Sifting Through the Ruins of an Abandoned Library

I teach Latin and Ancient Greek at The Woodstock Academy, an independent day and boarding school in northeastern Connecticut.  At a time when schools are shrinking and slashing budgets, we have had the good fortune to purchase an additional campus.  A private school in town closed and we bought the entire school, lock, stock and barrel in order to expand our facilities and programs.  Among the many things left behind by the former occupants of the school was their entire library.  They had originally intended to pack it up and ship it to Maine where they own another boarding school.  But at the last minute they abandoned it.  When our administration sent a message that we were not keeping the library, that any and all books from the library were free to anyone for the taking I couldn’t resist.

I walked away with a trunk full of books—the trunk of my car could not have fit another book.  They are packed into four boxes and are currently sitting in the garage where I can sort them and figure out how they should be shelved and arrange for more space.

You will have to forgive the mess in the background since the books are all in the garage and that is where I took these photos.  I found lots of classics books.  I took away two large boxes of Ancient Greek and Ancient Rome titles.  Some of them are duplicates, like the three volumes of Greek Tragedies translated by Richard Lattimore.  But I couldn’t very well just leave them there:



A wonderful surprise among the ruins were these four volumes of Civilizations of The Ancient Near East.  Something I would love to have owned but would not necessarily have invested the money in:


I also collected a very lovely stack of poetry books. The essays about the poems of William Carolos Williams especially intrigued me. And it is nice to finally have a large volume of Robert Frost poems sitting on my shelves.  Gibran’s The Prophet was a nice find since I had not owned a copy of that previously.

And finally I rescued several stacks of literary classics that are duplicates of books I already own but couldn’t leave behind.  I now have three different translations of Kafka’s The Castle, for instance.  But I think most bibliophiles would agree that one can never have too much Kafka.

And some Thoreau, and Hardy and Dante and Chaucer and….

As I was driving over to what is now our South Campus, I was excited at the prospect of sifting through books and I thought it would be akin to browsing through a used bookstore.  But the experience was much more sad and melancholy than I had expected.  The books were strewn on the floors and counters of the former library.  The large room will now serve as the new band and music room, so all of the shelves and fixtures were removed and the books were lying everywhere, haphazardly abandoned.  There were even books sitting on carts that were recently returned by students and under normal circumstances would have been reshelved.  It made me think that each collection of books, whether public or private, serves a specific purpose or a specific community.  And it is unfortunate when a collection is broken up and no longer serves that need.  I, personally, would like to have kept the collection together, to be able to brag about a school with two libraries.  But, we really needed the space for music, so I did the next best thing and rescued a least a few of the books.


Filed under Opinion Posts

16 responses to “Sifting Through the Ruins of an Abandoned Library

  1. Wow wow WOW!!! Must have been like Christmas x100! Lots of great volumes there.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rohan Maitzen

    What an amazing haul!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You reminded me that when I was a student at boarding school, we acquired a library from another school, except that it was delivered in dozens of boxes… I had to help sort though all the books. And then, the school I had attended also closed, some dozen or so years after I left. I never did hear what happened to its library. But it looks like you ended up with some serious swag there…


  4. Wouldn’t your students want to take some of those books?


  5. What a lovely collection of books, and such a shame that the collection had to be broken up. It makes me sad when libraries close; it always seems to be books that have to make way for something else.


  6. I can really understand your sadness, because every library seems to have an identity of its own, and it’s a shame that this one had to go. But you have some wonderful books there and I’m glad you’re able to give them a new home, incorporating them into your own personal library! 🙂


  7. I do hope the books that people don’t rescue personally end up somewhere they could be of value. Couldnt the school donate them rather than just abandon them?


  8. Pleased to hear that at least some of the collection has found a good home. Many pleasurable hours of sorting ahead for you.


  9. Glad you could give so many books a new home. I love stories of book rescuing, I hope the other abandoned books find new shelves soon.


  10. I’m glad you are giving them a good home. 🙂


  11. WOW! That is like a a golden dream, wrapped in pearls and smothered in diamonds!


  12. I’m so glad that they found a home with you and with another school, too, having looked through the comments. And how wonderful to find Greek and Latin still being taught. My Latin O level has stood me in good stead over the years, especially when I went to Italy and could magically speak (some) Italian!


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