By Mrs. Martha Yoshida (Leonard Wood)November 10, 2016
The Bruce C. Clarke Library offers many reasons for patrons to visit, from story time to computer access, to its vast reference and circulation departments.
However, there are two areas of the library people may not be familiar with, which are the Clarke and Rare Book rooms, located in the Academic Services' section on the second floor.
"The Clarke Room is used a lot for promotion ceremonies, award ceremonies and meetings," said Claretta Crawford, the library's director. "Otherwise, anyone is more than welcome to come in and utilize the room."
"A lot of people like this area of the library, retired veterans especially, because of the unit histories," she said. "These unit histories came to us from Fort Belvoir, Virginia, when the Engineer School moved to Fort Leonard Wood in the fall of 1989."
In addition to engineer materials, Crawford said, some of the 3,700 books housed in the Clarke Room are related to the Military Police and Chemical Corps Regiments.
The Clarke Room, named after Gen. Bruce Cooper Clarke, who is most famous for his part in the Battle of St. Vith, also includes the now declassified after-action-report of Gen. George S. Patton's Third Army when it moved across Europe during World War II.
"There were seven original copies of the report, and we were lucky enough to get one of those from the person who was Patton's chief of staff at the time," Crawford said.
The room also contains Civil War-era books, originals describing the building of the Panama Canal, war diaries, Army registers, items donated from Gen. Clarke's personal library and other special collections, such as the Warren Commission Report on the John F. Kennedy assassination and the Nuremberg Trials.
The books in the Clarke Room date back at least 80 years or more, and were taken off the regular shelves "to preserve them a little better," she added.
The Rare Book Room, with almost 1,500 items, is located across from the Clarke Room and serves a dual purpose, according to Kenny Howard, who manages the Academic Services' section.
"The Rare Book Room is called so because it contains books that have a limited number of copies available," Howard said. "Additionally, the books are older editions and cannot survive being handled much, so we need to protect them. That's why you have to wear gloves to handle these books."
The oldest book in the collection, "The Actions of the Low Countries," by Sir Roger Williams, dates back to 1618.
According to Howard, the book was recently digitized and published online, which "might be considered fun for some to try and read."
Another piece of history in Fort Leonard Wood's Rare Book Room, which was discovered in a book during the move from Virginia, is a letter written to President Abraham Lincoln.
"We have a copy of the letter here," said Crawford. "We don't know if the president actually received the letter, but we thought it was nice to have a copy on display."
Though the book is not necessarily rare, there is a copy of the Torah that was presented to an Engineer School commandant years ago. "It's neat because it's written in half Hebrew and half English on each page," Crawford said.
When they moved the collection of first edition Civil War books, Army regulations, and military dictionaries, the books were valued at $500,000, Crawford explained.
While many find the books fascinating, what some find even more impressive is the knowledge of the library team. Whether one is working on a research paper for a military course, or wants to know more about pioneer roads for a personal Family story, or a patron is looking for the newly released book on the history of Fort Leonard Wood, the staff will quickly point patrons to the right sources.
"If you want to know anything from how to build a pontoon bridge, to what happened during a specific war era, this is a great place to come," Crawford said. "We're open to the public, so excluding weekends, anytime the academic services' section of the library is open, you're more than welcome to visit."
Academic services operating hours are 7:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays and Fridays, and 7:15 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays.
For more information, contact Crawford or Howard at 573.563.4109.