The Frank M. Blackburn Reading Room was named to honor Frank M. Blackburn, University Librarian from 1958-1982 and collector of rare books. Housed in this room are the Frank M. Blackburn Collection, the Smith-Sheffy Memorial Library, and the Loula Grace Erdman Collection, as well as other miscellaneous rare books.

The Frank M. Blackburn Collection consists primarily of books by and about the Powys brothers, John Cowper Powys, T. F. Powys, and Llewelyn Powys and books by and about Thomas Wolfe.

The Smith-Sheffy Memorial Library was bequeathed to the Library in 1967 upon the death of Dr. L. F. Sheffy, history department head from 1918-1957. Originally the collection consisted of Dr. Sheffy's personal library of approximately 1,200 books and manuscripts on western history, with special emphasis on Texas, the Southwest, and the Great Plains. The collection continues to be added to with emphasis on the history of West Texas and the Great Plains and special emphasis given to the history of the Texas Panhandle.

The Loula Grace Erdman Collection was donated in 1991 to the Friends of the Cornette Library by Erdman's nieces and nephew, Molly Lou Reko, Elizabeth Sandol, and Robert Wilson. Erdman was an award-winning author and served on the faculty of West Texas State College from 1945-1976. The collection contains leather-bound volumes of Erdman's novels, scrapbooks detailing her career, her diaries from 1936-1976, a typescript of her last novel, Save Weeping for the Night, and an unpublished manuscript. Her diaries, scrapbooks, and manuscripts are housed in the University Archives. The Loula Grace Erdman Collection continues to be added to, with books and other materials by and about Loula Grace Erdman.

Several rare children's books and Thomas Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia published in London in 1787 are also housed in the Blackburn Reading Room. Notes on the State of Virginia has been called "one of American's first permanent literary and intellectual landmarks."

Policies and Procedures

Who May Use the Frank M. Blackburn Reading Room?

  • The Blackburn Reading Room may be used by anyone for general study purposes not involving Special Collections materials. Visitors who wish to look at the artwork and exhibits in the Room are also welcome. Children under 14 years of age must be accompanied by an adult to enter and/or use the Reading Room.
  • Visitors will be asked to leave purses, backpacks, briefcases, and other containers larger than 9.5" x 6.25", raincoats and overcoats, and cutting implements such as scissors in one of the lockers provided near the entrance to the Reading Room before entering. Cameras, tape recorders, and hand-held scanners may be used in the Reading Room with the permission of Special Collections staff. We are not responsible for personal items left in lockers.
  • The following items may be taken into the Blackburn Reading Room: paper, binders and notebooks, pencils (not pens), personal books needed for research, laptop computers, service animals, personal books, magazines and/or newspapers, and books, magazines, and/or newspapers from Cornette Library's circulating collection.
  • Group tours of the Reading Room are available, but must be scheduled in advance by calling 651-2208.

Getting Started

  • Please sign our patron guest book, before entering the Blackburn Reading Room. No registration form must be completed or identification shown to use the Blackburn Reading Room.
  • Please leave purses, backpacks, briefcases, and other containers larger than 9.5" x 6.25", raincoats and overcoats, and cutting implements such as scissors in one of the lockers provided near the entrance to the Reading Room before entering the Reading Room. Cameras, tape recorders, and hand-held scanners may be used in the Reading Rooms with the permission of Special Collections staff. We are not responsible for personal items left in lockers.
  • The following items may be taken into the Blackburn Reading Room: paper, binders and notebooks, pencils (not pens), personal books needed for research, laptop computers, service animals, personal books, magazines and/or newspapers, and books, magazines, and/or newspapers from Cornette Library's circulating collection.
  • Staff at the Special Collections Desk reserve the right to check patrons' papers and books upon leaving the Reading Room.
  • The Blackburn Reading Room is open restricted hours. Special Collections staff will give 30 and 15 minutes notice before closing.
We are a Federal Depository Library