Cambridge Part 6: The Haddon Library

“In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.”
― Mark Twain

I’m furious to report that the photos of the first room we entered on our way to the Haddon Library didn’t turn out at all. This room was dark, stuffed with shelves filled with books about ancient Babylon, first contact with the Zulu, Assyrian and Egyptian glossaries, and other fabulous finds. Some of the old tomes containing early maps were nearly as tall as me. And it turns out that the room had a slightly scandalous recent history.

The academic who was in charge of interacting with visitors told me the story of a recent department reshuffle when collections of libraries were combined and had to be moved from one location to another. Not only did they have to worry about the proper transfer of historically significant books, they also had to be sure that the order and classifications were preserved–putting a collection like this back together from scratch if it was scrambled was too daunting a task to be thought of! Luckily the professor in charge found a moving company that specializes in this and a disaster was avoided.

It didn’t seem like too many visitors were going to the Haddon Library through this entrance and the professor and librarian talked to me for nearly twenty minutes simply because I started asking questions about the massive books. It’s always a delight to me what you can learn about the workings of places and people if you just pull up a chair and are genuinely interested.

The Haddon Library itself looks like a Victorian Eccentric’s private room and it’s wonderful. It supports primarily Anthropology students and research. What I loved was the old card catalog still there and still in use. No school like old school. Literally in this case.

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One thought on “Cambridge Part 6: The Haddon Library”

  1. Just seen this post. I was probably the person you talked to, if your visit was in last September’s Open Cambridge days. I’d better say I’m not a professor; also, our card catalogue doesn’t get much use, and isn’t now updated. But thanks for your interest. We had ca 120 people through the door that day, and answering all their questions was a kind of presentational workout.

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