You can put the books on the board

By Derek Barichello

Baseball history is preserved.

The priceless volumes of Collyer’s Eye that were reported missing earlier this week from the University Main Library were returned anonymously and in relatively good condition.

The four missing volumes included stories on the indictment of eight White Sox players charged for throwing the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds.

Karen Schmidt, associate University librarian for collections, is just happy to have the rare artifacts back in the library’s possession.

“This is really unbelievable good luck,” Schmidt said.

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She said at about 9 p.m. on Tuesday on-duty Reference Librarian Erik Kraft, found the volumes on a table in the Reference Room on the second floor of the Main Library.

“They were just sitting out in the open, one atop the other,” Kraft said.

Kraft entered the large Reference Room to see if fellow staff members needed help. While there are desks staffed with reference librarians inside the massive room, the main area of the room is not staffed, making it relatively easy to leave the books without anyone knowing, although the entrance to the room has security gates.

“We conduct all of our central reference services from the information desk, which is about 30 feet from the entrance to the Reference Room,” Kraft said. “As I passed the first set of index tables, I glanced over to my left and saw two large bound volumes with yellowing boards lying flat on one of the tables. One atop the other.”

Knowing the books were “out of place,” he opened the cover of the first one and immediately noticed that they were bound volumes of Collyer’s Eye.

He heard the story about the missing volumes on the radio Tuesday afternoon, and when he looked at the due-date slips and saw the stamped dates, he got excited.

“My heart immediately started racing,” Kraft said. “I had walked through the Reference Room a couple of hours earlier and hadn’t noticed the volumes lying there then.”

Kraft took the books back to the Information Desk.

“I opened one at random and paged through it a bit,” Kraft said. “The second story I noticed was one on the White Sox scandal, at which point my heart began racing double-time.”

Kraft confirmed the volumes as the ones that were missing.

“I called Karen (Schmidt) at home to share the good news,” Kraft said. “The missing Collyer’s had turned up.”

The University boasts one of the most complete runs of Collyer’s Eye in the nation. The books will join the others in the Collyer’s collection in the Illinois Historical Survey in room 346 of the Main Library.

Schmidt was thankful for everyone’s help in finding the missing volumes.

“Getting the news out about the missing volumes was extremely important,” Schmidt said. “We don’t know what happened to the books – who had them, where they had been – but we are very, very happy about their return.”

Krystal Fitzpatrick, assistant University chief of police, said because of the volumes’ value, the police will not process for latent fingerprints because the process could cause permanent damage to the material.

“The case is closed,” she said.