Students Can Win Cash Prize in Libraries’ Essay Competition

2017 marks the 30th anniversary of the Neureuther Student Book Collection Essay Competition! 

That’s right—the annual contest, with its cash prizes of $500 and $1,000, has showcased the book collections and writing expertise of WU students for three decades.

Carl Neureuther would surely be pleased by the contest’s longevity. A 1940 graduate of the WU School of Business, Neureuther set up an endowed book fund for the WU Libraries in 1987. The fund makes it possible for the Libraries to purchase new works of literature each year, and it supports the essay competition, which Neureuther hoped would inspire students to build personal libraries and read for pleasure.

The competition is open to any full-time WU student who loves collecting books. Each participant must submit a brief essay about the titles in his or her personal collection. Four cash awards are offered: $1,000 and $500 at the graduate and undergraduate levels.

The contest gives bibliophiles a chance to reflect on subject preferences, the joys of reading, and the personal associations bound up with the volumes on their bookshelves. From the adventures of Dr. Who and the works of Gertrude Stein to topics like opera, fractal geometry, and jazz photography, the collections of past winners are a testament to the idiosyncratic nature of the personal library.

Claire Class, graduate winner of the 2016 Neureuther contest.

Last year, Claire Class won first place in the graduate category for “Baseless: Reassessing My Past Through Feminist Utopias.” Class, a Ph.D. candidate in English, recently started teaching at the Nanjing, China, campus of the New York Institute of Technology. She used her contest prize money—$1,000—to help cover relocation expenses.

“The contest prompted me to really consider the ways my reading habits reflect back on my experiences growing up,” says Class. “Writing the essay was fun and more than a little therapeutic. I liked having a fresh reason to hold and think about each of the books in my collection.”

Along with prize money, Neureuther winners gain the opportunity to enter the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest, a competition sponsored by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America, the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies, the Grolier Club, and the Center for the Book and the Rare Books and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress.

Most importantly, perhaps, the Neureuther contest connects bibliophiles with other like-minded collectors.

Rose Miyatsu, 2015 graduate winner.

“Reading and book collecting are often solitary experiences,” says 2015 winner Rose Miyatsu. “Participating in the Neureuther contest gave me the rare opportunity to share with others the nerdy bliss I feel when holding what is, after all, only an inanimate object.”

A Ph.D. candidate in English, Miyatsu won $500 for “Taking Madness of the Shelf,” an essay inspired by her library of fiction and nonfiction titles focusing on the topic of mental illness.

“Even if I hadn’t participated, I would be happy just to know that the contest existed—to know that there are other people who feel as passionately about books as I do,” Miyatsu says.

The entry deadline for the 2017 Neureuther Student Book Collection Essay Competition is 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 1. 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.

The 2016 winning essays, as well as past winners, are available on WU Libraries’ website and in WU’s Open Scholarship repository. Students should deliver their materials to the Department of Special Collections on the main level of Olin Library weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Entries must be received by 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 1. The winners will be announced in late March. Awards will be presented at a celebratory reception in May.

For more information, contact the contest committee chair, Julie Hale at 314-935-6569 or


About the author