Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #PotLuck – Reminiscences about Old Libraries from an Old Librarian, Part 1 by Lorinda J. Taylor

Welcome to the series  Posts from Your Archives, where bloggers put their trust in me. In this series, I dive into a blogger’s archives and select four posts to share here to my audience.

If you would like to know how it works here is the original post:

This is the third post from the archives of fantasy author Lorinda J. Taylor who has two blogs for me to choose from. In this post I share some of the libraries that Lorinda values…The original Coburn Library became the Tutt Library in 1962.

Reminiscences about Old Libraries from an Old Librarian, Part 1 by Lorinda J. Taylor

I have worked in really old libraries and in brand new libraries and in some of a middle age, and while the new ones were more roomy and convenient, it’s the old ones that I have the fondest memories of, and also some of the weirdest. All libraries have their eccentricities, but the old ones are like pixillated little old ladies and gentlemen. You never know what they will do next.

The first library I ever worked in (and the one where I studied as an undergraduate) was the one below. I attended Colorado College from 1957 through 1961 and during that time I worked as a student assistant for the summer after my sophomore year (the summer after my junior year I took beginning German and I never tried to work and go to school at the same time — I’ve never been a multitasker). Then I worked again as a circulation assistant the summer after I graduated, before I went to Cornell to study for my MA. In 1962 CC’s brand spanking new Charles Leaming Tutt Library opened and I worked there that same summer (starting only a few weeks after the building opened — they were still laying carpet) before I headed to UCLA for my library science degree. I was to return ito the new library in 1963 as Catalog Librarian, but that’s a whole different story.

Tutt Library, Colorado College, 1894-1962
A Postcard View

More information can be found:

The building was constructed of “peachblow sandstone quarried near Aspen.” It’s a beautiful red stone and several of the early buildings on the campus were constructed of that material. “Coburn cost about $45,000 to build. The major donor was the Hon. N. P. Coburn of Newton Massachusetts, a childhood friend of CC President Slocum. In 1940, to make room for the growing collection, a four-story addition with room for 60,000 volumes was built for $20,000.”

Interior View of Tutt Library, ca. 1895

“The building, judged inadequate even after the addition, was razed in 1963. The statue of Winged Victory of Samothrace, seen here in an interior view ca. 1895, disappeared around that time. We hold out hope that it will come back home to roost one day.”

This interior view may be from 1895, but when I was in college, it looked exactly like this, except the addition at the back had done away with that half-moon window. Everything was decked out in beautiful warm-hued, polished woodwork. The rare book collection was housed in a locked closet in the upper left hand of the picture, reached by a metal circular staircase. Nike was still there in my time — when I was pondering my reading at a table, I used to look up at that statue in some fascination. The circulation desk was always over there at the left, and I presume the small card catalog seen at the left in the picture included all the books the library contained in 1895. By my time the library had maybe 100,000 books (I honestly have forgotten, so I don’t swear by this figure) crammed into that small space.
You see those balconies at the upper right? By my time bound periodicals were shelved there, and sometimes a little old lady would ask you so sweetly to get a volume down for her.

What can a student assistant do but comply? You had to climb up a really tall ladder while dangling halfway out over the edge of the balcony. Honestly, it was scary!

Not seen in this picture (which looks north) is the balcony at the southern end of the main room. It housed the materials in the historical ranges of the Dewey Decimal system and it seems like I was always stuck with shelving books there. Of course there were no elevators.

You had to load up a tray of books (you know how heavy books are) and carry them up a steep, cut-back staircase, and then keep going up and down a ladder with a few books each time. Maybe that’s why I have so much arthritis in my shoulders now! I’ve hauled books around all my life!

The 1940 addition was bare-bones — just metal stacks in about four levels — but at least the ceilings were low and it was supplied with carrels with slit windows, so you could look out over the quadrangle when you were studying.

Do any of you remember the smell of old libraries? New libraries smell like fresh paint and plaster and carpet chemicals, but old libraries smell like musty, unsunned storage caves — paper dust and old crumbling leather bindings and book glue and a touch of printing ink and furniture polish and maybe some disintegrated bookworms thrown in for good measure. A wonderful, nostalgic smell that I can still conjure up for myself!

Now, the spookiest and most aromatic part of Coburn Library was the basement. It contained storage for government documents. I presume you all know that many libraries are repositories for government documents; they automatically receive at least a selection of everything printed by the GPO. You know how much paper the government produces. Any academic library worth its salt has a librarian solely in charge of government documents, and those materials take up a heck of a lot of space. In Coburn it was the basement. It was lit only by drop lights and they didn’t stay on all the time. There were no centralized switches for the lighting, so in the evening when the library closed up, somebody had to sweep the building, turning off the lights. If somebody requested a document in the daytime, you would have to go down there and find it for them, turning the lights on as you went. Some of the aisles were piled with overflow from those sections of shelving.

There is a cartoon that I think came from the New Yorker, but I’m not sure. I’ve been trying to find it online but without any luck, alas, so I’ll describe it. It shows a female librarian between two stacks with a bunch of books piled on the floor just like I used to see in the Coburn basement. Sitting on top of the books (with a drop light overhead) is a skull draped with cobwebs and the woman is regarding it with the most horrified expression. I used to feel just like that when I had to go down there. It wouldn’t have surprised me at all to find a mummified body! Murder in the Library! I think that’s been done in more than one mystery novel!

It pained me that they demolished this quirky old building. I would have liked to see it preserved and put it on the Register of Historic Buildings. But the college needed the land for a new administration building and auditorium, so … Coburn is gone never to return.

And by the way, if anybody out there knows the location of that Winged Victory, please get in touch with me!

About Lorinda J. Taylor

A former catalogue librarian with two graduate degrees, Lorinda J. Taylor was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and worked in several different academic libraries before returning to the place of her birth, where she now lives. She has written fantasy and science fiction for years but began to self-publish only in 2011. To this point, she has published fifteen science fiction/fantasy novels, including seven volumes of a series retelling myths in terms of her intelligent termite civilization. Her writings combine many aspects of science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, future history, off-world adventure, psychological fiction, and even a love story. She always strives to engage readers emotionally and give them something to think about at the end of each book.

A small selection of  books by Lorinda J. Taylor

One of the reviews for part five of the series – Phenix Rises

To ensure I don’t inadvertently add any ‘spoilers’, I have decided to write this review when I am only two thirds of the way through Ms Taylor’s latest ‘block-buster’. Once again, the author has produced a large and satisfying chunk of intergalactic travel, spiced with inter-related struggles between the friends and colleagues of Captain Robbie. I have read all of the series and this time the ‘atmosphere’ has mellowed, so (I hope and suspect) all will be nicely resolved by the end of the book. Such empathy from the writer with her characters, can only have been created by ‘living’ the story (in her imagination) through them. I am still not overly fond of ‘our hero’ but his friends are a wonderfully rich mixture of interesting and varied personalities which keep me coming back for more. The author must be a keen observer of human nature to have included so many different guises so seamlessly within the narrative. Another tour-de-‘force – which I hope will be with her’, for many more stories to come.

Read all the reviews and buy the books:

and on Amazon UK:

Read more reviews and follow Lorinda on Goodreads:

Connect to Lorinda

Blog 2:
MeWe: Lorinda J. Taylor

My thanks to Lorinda for allowing me to share posts from her archives and I hope you will head over and enjoy exploring yourselves. thanks Sally