For Library’s Historic Material, Past Meets Present

Dec, 2017

December 20, 2017—Rare and historic materials housed in the Library are about to enter the 21st century: They’re being moved to a space equipped with new technology that connects the past with the present.

With the support of a significant gift from retired HSU Librarian Joan Berman, the Library’s Special Collections will have a new home, complete with a lab that combines primary sources and digital technology to enhance teaching and learning at HSU. 

Joan worked 42 years in the HSU Library, serving 17 years of her career as the Special Collections librarian, a role that primed her for a philanthropic partnership with HSU. “My experience of working in Special Collections demonstrated how specific donations could be important and effective,” says Joan.

Thanks to Joan’s partnership, UV-resistant glass walls have already been constructed to house the collection, which is slated to open on March 1st, 2018. Her giving is also supporting the next step of the project, which is moving primary source materials from the Humboldt Room into the new space on the library’s 3rd floor.

Primary sources are what make this collection unique. They include historic local maps, photographs, rare books, and manuscript collections that cannot be found anywhere else. The materials are vital to studying the historical, geographical, and cultural dynamics that have shaped Humboldt County and the surrounding region.

The new area will also feature technological upgrades that include a map scanner, document scanner, copy stand for photographing fragile material, and a collaboration station where students can synthesize and present information. “The world of information has changed so dramatically in the last decade, libraries have to innovate to stay current,” explains Joan.

Although retired, Joan is still a librarian at heart. Now she’s helping propel the HSU Library into the future through her giving. “I gained a unique perspective when I worked in Special Collections because I was constantly trying to find funding for projects, so it was easy for me to see where donating could be strategically important for the Library.”

In addition to her past experiences, Joan’s giving is also part of her mother’s legacy. “My mother was a philanthropist,” she explains. “I saw her make donations of many kinds, including the establishment of an endowment at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Upon her death, she left me in a position to continue her philanthropic model.”    

Joan wants other potential donors to know it doesn’t take much to make a difference in the lives of students. “I’m delighted to be in a position where I have trust in the leadership at the library and the ability to make donations, but even a small monthly commitment from a donor can be incredible. It doesn’t take much to help a student who shows interest in a particular area and carry that forward.” As the grand opening of Special Collections approaches, Joan is already looking ahead to another area of interest she hopes to support, the developing Library Scholar Internship program.

If you would like to support the HSU Library, you can make a direct contribution here. For more information on the HSU Library, you can visit their website here. If you have questions about giving, or would like to learn about other ways to support HSU students, visit, email the Office of Philanthropy at, or call 707-826-5200.