Most Yalies do not entertain the idea of spending a typical Friday afternoon at the library.

But this past Friday, a handful of students joined over 400 other members of the Yale and New Haven community at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library to marvel at exhibits on display at the annual Special Collections Fair.

Organized by the Special Collections Committee of the Yale University Library, the event, held on the mezzanine of Beinecke Library, showcased a wide variety of artifacts, costumes, books, prints and drawings, maps, and other media that covered a span of nearly 5,000 years of recorded human history.

Thirteen libraries, collections and museums, including the Medical History Library, the Babylonian collection and the Peabody Museum of Natural History, contributed selections to the event.

Each individual collection was assigned one or two tables, at which curators and other staff members handed out brochures and calendars and fielded questions. Some tables also showed informational videos and gave away posters.

Margit Kaye, assistant curator of Sterling Memorial Library’s map collection, described the breadth of Yale’s cartographic holdings, which includes maps from as early as the fifteenth century. The map collection contains many historically significant prints, such as an atlas about the Revolutionary War that once belonged to Gen. George Washington.

On the other side of the mezzanine, Gillian Forrester, the Yale Center for British Art’s associate curator of prints and drawings, and her colleagues distributed calendars publicizing exhibitions and programs at the British Art Center for the fall of 2001. Forrester also spoke about the 50,000 or so items in the prints and drawings collection, one of the most extensive collections at the British Art Center.

Conservation technicians also informed visitors about the important, yet often overlooked, nature of their work.

Susan Klein and Lesley Santora discussed the Conservation and Preservation Department’s primary duties, which are to monitor the libraries’ environmental conditions, conserve rare books and manuscripts, and work on the repair and housing of books. Conservation and Preservation’s functions are integral to the maintenance of all the items that were on display at the fair, Klein and Santora said.

On the library’s lower level, student volunteers and staff members handed out posters, greeting cards and postcards of famous images in Yale’s special collections. They also dispensed comprehensive packets of information that listed the locations and phone numbers of every library and organization with selections on display. Visitors could opt to be entered in a drawing for prizes donated from certain collections.