The “Rare Book” Section (early 1930s)

Reading Room-old library - Memorial Hall

The reading room in Colby’s first library (old campus) served as an exhibit space in the late 1930s-early 1940s. The librarians used the space to highlight notable items in the library collection as well as traveling exhibits and photographs from Colby’s Camera Club.

Small-to-significant donations to the Library’s holdings continued into the 1920s and 1930s, received from alumni/ae, faculty and other supporters. However, identification and special care for particular items was not a priority until the arrival of Robert Bingham Downs, the first professionally-trained librarian at Colby (1929-1931). He effected many improvements including attention to the Library’s rare books.

Downs began transfer of rare and valuable books, especially Americana, from the circulating collection. This practice was continued by Downs’ successors, Joseph Selwyn Ibbotson (1931-1935) and J. Periam Danton (1935-1936), who denoted a formal “rare book” section.

English Professor Carl Weber‘s academic interest in the works of Thomas Hardy resulted in more Hardy acquisitions by the library. They would become the nucleus of Colby’s renowned Thomas Hardy Collection.