George Mason University has acquired the complete collection of the 801 books discussed on C-SPAN’s popular television show “Booknotes,” which ran from 1989 to 2004.

“Booknotes” was a successful show where host Brian Lamb, who also founded C-SPAN, would interview a different nonfiction author every week about their book.

Mason acquired the books discussed on “Booknotes” through the initiative of John Zenelis, the university librarian. Zenelis said that his purpose in acquiring the “Booknotes” collection was to bring primary research materials to campus. He wanted to do this because he sensed that the “Booknotes” collection had historical value and represented a portion of intellectual history.

“That’s what university libraries of our research level do,” Zenelis said. “They acquire primary materials that can be used for teaching, learning and research activities.”

The collection did not cost Mason a single dollar; they were a gift from Brian Lamb and C-SPAN. Zenelis had been a regular viewer of the program and once Lamb announced that the program was coming to an end, he reached out to the host. “I decided that it would be worthwhile for me to explore, on behalf of the university, whether we could bring that collection here,” Zenelis said.

The initial effort to acquire the “Booknotes” series was made in 2005, and since then there have been a number of contacts, some of which included formal proposals.

According to Zenelis, the decision to give the collection to Mason was not made until last year and the school did not actually acquire the materials until last spring.

Zenelis added that this was a long process, but typical in cases such as this. The materials are extremely valuable and have both national visibility and significance.

Plans are in the works to bring together archival materials, such as correspondence with Lamb and the authors of the books, reviews, newspaper articles and web postings.

The overall plan is to acquire additional content around the collection, which would then be referred to as archives, Zenelis said. The books will include additional information concerning their authors and topics.

The acquiring of the “Booknotes” collection is part of an overall plan that has three phases, and, according to Zenelis, Mason is currently only in the first phase. Librarians will also be working with faculty to tie together books from the collection with curriculum in relevant classes. The collection is currently housed in the special collections and archives section of the library. Students who wish to view the actual “Booknotes” interviews may do so by going onto the library catalog and searching for individual books featured in the television series. The descriptions contain a link to the full interviews.

Zenelis said he hopes that students will take full advantage of the collection being housed at Mason. “We’re doing this for educational purposes, not for curiosity,” Zenelis said.