Columbia Library columns (v.34(1984Nov-1985May))

(New York :  Friends of the Columbia Libraries.  )



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  v.34,no.2(1985:Feb): Page 9  

Building on Butler


DURING the past four decades anyone who came for
the first time in searcli of the reading rooms of the Rare
Book and Manuscript Library (or Special Collections
as it was known before 1975) on the sixth and eighth floors of
Butler Library would have realized immediately how hidden the
premises were. I recall my first visit in 1957 to the modest, un¬
assuming rooms on the eighth floor, when I was summoned to
the office of Roland Baughman, then director of the department,
to be interviewed for the position of assistant librarian. A dark
and winding stairway, narrow hallways with low ceilings, and
an almost eerie silence broken only by the quick closing of an
unseen door or by nuiffled voices coming from no identifiable
location: These were my immediate impressions when I first
visited the upper floors of Butler Library, two flights above the
last elevator stop.

Air. Baughman's office, separated some distance from all other
units of the Library, was located in room 803, the southeast
corner. Small and without any permanent shelving, his office was
crowded with desks, tables, chairs and cabinets, and with boxes,
books, files and papers heaped on every available surface and
over the floor. During the interview', which I recall as most con¬
genial, I could not help but be curious about a small brown metal
chest on the table behind him, its cover thro\\'n back, from which
a score or more of what appeared ro be knig rolls of paper
emerged, stacked on end. Was this a recently acquired collection
of manuscripts? documents or deeds? posters or broadsides? At
the end of the hour long interview, my curiosity uncontainable,
I asked him what those rolls of paper were, pointing to the chest
  v.34,no.2(1985:Feb): Page 9