UAH M. Louis Salmon Library acquires rare science-fiction collection


Lisa Strickland cuts the ribbon on the library's Windell Strickland Science Fiction Reading Room.

Science fiction enthusiasts in the Huntsville community now have access to a rare cache of books donated to The University of Alabama in Huntsville's (UAH) M. Louis Salmon Library by the late Windell Strickland.

The books were donated by his niece and executor of his estate, Lisa Strickland, who serves as Assistant to the Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration at UAH. "My uncle lived in Tuscumbia and graduated from Florence State Teachers College (now The University of North Alabama) with a degree in chemistry and a minor in history. He began reading and collecting science fiction books in the early 1940s. I found it interesting that he studied history, yet loved to read about what the future could be like."

Windell Strickland worked for more than 25 years as a Test Engineer at the Tennessee Valley Authority, living mostly in Mississippi. He retired in his mid-fifties and moved back to the Florence area to help take care of his parents. He never married or had any children. His only sibling was an older brother, Bill, Lisa Strickland's father.

The Windell Strickland Science Fiction Collection at UAH contains more than 2,500 paperback books, including rare titles by 14 of the most influential male writers of the genre, such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs and 1984 by George Orwell.


Attending the Science Fiction Reading Room reception from left to right are: Misty Bader, Administrative Assistant in the Office of the President, Chih Loo, Associate Vice President of Budgets and Financial Planning, Lisa Strickland, and her husband Rodney K. Wells.

Additionally, the collection contains several valuable, well known titles by female science fiction authors including Valerie Freireich, Nicola Griffith, Ursula K. LeGuin and Octavia Butler. LeGuin and Butler are recipients of numerous literary awards. Butler, one of a few African American science fiction writers was the first SF author to be awarded a prestigious MacArthur Foundation Genius Award in 1995.

"While my uncle was alive, he asked me to research places who wanted the books," said Strickland. "I contacted the North Alabama Science Fiction Association. And although they were interested in the books, no one had room to store them. I also knew my uncle really did not want to part with them while he was living. He could no longer read the books due to his failing eyesight, but he would sit in the living room of his home and look at them and hold them. He knew every book he had and could recite all authors and titles. I have no doubt that he had read every book - many of them more than once."

Strickland said after her uncle died on April 22, 2014, she wanted the books to have a good home. "So, I contacted Anne Coleman at the UAH library. She was so enthusiastic about accepting the books, pointing out that it would be a great collection to have in Huntsville with all of the sci-fi enthusiasts in the community. My husband and I loaded all of the books in his truck and attached trailer and brought them to Huntsville."

Coleman, Archivist and Lecturer at UAH's library said individuals may checkout the books using the honor system (with valid identification). She noted too, that a few titles marked "in reserve" cannot be checked out due to the age and condition of the book. A book collection index and a small sampling of books are in the new Science Fiction Reading Room located in the Archives section of the M. Louis Salmon Library.

"I am so glad that Anne accepted the collection on behalf of the library and UAH," said Strickland. "What she did with the collection far exceeded my expectations and I will always be grateful that the books have a safe home and will be read and enjoyed by others."

To donate books or other collectibles to the UAH M. Louis Salmon Library, contact User Services, Reference, or Archives at the library to make a donation. Attached is a non-cash donation form that is to be completed by the donor/s. Donations must be appraised at $500 or greater.



Joyce Anderson-Maples