Columbia Library columns (v.9(1959Nov-1960May))

(New York :  Friends of the Columbia Libraries.  )



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  v.9,no.3(1960:May): Page 14  

"A Spot of Brightness"


Editor's Note: /;; November, i<))2, there appeared in this magazine
an article by Austin P. Evans about the late Miss Isadore Mudge, much
beloved Reference Librarian of Columbia froin i(jii to 1941. In his
article Professor Evans quoted from a typewritten Memoir by Miss
Mudge entitled: "Development of the Reference Department of the
Columbia University Libraries." The title has a somewhat dry sound,
but several of the quoted anecdotes were very lively, and a re-reading
of the Memoir has brought to light several additional episodes which
are worth passing on. Miss Mudge, in a chapter entitled "In Lighter
Vein," refers to these incidents as ones which brought a "spot of
brightness" into the routine of the Library's Reference Department.
In fact, the brightness owes as much to the entertaining circumstances
themselves as to the sense of humor of the narrator, who, at her desk
under the dome of Low Memorial Library, received with tolerant
amusement many odd questions. According to the legend. Miss Mudge
was never stumped by a question; also, one gathers that never did her
sense of humor desert her—even when confronted by such matters as
rat-catching in the Library, the necessity of reading the twelve vol¬
umes of Burke's Works to verify a single quotation for Nicholas
Murray Butler, and tbe alarming episode of the lady with the "hair-
trigger stomach."

"/ Desires to View the Remains"

\ EVERAL good stories owe their existence to the fact that
the old library has a dome. One day when I was on duty
at the desk a dignified and portly colored woman came to
the Reading Room and asked where she could find the vault.
Readers who know that the rarest and most valuable books are
kept in the vault would frequently ask their way to it, but still she
did not seem to me quite to belong to that type. However, I sent
her to Mr. F.A.' who kept the keys to the vault and was very

1 The initials of persons who are referred to in this article have been changed
by the Editor.

  v.9,no.3(1960:May): Page 14