South Charlotte

Mint's hidden treasure: Reference libraries

You may have visited the Mint Museum to see artwork and exhibits, but did you know the Mint also maintains specialized reference libraries related to art and art history?

The Mint Museum Randolph in Eastover has two libraries. The J.A. Jones Reference Library focuses on fine arts and is the main library. Examples of topics in the main library include sculpture, photography, drawings, historic costume and fashionable dress. The Delhom-Gambrell Reference Library emphasizes the decorative arts, referring to furniture, rugs, carpets, tableware, antique glass, pewter, silver and more.

The Mint Museum Uptown features four small library "resource centers," sitting areas with selected print and multimedia materials. All library spaces - reference libraries and resource centers - are open to the public, as well as staff. There are more than 19,000 catalogued volumes, excluding some periodicals.

The Mint's librarian, Joyce Weaver, 57, is only the second librarian the museum has had. She works from the Randolph Road location, with help from volunteers and student interns in art history, museum studies and library science. She says library materials are for reference, not circulation, meaning the public must utilize materials on-site instead of checking them out.

Weaver knows of a Georgia woman who travels regularly to Charlotte to visit the libraries for research. Reference works the woman uses aren't available anywhere else in the Southeast, according to Weaver. People sometimes come in just to learn more about an object they've inherited or discovered in an attic. Artists, too, make use of the libraries.

Among the most special resources the libraries hold are rare books, some dating to the 17th century. Precautionary measures are needed to protect them, including filters on overhead light fixtures and devices to monitor humidity.

Weaver, who has done coursework in special collections, dons gloves to handle rare books. She also works with paper conservators who craft acid-free protective boxes custom-fitted for some of the books. The libraries periodically hold book sales to raise money for conservation.

Electronic resources include MARCO, the Mint Art Research Catalog Online, which library patrons can use to determine what's on shelves, and Mintwiki - originally created by staff for museum docents to conduct research.

Weaver likes serving the museum. "It's a wonderful environment of motivated people who are passionate about something they love, which is art," she said.

She estimates there are a few hundred in-person visitors from the public to the museum's libraries annually. "I'd love to increase that," said Weaver.

In comparison, online users of the museum's library resources number in the thousands worldwide.

Future plans call for extending library hours, offering more direct access and displaying some of the rare books.

Libraries at the Mint Museum Randolph are available by appointment 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; it isn't necessary to be a museum member or pay admission to use the reference libraries.

The uptown resource centers keep longer hours and don't require appointments.