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Harvard President Drew Faust lauds Duke's special collections at Rubenstein Library dedication

University dignitaries and invited guests gathered Saturday afternoon to officially dedicate the Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library with a ceremony in the Gothic Reading Room on the second floor.

The library officially re-opened Aug. 24, marking the final phase of the Perkins Project, which was conceived in 2000 to improve the Perkins Library complex. The event in the Gothic Reading Room featured speeches by President Richard Brodhead, David Rubenstein, Trinity '70, chair of the Board of Trustees and donor of $13.6 million to the renovations, and President of Harvard University Drew Faust.

“Rubenstein is the home Duke long needed and deserved to show off our remarkable rare book and manuscript collections,” University Librarian Deborah Jakubs said in her opening address, noting how the library has already become a favorite study spot for students.

Rubenstein noted that the opening was special for him because he has always loved libraries and worked in the library during his time at Duke. He said he often abused the privileges and “read on the job.”

“I particularly love rare book and manuscript libraries,” Rubenstein, himself a prolific historic document collector, said.

In addition to his $13.6 million donation in 2011 for the approximately $60 million project, Rubenstein donated his copy of the Bay Psalm Book, the first book published in what is now the United States that has its own display in the renovated library. Following his 2011 donation, the Board of Trustees decided to rename the special collections library in Rubenstein's honor. 

“While this is a great library, we have a problem in our country, which is that people don’t read enough,” Rubenstein said. “You can’t hurt yourself by reading too many books. I hope the library will be a symbol of learning.”

He joked that people would at least learn more “by osmosis” in the space.

Brodhead said he was excited by the “crackling living inquiry” that would happen inside the facility.

The project was not originally planned when the University began its capital fundraising planning during the 2008 economic recession, but Brodhead noted that Rubenstein made it a priority to support the library system, recalling that Rubenstein, the co-founder and co-CEO of the Carlyle Group, asked “Would you be mad if I did it?”

Faust provided the keynote address to the dedication, praising Duke’s collections—which she has used for more than 40 years—as “indispensable” to her dissertation and her research as a Civil War scholar. She noted that she has an annotated guide to the collections on her desk at Harvard.

She said that although libraries have moved toward digitized resources, physical objects provide “the magic of the real thing” and are “embodiments of the past that still shapes us.”

“Special collections librarians are people who must predict the future. They have to look forward to look back and decide what records to preserve,” Faust said. “You want to make history? Become a librarian.”

As a token of appreciation for her attendance at the event, Rubenstein gave Faust a 10-volume collection of Civil War photos that she has “wanted for a long time.” She praised Rubenstein and the University for their support of the project.

“Generations to come have the privilege to be enchanted and enlightened,” Faust said.