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Hough-What Library?!

Posted by on April 18, 2010 at 2:25 am

We all know that Harvard has one of the most extensive library systems in the world, but most of us have only ever stepped foot in Lamont or Widener. Well, today my search for sources led me to Houghton library. You know, that one right next to Lamont that no one’s seemed to have explored. I was excited to visit the tiny library, (one of my goals is to see all of Harvard’s libraries before graduation… seven down!) but I didn’t know quite what to expect. Since Houghton is Harvard’s rare books and manuscripts library, security was tight. There’s one reading room in the building and all coats, bags, and even laptop cases must be left in lockers in a separate room. Pens are not allowed in the reading room and all outside reading materials must be kept to an absolute minimum. Once I was buzzed into the reading room (because the door is always locked from the inside) I had to fill out a questionnaire with my contact info and the reason I was visiting the library. Woah. Then I filled out a card stating which book I wanted, so that a page could retrieve it from the stacks, which are underground. That’s another thing. You can’t get books from the shelves; they’re hidden underground like they’re in some sort of guarded vault. Within five minutes, my book was brought to me and I did my research. Upon leaving, I was asked to open my laptop and let the librarian rifle through my notebook to make sure I wasn’t trying to smuggle pages out of the building.

All in all, I’m glad that I finally saw Houghton Library; it’s beautiful and very, very quiet (I think I was the only undergrad out of the five people in the reading room). However, don’t visit it planning to be in and out in ten minutes; security is as intense as it is at the airport, but they let you keep your shoes on!

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In Which We Read Poems And Listen To Poets Read Their Poems

Posted by on October 16, 2009 at 11:51 am

Louise Glück

Louise Glück

On Wednesday October 14, 2009, poetry junkies like myself flocked to Houghton Library to see a truly stunning event. Organized by Christina Davis via the Woodberry Poetry Room (located in Lamont where poetry workshops are held for student work each Friday), spectators had the privilege of listening in on some of the most poignant poetic voices of our time. Louise Glück, Pulitzer Prize winner and former U.S. poet laureate along with Michael Dickman, whose first collection of poems “The End of the West,” came out this year along with his debut in the New Yorker, each read a select number of poems to an eager and packed audience.

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Updike Papers Now at Harvard

Posted by on October 7, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Updike as a young'un.

As many of you may remember, famed author and Harvard grad John Updike ’54 died earlier this year. Literary enthusiasts mourned the death of the man whose sharp humor and attentive descriptions captivated readers. Updike’s passing was especially close to home, as he wrote for The Lampoon in his undergraduate years before becoming a nationally celebrated literary figure. Those unfamiliar with Updike’s work, however, may still have an opportunity to learn about it—without a trip to Lamont.

As reported earlier today, Harvard now has many of Updike’s papers, which are expected to be kept in Houghton Library. Of course, visitors will not be allowed to check out those papers, but the materials will be available to researchers and students.

“Lined up, the entire archive stretches 380 linear feet. It spans 1,500 books, including Updike’s collection of his own work, published in foreign languages and English, as well as books Updike reviewed – with his pencil marks underlining the text, making notes in the margins, or bracketing a particularly well-turned phrase.” []

Undergraduates, on the other hand, may not often find occasion to visit Houghton Library; Lamont and Widener offer actual study space and books for checkout. Still, Houghton is filled with literary treasures and historical artifacts chronicling both the early days of the novel and some of the genre’s most acclaimed work. Now much of John Updike’s work will have a new home next to the manuscripts of luminaries such as William Blake and Emily Dickinson.

For the time being, we do not know whether Updike’s papers will be on display for public viewing. Regardless, this acquisition may present a valuable opportunity for both top researchers and interested undergrads. If you have not read Rabbit Run or The Witches of Eastwick, not to worry: copies abound in the Coop and many other bookstores. As art outlives the artist, John Updike will not be forgotten—certainly not at Harvard.

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