Libraries’ Essay Competition Offers Cash Prizes to Students

The Washington University Libraries are giving away cash prizes to the students who write the best short essays about their personal book collections. That’s right, students — ponder the contents of your bookshelves, write a brief essay, and you could win cash.

The Neureuther Student Book Collection Essay Competition is now in its 33rd year. Named for Carl Neureuther, a 1940 graduate of the Washington University School of Business who set up an endowed book fund for the Libraries, the contest was designed to inspire reading for pleasure among students and to encourage the cultivation of personal libraries. Past winners have showcased collections of literary criticism, cookbooks, and queer comics.

The contest is open to any full-time Washington University student and offers four cash awards: $1,000 and $500 at the graduate and undergraduate levels. The entry deadline for the 2020 contest is Friday, March 6. Eligible students should submit the following materials by that date: 1) a completed entry form; 2) a two- to four-page essay about the book collection; and 3) a bibliography listing the books in the collection. Judges, who are volunteers chosen from the faculty and university community, will take a number of factors into account when assessing the essays, including the scope of each collection, its thematic unity, and its personal value to the collector.

Entry forms, examples of winning essays, and information on how to enter are online here. Students should deliver their materials to the Julian Edison Department of Special Collections on the main level of Olin Library weekdays between 9 am and 5 pm. Entries must be received by 5 pm Friday, March 6. Winners will be announced in late March.

For more information, contact Julie Hale, communications coordinator for the Washington University Libraries, at (314) 935-6569 or




About the author