Lifelong book collection finds home in Library

Sara Huebner

Borowitz Collection contains thousands of crime references

On the 12th floor in the Library one can view the special collections Kent State has acquired. In the special collections one can see the Borowitz True Crime Collection, which some consider “world class.” ALLIEY BENDER | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

At the age of 12, Albert Borowitz asked his father, book collector David Borowitz, to buy an edition of the complete Sherlock Holmes stories for him.


These two collections are used almost daily and also attract international use, said Cara Gilgenbach, curator, university archivist for the special collections and assistant professor.

• Kent State University Archives: This

collection consists of the historical records of Kent State including an extensive collection of photographs, faculty papers and records of

campus offices organizations.

• May 4 Archive: There is over 200 cubic feet of archival material documenting the shootings of May 4, 1970 and its aftermath. Since 1999, the May 4 Web site has had over 225,000 visitors.

These are other collections in the archives:

• Children’s Literature: A book collection including publications of the Saalfield Publishing Company and works of selected authors such as Cynthia Rylant and Virginia Hamilton.

• British and American Literature: A large collection of 19th- and 20th-century literary works with significant holdings in American poetry.

• Regional History: This collection includes book and historical records of the city of Kent and the surrounding region.

Arising from the common interest of father and son, the fiction of Arthur Conan Doyle is now one of the many high points of the Borowitz Collection at Kent State.

The Borowitz True Crime Collection is an extensive collection that is housed in the special collections archive at Kent State. This collection includes both primary and secondary sources on crime as well as works of literature based on true crime incidents.

The collection documents the history of crime, with primary emphasis on the United States, England, France and Germany from ancient times to the present day. It includes groups of materials on specific criminal cases which have had notable impacts on art, literature and social attitudes.

Brought to Kent State in 1989, the Borowitz True Crime Collection has been steadily growing over the years. There are more than 10,000 books, manuscripts, ephemera, artifacts and archives in the collection, said Cara Gilgenbach, curator, university archivist for the special collections and assistant professor. Borowitz spent his entire adult life building this collection and was looking for a place to house it.

The Borowitzes found that the best place for their collection would be Kent State.

“The department was able to prove it would be a good use by scholars for research,” Gilgenbach said on why the Borowitzes chose Kent State to house the collection.

Borowitz wrote a book titled Blood & Ink: An International Guide to Fact-Based Crime Literature, which was published in 2002. The book is an annotated bibliography which describes the items in the Borowitz Collection.

The Borowitz Collection is a large archive of materials.

“I see the Borowitz Crime Collection as world class,” Gilgenbach said. “It would be difficult to find a collection of this magnitude anywhere else in the world.”

When the Borowitzes decided Kent State would be a safe place to house their collections, they began to realize they had to “clarify for the Kent librarians the historical and literary interrelations of the volumes included in our donations,” Borowitz said in an interview with James Elkins, editor for the Legal Studies Forum at the University of Texas at Austin’s Law School. “The process of annotating our gifts gave further urgency to my notion of recording my knowledge of fact-based crime literature in Blood and Ink.”

According to the Borowitz Collection Gateway Web site, the Borowitz collection has other special subject emphases as well including the true crime collection. This category of books in the Borowitz Collection includes crime histories, case studies and works of historical fiction based on actual criminal cases.

Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood is in the Borowitz Collection, along with many other books, movies and articles about the murders the book is about and also about Capote.

The Borowitz Collection has been accessed by people all over the world, not just by people in the university.

“The Special Collections and Archives serves on average 2,000-2,500 in-person researchers and responds to approximately 1,000 off-site requests,” Gilgenbach said. “Seventy-nine percent of the users are students including high school, undergraduate and graduate students.”

The Borowitz Collection is the only collection in the university that was brought together by a single source, Gilgenbach said.

Contact libraries and information sciences reporter Sara Huebner at [email protected].