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Five Million Volumes and Counting

The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa

The University of Iowa Libraries has reached 5 million volumes. It has been cataloged and shelved and is ready for eager minds to use. To wrap your brain around what 5 million books really represent, let’s think about them in concrete terms. If placed end to end, 5 million books could reach between Iowa City and San Francisco. Five million books translate to 1.67 books for each person in the state of Iowa (but only 1 book for every 3 hogs). In economic terms, at an average price of $60 per book, the UI Libraries’ collection has an estimated value of nearly a quarter of a billion dollars.

So what is the 5 millionth book, you may be wondering. To recognize the UI Libraries partnership with the University of Iowa Press and the anniversary of their 40th year, we’ve selected one of their recent publications: The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa, edited by David Hudson, Marvin Bergman and Loren Horton.

Written by an impressive team of more than 150 scholars and writers, the readable narratives include each subject’s name, birth and death dates, place of birth, education, career and contributions. Many of the names will be instantly recognizable to most Iowans; others are largely forgotten but deserve to be remembered. Beyond the distinctive lives and times captured in the individual biographies, readers of the dictionary will gain an appreciation for how the character of the state has been shaped by the character of the individuals who have inhabited it.

The UI Libraries has taken The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa digital – creating a fully searchable, easy-to-navigate interface you can access from anywhere (