Library’s SCA unit hopes to engage with students, staff


Patrick Murphy

NIU’s Special Collections and Archives is a new unit a part of the Rare Books and Special Collections. Current hour are 9-12 and 1-4 with plans to extend.

DeKALB- The Special Collections and Archives (SCA) is a new unit that coordinates the services and programs of the Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC) and the Regional History Center and University Archives (RHCUA). 

For the last two years, there has been a decrease in activity due to COVID-19 and staffing changes. The SCA is now in a position to increase engagement with the entire NIU community including on-site and remote reference, research consultations and instructional support, which has been a priority for the library

“NIU’s rare books, archives and special collections are what make us unique and reflect more than a century of NIU’s growth and transformation,” Dean Fred Barnhart said in an NIU library news release. “The access we provide to students, faculty and researchers from all walks of life strengthens our connections to history and the humanities in general. With the changes we’ve all experienced the past few years, these vital connections are more important than ever.” 

The libraries have recently filled two key faculty positions.

 The new head of the department is Associate Professor Brad Wiles who has 15 years of experience in academic, public and corporate settings.  

The RBSC librarian position was filled by Beth McGowan. She has taken courses on Rare Books at the University of Virginia’s Rare Book School as well as online. 

The RBSC reading room (Founders 403) is now open Monday through Thursday from 9 to 12 and 1 to 4 with plans to extend those hours after spring break. Walk-in visitors are welcome and have access to SCA holdings like books, manuscripts and archives. The RBSC reading room will also host presentations, lectures and more. For more information contact McGowan at or 815-753-1947.

The RHCUA office does not have walk-in hours. Researchers can schedule a visit during daytime library hours with at least 48 hours notice. This office is also available for pre-planned group sessions with classes, alumni and other organizations. To schedule a visit to the RHCUA office or for any other inquiries about the SCA Department contact Wiles at or 815-753-9392.