist’s touch by scanning all the illustrations on the site, and cropping them to size.

“It was so fun, and I know what makes a good addition,” said Myers of her artistic abilities.

With entries on the guest book coming from all around the world, and Toren receiving many thanks from students doing research projects, the online collection has already proved a success.

It has paved the way for future collections, including one on Mark Twain, which is under construction.

WVU LIBRARIES’ Isaac Asimov Web collection can be viewed at
http://www.libraries.wvu.edu/exhibits/asimov/

by Ashley Reynolds
Dominion Post
Morgantown WV

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