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DANIEL VAROUJEAN
MAEN FLORIN’S DWARF
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INSIDE THE BOOK TOWER

The 46 km of books and periodicals stored in the Book Tower are not merely "a collection". Odd as it may seem, it began as a war booty. During the French Revolution, abbeys, monasteries, churches and court houses were abolished, and all their treasures were collected to be transferred to the French National Library in Paris. Charles van Hulthem, however, somehow managed to keep the collection in Ghent and used it to start a city library at the old 'Boudeloo Abbey' (Ottogracht) and a museum at the Church of St.Peter (St.Pieterskerk).  In 1869, the first chief librarian, Jules de Saint Genois, was succeeded by Ferdinand vander Haeghen, a fascinating character who, until 1911, would devote himself entirely to internationalizing the collection. Thanks to his solid social and professional network, he was able to acquire a considerable number of collections and archives, allowing him to expand the collection of books with collections of coins, tokens and medals, engravings, prints, posters and ephemera.
 
After the First World War, the University Library was given an entirely new mission that no longer focused on building a collection, but on research and education. Accumulating particular collections has become rare nowadays, but still, there is an increasing awareness how invaluable and important the existing collection has become.
 
The building, therefore, has a mission: to be a proper depository for this unique and rich heritage. And that is where, at this moment, the building fails, due to lack of room and inadequate climate conditions.
 
Apart from books, periodicals and particular collections, there are also people in the Book Tower. On October 1st, 2008, the team counted 62 employees, 71% of whom were women. The average age is 41.
 
Together with the Departments of Research Affairs and Technology Transfer, the University Library Department, that is housed in the Book Tower, is a subdivision of the University's Directorate of Research Affairs. Apart from being a repository library, the university library has developed a range of customer-related services, all of which are introduced on the library's website www.lib.ugent.be.

 



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