The University of Crete Library has a large number of rare books as well as a significant amount of archival material. These items were acquired after 1978 through donations from the personal libraries of a considerable number of Cretan – in the most cases – intellectuals, as well as through the purchase of a number of personal book collections belonging to some of the most outstanding Greek intellectuals of the 20th century.
Since then, this kind of material has been treated with excessive precautions, which involved a number of restrictions for researchers. The introduction of new I.T. in the Closed Collections department of the Library, where this kind of material is handled, caused important changes and, in a way, rendered the use of the above books and archives as easy as that of the books in the open collections of the Library. The purchase of a “Minolta PS 7000″ scanner, specially designed for old books and fragile printed material, has completely changed the previous state of affairs that had rendered any reproduction of the old books practically impossible. In fact, the only possibility that we had before was the classic photocopy, which was not, of course, suitable for fragile books.
Today, any local or remote user of the Library can ask for the reproduction of the material he needs regardless of the age or the condition of the books involved. We can provide Tiff images on CD-ROM or printouts. The specification of requirements set by users helped us to create an electronic collection of rare books. Since November 2002, when the scanning service was introduced, 159 rare books have been copied in digital form and this digitalization has been incorporated in the corresponding bibliographic record. We would like to note that in fact the users themselves financed the creation of this electronic library.
Additionally, 1230 books belonging to the Library of the Literary Society of Andrianople have been copied in digital form. This procedure, that followed the creation of a catalogue of this material, is considered to be an important step, not only because it enriched our University Library but also because it contributed to the preservation of these rare books. The material was, in fact, in very poor condition, which prohibited any further use of it through conventional means.
It is useful to note the significance of this collection, as it represents the cultural image of Hellenism in Andrianople, from the age of the Enlightenment up to 1922. The project was financed by funds from the program of the second EU program. Another important aspect of the introduction of new IT is the creation of the web pages of the closed collections department, which enable the virtual navigation of the, up to now, inaccessible treasures of the Library.
Philologist, Head of department of rare books, Library of University of Crete