Unity College Student to be Nationally Recognized for Maine Forest Book Collection

Published: Sep. 14, 2017 at 3:50 PM EDT
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A Unity College student will be recognized at the Library of Congress in October for his extensive Maine book collection.

Alexander Koch won the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest for his submission 'The Breath and Breadth of the Maine Woods.'

"I have always really enjoyed exploring the woods ever since I can remember being just a little kid in my backyard in Camden - catching frogs, and tracking squirrels, and just being fascinated by the natural world."

Alexander Koch has always enjoyed reading too. When returning to Unity College for his spring semester this year to complete his degree in Parks & Forest Resources, Koch found an opportunity to combine his love for nature and books.

Cutting fairly close to the deadline for submission, he entered his rare collection of poetry, fiction, historical works, and other memorabilia and won the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest.

"This was for a log scaler to stick in his pocket and take into the woods - very small, little booklet. Being printed in 1848, stuff like this didn't survive. You know, you're out there in the woods, you're at the log yard, you're at the mill, stick it in your pocket. It gets wet, it gets ripped. Something like this is, you know, a little stained, a little worn, but certainly not something you're going to commonly find," said Koch.

The age, rarity, and uniqueness of the items in Koch's collection are what set his apart from his fellow bibliophiles.

"I have gone to yard sales and found things. I have gone through people's barns and sheds and book cases, estate sales, and antique shops."

But more important than the monetary worth of theses works to Koch are the words on the pages. He says he's read nearly every piece he owns, and is working his way through many volumes of Maine town histories, such as an extensive and detailed history of Kennebec County.

"Yeah pretty much ten pounds exactly." (weighing the book on scale)

Koch will receive $2500 at the official ceremony in Washington, D.C. this fall, and Unity College's library will be given a $1000 award as well. More often than not, this honor is given to those from Ivy League colleges around the country, and the rarity of the award going to a student working toward a forest management degree is not lost on Koch.

"So to have a small school in the woods of Maine win is, I think, a really exciting thing for the college and for me obviously."