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Vice President Biden donates Senate papers to UD Library's Special Collections

Vice President Joe Biden returned to his alma mater Friday with two purposes.  The Vice President officially donated papers and related material from his career in the United States Senate to the Special Collections Department of the University of Delaware Library. He also delivered the inaugural James R. Soles Lecture on the Constitution and Citizenship at Mitchell Hall.

"I would like to thank the Vice President for this extraordinary donation of his Senate papers," said University of Delaware president Patrick Harker. "I can't imagine a collection that would shed more light on this nation's recent past and the dynamic processes of our democracy."

During his lecture, Vice President Biden quipped that one thing researchers are certain learn from "the work of his life" is that he is a poor speller. He hopes they can see past that to what he believes is the larger message of his career in the Senate.

"I hope they'll walk away from looking at my papers not having a higher or lower estimation of me, but believing as I do that despite all its imperfections [the Senate] is still the most deliberative, significant body of governance ever created by the hand of man," said Biden. "I hope they'll take away from my paper a deeper understanding of how true and honest compromise can advance the great national goals and how it is through resolving our differences that we shape this society we live in and we shape it for the better."

Watch excerpts of Vice President Biden's James R. Soles Lecture

on the Constitution and Citizenship here.

Biden is the second long-time Delaware political giant to donate his papers to UD this year. In February, Mike Castle gave the university the papers from his tenure as the First State's lone Congressman. Biden and Castle's papers to join the Congressional papers of current U.S. Senator Tom Carper from his tenure in House of Representatives and papers from former U.S. Senators Ted Kaufman, John Williams and Allen Frear.

"It's a wonderful, wonderful gift," said University of Delaware Vice Provost and Director of Libraries Susan Brynteson. "The contribution to the public is [providing] access to information about his Senatorial career so researchers and students can learn. It also helps the public understand the democratic process, the legislative process."

Brynteson expects the Biden material to be a treasure trove of information. She points out that Biden spent a large portion of his 36 year tenure in the Senate as the chairman or ranking member of the Senate Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees, putting him right in the middle of many key debates and decisions over nearly four decades. The material does not contain committee records, which by law go to the National Archives, but all of Biden's materials related to those committees will be at UD.

"It is a treasure," said Brynteson. "We expect it will be a marvelous addition to the material available for research of the later part of the 20th century."

Vice President Biden donates Senatorial papers to the Univ. of Delaware

Reaction from Vice President Biden, UD President Patrick Harker and UD Director of Libraries Susan Brynteson

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It will take some time for before Biden's papers become available. By agreement with the Vice President, they are sealed until two years after he leaves public office for good. But Brynteson notes that non-disclosure agreements will allow members of the UD Special Collections Department to start processing the over 25 hundred cartons and 415 gigabytes of material as soon as they receive it. She expects it will require at least two years to do all the processing work. So it is possible, depending on how long Vice President Biden remains in office, his Senate Papers will be fully ready for use when the seal is lifted.

Once the papers are available, Brynteson believe it will make UD a magnet for researchers.

"It will certainly bring researchers here," said Brynteson. "In many ways, Senator Biden touched virtually every political issue of the latter half of the 20th century."

And will Biden's Senate papers eventually be joined by material from his time as Vice President? Brynteson passed on the opportunity to lobby for them.

"The decision of what the Vice President does with his Vice Presidential papers is very much his decision."