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Archiving the collection at SVSU

Catherine Weinstein holds a hand-written journal from the Follett archives in SVSU’s Melvin J. Zahnow Library.

Catherine Weinstein holds a hand-written journal from the Follett archives in SVSU’s Melvin J. Zahnow Library.

Catherine Weinstein’s typical workday has her fingering through the once-private notes of a New York Times best-selling author.

An SVSU alumna who is on the staff at the Melvin J. Zahnow Library at SVSU, Weinstein (BA, 2006), is digitizing and archiving the papers of Ken Follett, a British writer whose books have sold more than 100 million copies.

And these papers — a boxed collection of notes, letters, faxes, outlines and drafts — are a literary time capsule for the thought and energy invested in his some 28 novels.

Weinstein has been involved with the project since summer 2008, when she started as an intern while pursuing her master’s degree in library sciences.

But recently, her road ahead as an archivist took a turn.

This year (2010), Follett not only presented SVSU with a new installment to the collection, but also gave a $100 000 gift to fund its maintenance and development.

The latest donation added 12 boxes of materials previously unseen by the public, which Weinstein estimates will number more than 1 000 items The university will invest Follett’s financial gift as an endowed fund and use the interest to finance the project.

Before this addition, the collection had comprised 4 400 items in 32 boxes and encapsulated Follett’s research materials from 1978 to 1998.

Now, the collection has the background material for all his work through World Without End, his most recent novel, published in 2007.

“It’s a fascinating resource… to learn how a writer works, said Carlos Ramet, executive assistant to the president.

No stranger to writing himself, Ramet was an English professor at SVSU and a longtime appreciator of Follett’s work.

In 1999, he published a book, Ken Follett: The Transformation of a Writer, which enabled Ramet to develop a relationship with Follett.

It was after this that the Welsh author gave his collection to SVSU.

“What you learn from looking at the Follett collection is that his very, very successful novels are the end result of a long, meticulous, methodical process that involves a lot of changes, writing, feedback and discussions”, Ramet said.

“It sort of puts a lie to the whole idea of a creative genius who, in a flash of creative brilliance, comes out with this wonderful work.” Eventually all of Follett’s work will be made available and searchable online.

To view the collection’s offerings and see how far the cataloguing has progressed, visit www.svsu.edu/library.