From Ex Libris: Newsletter of the West Virginia University Libraries, Winter 2003

Alumnus Donates Asimov Collection to Libraries

     An alumnus and self-avowed sci-fi fan recently donated his Isaac Asimov collection containing about 600 books, games, audio recordings, videos, and wall charts to the WVU Libraries.

     “Putting them together, I’ve had the pleasure of reading every one,” Larry Shaver said. “But as the collection grew, it seemed such a waste to keep them on my shelf.”

     Alumnus Larry Shaver donated his collection of Isaac Asimov books and paraphernalia to the WVU Libraries. Shaver (left) is pictured with Michael Riddenbusch, assistant curator of the West Virginia and Regional History Collection; Harold Forbes, WVRHC associate curator; and John Cuthbert, WVRHC curator.

     Shaver, a Fairmont native and 1974 graduate of WVU, developed an interest in Asimov when he spotted one of the author’s paperbacks in a Pittsburgh bookstore more than 30 years ago.

     He quickly finished the book and began looking for more titles by Asimov. After reading 100 of his books, Shaver set the goal of reading all 600 of Asimov’s books.

     “I didn’t intended to build a collection, I just intended to read his books,” Shaver said.

     “The best way to determine if you already read a book is to have it on the rack.”

     It was about 10 years ago that Shaver accomplished his first goal and set his next challenge as replacing the paperback with better editions. Since then, first editions account for nearly 75 percent of the collection, and 20 of the first editions are signed. Shaver also orchestrated Asimov’s wife, Janet, to inscribe a first-edition of the late author’s autobiography, It’s Been a Good Life, to WVU.

     There are also a few rare items, such as two college textbooks. The voluminous collection contains all but 25 titles on the most comprehensive lists of the writer’s work.

     “Isaac Asimov was not only one of the most prolific authors of all time, but also one of the most diverse,” said John Cuthbert, special collections curator.

     “In addition to being one of the pillars of science fiction, he wrote often about history, religion, literature, theater, chemistry, physics, mathematics, humor – the list goes on and on. Thus, there is literally something for everyone in this marvelous collection.”

     The prolific storyteller propelled readers throughout the universe wrote from a foundation of science fact. He held a doctorate in chemistry and taught biochemistry at Boston University’s School of Medicine. His scientific research included work in kinetics, photochemistry, enzymology, and irradiation.

     Shaver, now an air traffic control instructor at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma, credits Asimov for stirring his interest in academics. He said Asimov incorporated an easy-to-understand writing style in explaining fairly complicated topics, like the sciences.

     “I didn’t know those things were so interesting. I thought they were things to be avoided,” Shaver said. “I think he earned the title of the Great Explainer. He explained it to me, and now he’ll explain it to other people.”