The Frank M. Blackburn Reading Room was named to honor Frank M. Blackburn, University Librarian from 1958-1982 and collector of rare books. This room contains the Frank M. Blackburn Collection, the Smith-Sheffy Memorial Library, and the Loula Grace Erdman Collection. The room also contains other rare books.

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

The Smith-Sheffy Memorial Library was bequeathed to the Library in 1967 upon the death of Dr. L.F. Sheffy, history department head (1918-1957). At first, the collection contained 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 grow with emphasis on the history of West Texas and the Great Plains. Special emphasis is given to the history of the Texas Panhandle.

Erdman's nieces and nephew, Molly Lou Reko, Elizabeth Sandol, and Robert Wilson, donated the Loula Grace Erdman Collection in 1991 to the Friends of the Cornette Library. 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detailing her career, her diaries from 1936-1976, a typescript of her last novel, Save Weeping for the Night, and an unpublished manuscript.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 grow, 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?

  • Any library user may study within the Blackburn Reading Room. Visitors who wish to look at the artwork and exhibits in the Room are also welcome. Adults must accompany children under 14 years of age to enter and/or use the Reading Room.
  • The Library will ask visitors to leave purses, backpacks, briefcases, containers larger than 9.5x6.25", raincoats, overcoats, and cutting implements within lockers 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.
  • Items allowed into the Blackburn Reading Room are paper, binders, notebooks, pencils (not pens), personal books, laptops, service animals, magazines, newspapers, and items from Library's collection.
  • Group tours of the Reading Room are available, but must be scheduled in advance by calling (806) 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.
  • 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.
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