Donation of 25,000 Publications Will Make UB Libraries Research Center of The Science-Fiction Universe

By Jed Nitzberg

Release Date: November 18, 1994 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A recent donation of 25,000 science-fiction, adventure and pulp-fiction books and magazines has added a new dimension to the University at Buffalo's highly respected library holdings.

According to Judith Adams, director of UB's Lockwood Library, the collection donated by UB alumnus George Kelley has made the university arguably the world's leading repository of such works.

"Anyone doing research into popular culture in America will find our collection to be a treasure trove" said Adams. "This collection is remarkably well preserved and in superb condition. It is the finest usable collection of these materials anywhere."

Kelley, who earned master's degrees from UB in business administration, library science and English (and is working on his doctorate in English), believes that scholars will turn to UB as the authoritative source for science-fiction research materials.

"I predict that in the next 10 years or so, we're going to see a growing academic interest in this kind of literature," he noted. "That's because science fiction is historically important and we're losing many of the great authors, such as Asimov and Heinlein. Researchers are going to find that a lot of material is unavailable or lost because most libraries never bothered to collect items like these."

The collection began simply because Kelley, a professor in the Business Administration Department at Erie Community College and resident of North Tonawanda, enjoyed reading these types of literature.

"I started collecting these books and magazines simply because they weren't in my local library," he said. "I was collecting for my own reading pleasure." A self-described "pack rat," Kelley said his collection grew quickly, becoming so massive that its weight began to damage the floors of his house.

He eventually decided that the best way to give the public access to the many rare and unusual pieces he owned would be to place the entire collection at UB. He knew the university's libraries were already respected by researchers, and that his additions would enhance the breadth of

the available holdings. While his friends who collect similar materials tried to persuade him to sell the unique items, Kelley stood firm on his decision to donate.

The massive collection is in nearly pristine condition because of Kelley's careful preservation work. Stored in a library holding area awaiting funds sufficient to support an inventory and cataloging, it fills to the brim cardboard boxes stacked well over 6 feet high along an entire 40-foot wall.

The collection contains nearly 10,000 mystery novels, as well as a variety of sci-fi story anthology magazines, many dating back to the 1950s. For example, there is a complete set of Galaxy Magazine -- from its first issue in 1950 until it ceased publishing in the 1980s. Galaxy is best known as the magazine that first published the classic short story "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury.

Another component of the collection are the "fanzines," semi-professional publications produced by fans of science fiction. These range from simple photocopies to complex, art-filled publications. The most famous of the fanzines -- Locus -- is in the collection, including its first mimeographed editions from the early 1970s. Locus is one of today's top science-fiction publications.

But the largest part of the collection is the paperback novels. Among them is Kelley's most valuable book: an original copy of Junkie by William Burroughs worth about $500.

Kelley also has donated the rare British editions of the Richard Bachman books, the collections of short stories written under Stephen King's pseudonym. These editions, according to Kelley, are different from their American counterparts and are virtually unknown to American readers.

There will be a special celebration in the spring to honor Kelley and the first exhibit of the collection's materials.