When Nicoletta Hary showed me the oldest book in the Roesch Library special collections, she carefully laid its time-worn cover on the table and invited me to touch it.
She believed books were not only to be admired — they were to be discovered.
Hary retired in June 2014 after serving 50 years in University Libraries. She died Oct. 4 after a short illness.
“Now that so much is available electronically, special collections mean so much more than they did in the past,” Hary told me in 2008 as she shared the history of an incunable, literally a “cradle book” from the first 50 years of moveable type printing. “Having the real thing is very meaningful.”
Hary, a 1952 graduate of the Vatican Library School, was asked by the Vatican Library authorities in 1985 to research the modernization of the Vatican Library. In 2011, the newspaper of the Vatican, L’Osservatore Romano, praised Hary’s books, The Vatican Library and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: The History, Impact, and Influence of Their Collaboration (1927-1947).
As a rare book curator, Hary managed and serviced eight special collections as well as Roesch Library’s religion collection, including the U.S. Catholic Special Collection.
She said she was very happy “learning the treasure of the book.”
Interesting facts about Nicoletta Hary:
• As a teen during World War II, she survived the bombings of her beloved Rome.
• She earned doctorates from the University of Naples and Indiana University.
• She spoke five languages: Italian, English, French, German and Hungarian; she also was well-versed in Latin and classical Greek.
• Before coming to UD, she spent seven years in the library at the University of Notre Dame. Its collection of materials about the University inspired Hary in the mid-1970s to start a similar collection about UD. This modest collection, cobbled from many sources, became the nucleus of the University Archives.
• She started working at the University of Dayton Feb. 22, 1964.
• When Roesch Library was ready for occupancy in December 1970, Hary and three other librarians spent their Christmas break with a handful of students, moving all of the materials from Albert Emanuel Hall to the new building through the tunnel between the buildings. “When we moved to Roesch, there was no money to hire movers,” she said, “so we moved everything over through the tunnel, one truck of books at a time.”
• In the 1970s, Hary spearheaded the statewide initiative of converting UD’s standard card catalog into a digital format.
• In the 1980s, from the Library of Congress she obtained the prestigious NACO designation for Roesch Library, which allowed UD librarians to receive training and be granted the authority to contribute to and change Library of Congress catalog records.