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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Carl Sandburg Home

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, May 10, 2009


Several years ago, I visited the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site near Hendersonville, N.C.


The site preserves Connemara Farms, the home of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and writer Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)


He and his family resided there for 22 years, with many of his famous works being produced there.


My family visited the Sandburg Home as part of a trip to Georgia.


The tour of the fascinating 1839 home found the home restored to its look during the residence of the Sandburg Family.


The room that fascinated me was his library, with about 14,000 books lining the shelves.


Plexiglas panels covered the bookshelves to keep everything in place.


Actually, the entire Sandburg Library literally stood still in time, frozen as it appeared on the July 1967 day that the owner died.


The calendar on the wall still displayed that month of July, the desk had all of Sandburg’s notes and letters still in place as he left them.


A major restoration project in the room was underway, that being the replacement of the bookmarks in all the books with new acid-free bookmarks that wouldn’t stain the pages of the books.


Care was taken to place the replacements exactly where Sandburg had inserted them.


Equally interesting are Sandburg’s files of letters and texts of his books and poetry.


He retained every letter and every response that he received, and the various versions of his work on the texts of his famous books.


All of his Lincoln work is documented; all of his research is retained in the order he maintained on the cramped shelves around the house.


Scholars studying the Sandburg Library can learn a lot about this famous American, and can study the development of his many published works.


Carl Sandburg’s papers may mark the end of an era in our history.


Pretend about an author a century beyond Carl Sandburg, born in 1978, and dying in 2067.


His house becomes a National Historic Site and scholars begin to work on his 14,000-item library.


That author’s letters and correspondence are incomplete as his E-mail files crashed and were lost for 15 years of his life, with only 10 years recovered from an old computer file.


The great set of books that we wrote are available in print and online, but only the finished manuscript as he wrote on a word processor and deleted changes made to the text are gone


His research involved only online databases and digitized libraries, and some were shut down when the company who owned them encountered financial problems.


The software operating the digitized documents wasn’t upgraded and the materials sit in a computer with an operating system that no longer works.


The shelves of the author’s library contain a few books and papers that he printed from the computer whose hard drive died.


Will anyone be able to research and study the works of this future author?  Only time will tell.


The lesson for our society is to plan for the future.  We can no longer place the book on a shelf and protect it from sunlight and water, and expect it to survive for the next century.