NEH Grant Will Support Poetry Center Collection

August 19th, 2019

The University of Arizona Poetry Center is receiving a $106,299 grant to install a high-density storage system that will enable its acclaimed collection to continue expanding for decades.

The National Endowment for the Humanities grant, announced last week as part of the Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections program, will ensure the preservation and accessibility of its 50,000-book collection, one of the most extensive collections of contemporary poetry in the United States.

The funds will enable the Poetry Center, part of the College of Humanities, to install a high-density mobile storage system in the organization’s closed-stacks Archives Room, says Sarah Kortemeier, Library Director and the grant project director.

“This kind of shelving is really necessary when you’re trying to preserve the items in your collection for generations to come,” Kortemeier says. “We’re very grateful to have all of our books in one place now, and this additional storage will enable us to continue to offer great access for the public.”

After a decade in the 17,500-square-foot Helen S. Schaefer Building, the Poetry Center faces significant space limitations due to the consistent growth of its collections. About 1,000 books are added every year, and the grant will allow that rate to continue without the need for off-site storage.

“This shelving system is especially good for preservation because it means we can keep more of our items in storage that has stronger environmental controls, preserving those collection items for visitors now and in the future,” Kortemeier says.

The Poetry Center hosts about 46,000 visitors annually, a crucial component of its mission to “advance a diverse and robust literary culture that serves a local-to-global spectrum of writers, readers, and new audiences for poetry and the literary arts.”

“We serve a huge variety of poetry readers,” Kortemeier says. “We see people who make dedicated research trips to visit our collection. We see students from U of A and Pima Community College. We see students from K-12 schools and we also see community members and out-of-town visitors who love poetry.”

The project is the culmination of a major preservation initiative that began in 2014 with the Poetry Center’s NEH-funded General Preservation Assessment. A preservation consultant determined that adding high-density mobile shelving is the most sustainable way to expand collections capacity without increasing building footprint or energy usage, and without compromising architectural beauty and accessibility. The new shelving system will be installed during winter break.

“The Poetry Center is thrilled to be recognized as a cultural heritage collection by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The award is an exciting endorsement of the value of our collection here in Tucson. The new shelving the award makes possible will help ensure that our leading collection of poetry continues to have space to grow for years to come,” says Tyler Meier, Executive Director of the Poetry Center.